Repeat After Me: Repetition is Art

As a writer and editor, I have come up against plenty of advice that discourages repetition in writing. Don’t keep using the same word. Spice your writing up with a synonym instead. Don’t have the same sentence length over and over again. Don’t put the same word more than once in a sentence.

There is also so much emphasis on originality that writers become fearful of their own writing. Has it already been written? Of course it has. The bones of all stories have been laid for centuries. Only the characters and settings change.

Be careful and thoughtful in your writing.

Repetition is inevitable. It will appear in your writing in some way. The trick is to master repetition as an art form. Realize when it lends a flourish or emphasis to the content. Realize when it slows your ideas down or distracts. And for goodness sake, stop fretting over originality. You are bound to overcompensate.

There are times when it is necessary to catch the very essence of repetition. There is a subtle difference in the words “she turns” and the words “she turns and turns and turns”. One is sudden, brief, and has finality. She turns. The other has rhythm, momentum, and the weight of time. She turns and turns and turns.

Think of repetition as an effect. It should add form and art to your writing. If it does not, cut it.

There are a lot of do nots in writing. I think you should study all of these and then promptly learn to master them. This will make your writing gorgeous, unpredictable, entertaining.

More on writing to come. I only wanted to share a few thoughts with you.


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