Day 29 – Eliminate Unnecessary Repetition and Awkward Phrasing

This is the continued saga of my foray into Janice Hardy’s Revise Your Novel in 31 Days at-home workshop (

Today I am on a safari to eliminate unnecessary repetition in my words, phrases and actions. After three weeks of revisions, there is a better-than-average chance I have some duplications.

Some common words to look for are: smiled, look, frowned, shrugged, sighed, and scowled. Favorite movement words are: walked, ran, turned, stood, set, and stopped. I am to look for instances where I use a word several times close together.

I did a search on “shrugged” and found my characters do that a lot. In fact, they shrug their shoulders a lot. What else would they shrug? Which led me to the word “shoulder,” where I made a surprising discovery. It seems my characters placed their hands on someone’s shoulder about 75 times. I managed to delete or edit these instances down to 46 even though I personally like touching shoulders to show kindness, empathy, or get someone’s attention.

Result: It was an exercise in killing my “shoulder” darlings. Expression of emotions is necessary to make a story feel real to the reader, so it was a challenge to find other ways for my characters to express their feelings. It’s a sure bet that I will be aware of shoulders in my future writing.

Take-Away Value:

Only you can determine favorite words you use repeatedly. You are likely to run across them as you edit other mundane repetitions in your prose. I often found something to revise when I was looking at something else entirely.

My repetitive word today was “shoulder.” Do you have one most people wouldn’t think to look for? How did you reduce the number of times you used it?

See you on the next page.

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