It can be a good thing, definitely, but repetition is also one of my biggest pet peeves when reading. By repetition, I mean using the same word or phrase repeatedly, until it begins to stick out like a blinking light on the page, distracting the reader. Let me give you an example:
Last month I read a YA novel I really enjoyed. It was extremely well plotted, its characters were three dimensional, and the writing was spot on. BUT the author used the word stark (or starkly) like, three billion times. The first time I came across it I thought, Ooh, perfect word choice there. That’s exactly the way I pictured his expression: sort of bleak and barren. Then I encountered it again. And again. And again. So many times that I was completely pulled out of the novel and ended up wondering why no one (the author, CPs, betas, editors) caught it, instead of focusing on the story itself.
In another book I recently read, a supporting character asked the protagonist “Are you okay?” or “Are you all right?” in almost every scene. Literally. And again, every time I came across one of those phrases, I kind of rolled my eyes, distracted, and then begrudgingly moved on. In another contemporary YA I loved, the characters seemed to “shrug happily” a heck of a lot. In yet another, an author used the same sentence structure over and over, a lot like, Typing furiously, she wrote the blog post.
Here’s the thing: I am so guilty of repetition in early drafts. I’ve been reading over bits of my WIP, Where Poppies Bloom, and have found the word gentle more times than I care to admit. I’m leaning on the phrase “His/her voice was…” too. The thing is, I’m aware of the problem and intend to tackle it in revisions. While revising, I’ll probably find dozens more words that need to be changed or cut or improved upon. And I know the fabulous people who will eventually critique my manuscript will do their best to point out any repetition they find too.
I know it sounds sort of nit-picky (and I’m nothing if not nit-picky :)), but I think it’s SO important for an author to be invisible. I don’t want to think about his or her writing and editing processes while I’m trying to enjoy the book. I want to lose myself in their world, be completely immersed, not distracted by echoes that travel the pages of the novel. It’s easy to fall back on a few comfortable words or phrases, especially early in the process. I think it’s fine to go with whatever comes while you’re drafting , but I also think it’s important to carefully consider your words later in the game.
So, please tell me I’m not the only person this bugs. Do you notice repetition? Do you have any examples that make you want to pull your hair out?