Friday, November 12, 2021

Oops I did it again!--Avoiding repetition in your writing

A few years ago I wrote an article on avoiding repetition for Eschler Editing. This week I have come to realize it is time to follow my own good advice. You usually don't get an agent/publisher without having done a lot of polishing a rewrites. So, when I signed my book deal and got the welcome to the team letter, I will admit, I thought the part about editing would be a no brainer. I mean I edit other people's stuff all the time, I know what I'm doing. And yes, I am pretty good at a things like showing not telling and not violating POV rules, but my downfall are those dreaded overused words. INSTEAD tried to kill me. THAT made me wonder if I had any other words in my book. IN FACT just laughed at me from page after page after page (as you can tell from the article I should have really known better). Needless to say, in the past week I have cut over 5000 useless words from my book. So here is my article, maybe it will help you find a few words that don't belong also.

Write On!


Oops, I Did It Again!

6 Ways to Avoid Repetition in Your Writing

By Sabine Berlin
(Originally written for Eschler Editing)

If you’re brave enough to sit through The Shining (of course you are—what are a couple of ghosts and a madman to anyone who dares to write a book?), then surely you remember the classic scene where Shelley Duvall discovers that the Great American Novel her husband has spent all winter writing consists of ten words—typed over and over and over.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Your own novel is certain to be more original, but anytime you string together thousands of words, you’re bound to duplicate a few. The problem comes not when you use a word more than once, but when your reader begins to notice the words and not the story.

Unique words are fairly easy to avoid. Once you’ve used diaphanous or solipsistic, it’s not hard to remember that you’ve already enlightened your fans to your brilliant vocabulary. It’s more likely the common words that are the problem.

Each manuscript is different and each author’s voice steers toward his or her own repetitive prose. (I happen to be partial to “in fact.”) So how do you avoid repetition in your writing?

1. Read or listen to your book out loud.

Our eyes tend to skip over our own words, especially when we’ve read them a million times. Reading your book out loud gives you a new perspective. It’s easier to hear that you’ve used okay twenty times in a chapter than it is to see it. Take time to hear your words—then cut out anything you hear once too often.

2. Avoid overused words.

Five of the most frequently overused words I see when editing manuscripts are: so, still, though, very, and well. If you find yourself using these words more than once per page, do a search for them and ask: Do I really need this word here, or is it just taking space? If the answer is space—erase.

3. Use a thesaurus.

This handy tool can tend to backfire on a lot of people, so use it wisely. Maybe you’re trying to find a different word for cold. You type it in your online thesaurus and up pops a long list—everything from arctic to wintry. That’s great! You have several words to choose from. If you have to use cold more than once throughout your book, you now have options to rotate with. Be careful with this. Sometimes simple is the best, and a reader will be thrown out of the story just as much if you use thirty words for cold in the same chapter as if you use one—no matter how different they are. Use a word that fits the voice of the character/narrator, not one that puts up a red flag that you used a thesaurus.

4. Rotate your characters’ names for pronouns.

Chris went to the store. Chris bought a chainsaw. Chris cut down a tree and then Chris took it home. “What a lovely tree,” Chris’s mother said. “Thanks,” Chris replied.

Here is another area where reading out loud can help you find a good balance. You want to make sure the reader knows who is being spoken about, or who is speaking, but he or she can act as silent words, easy to skim over without pulling you from the story.

5. Repetition isn’t only about words. Think sentence variation.

Look at the example above. Poor Chris! He has a pretty boring story. There is no variation in his sentences’ lengths, rhythms, and syntax, so his tale becomes a laundry list of ideas. This happened, then this happened, then this. Try varying sentence length. Make sure you don’t start every sentence the same way. If you think something sounds repetitive, try one or two other ways to write it, and then go with the one that won’t turn your story into cleaning instructions. Example: Chris went to the store. The chainsaw caught his eye immediately, calling to him.

6. Sometimes it’s okay to use the same word.

Remember our silent pronouns? Well, there is one word that is mostly invisible all together. Said doesn’t draw the reader away from the story. It’s just there, not making anyone think too hard. There may be one or two places in your entire novel where someone whispered or hissed, but for the most part, said is the best way to tag dialogue. That being said, even this word, when overused (i.e., appearing dozens of time on one page), can be noticeable. If your character has a strong enough voice, you shouldn’t have to tag his dialogue on a regular basis. Dean Koontz is great at this. Pick up one of his books (Odd Thomas really showcases this technique) and you will see pages of dialogue with no tags whatsoever, and yet there is never any confusion about who is talking. Give your character a personality and you will avoid having to repeatedly identify who is talking.

Do this now:

  1. Get a good thesaurus and use it.
  2. Find a friend to whom you can read your story out loud so both of you can make lists of overused words. You may find your lists to be very different. Tackle deleting/alternating the words on both lists.
  3. Find authors you admire and read their work, watching how they avoid repetition, not only in words but sentence structure as well.
  4. If you have a character who overuses a specific word in dialogue, check to make sure you are not overusing that word elsewhere.
  5. For more editing help, download our proofreading checklist—a secret weapon our editors use in-house.

Writing a novel is no small feat. You have to plot, punctuate, and polish—over and over and over. So give your eyes a break from reading the same words (over and over and over) by making things fresh and exciting each time you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Remember: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy … and repetition does the same to your book.

Let’s hear from you. What is the one word or phrase you find yourself overusing? Help a fellow writer by sharing below what your story can live without.

Monday, November 1, 2021

I signed a Book Deal!

Last time I posted I had just self published Oh My Oppa! It is a cute little romance in the Korean Crush Series, and I had the support of some amazing friends to walk me through the indie publishing world. I remember hitting that publish button and being so excited to start my writing adventure after spending so many years editing other people's stories. And then life hit–hard.

My dear mother-in-law's ALS went from bad to worse and we soon lost her. My day job switched and suddenly I was a manager with a lot more responsibility. I started grad school. Covid came and stayed and stayed and stayed. I finished my Master of Education in Higher Education Leadership. Two kids graduated. One kid joined a traveling soccer team. My husband switched positions at work. And for awhile I forgot about writing and books (well at least the fun type that were not 500 page text books) and the characters inside my head. 

Thankfully, they didn't forget about me. 

Fast forward to this summer. I'd just graduated with my M.Ed. and life was slowly starting to calm down when I got an email from an editor that I had sent a full version of And the Sky Full of Starts to months before. The email said she loved Sky and was going to recommend it for acquisition. There was just one hiccup–she was leaving the company to pursue her own writing career. (And good for her! We should NEVER give up on our dreams!)

Well, then I didn't hear and I didn't hear and I sort of gave up until...I did hear.

She had recommended Sky and the main editor loved it also! And suddenly there was a book contract and edits to be done and a webpage to be made (look for announcements on my upcoming website soon) and author pages to be put in place (follow me on Facebook) and that dream I've had of publishing a book (by an actual publisher, with editors that loved my story even though they aren't my mom or niece or best friend) was one step closer to coming true. 

I am so excited and pleased to announce that I have signed with Immortal Works Publishing to publish And the Sky Full of Stars (name subject to change). This really is a dream come true, and I can't wait to see where this new adventure takes me. 

Oh, and I have to add–as I sit here editing my own book–it is pretty awesome. I think you're going to love it, so stay tuned for more announcements. 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Oh My Oppa!

Having a book release while you are in the midst of loosing a loved one isn't exactly the best way to go. However, even though it has been a month I am very proud of the fifth book in the My Korean Crush Series. Oh My Oppa! By ME!

I had so much fun writing this book. It combined my love of storytelling with my love of Kdramas for what I think is a pretty fun ride.

Kate Morrison has plans to rekindle her dying relationship when her boyfriend Derek invites her on a two week business trip to Korea. But when the trip turns out to be just that—business—she discovers that eating kimchi and bulgogi alone isn’t exactly what she’d hoped for.

Even though he can’t take his eyes off his laptop, Derek does try to make sure Kate isn’t completely bored. Unfortunately, hiring an oppa tour guide to show her around isn’t the solution Kate had been hoping for. All she really wants is for Derek to remember how much he still loves her. 

Kate decides that spending more time with her “oppa,” Sean, might jog Derek’s memory. The problem is, Sean isn’t just attractive—he’s smart, funny, and he not only listens to her dreams about writing children’s books, he encourages them. With Derek too busy with mergers and acquisitions to find time to be jealous, will Kate be able to win his heart back before her new oppa steals hers away?

You can find it on Amazon in both ebook and paperback. If you are looking for a fun, light hearted read, this is the book for you!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Silver Screen Dreams

It is time for book two in the My Korean Crush Series: Silver Screen Dreams by Jennie Bennett. Oh how I loved this book. There is nothing quite like falling in love with the guy next door (or across the street in my case). And when you throw in a hot movie star who has his eye on you, well it leads to a super fun adventure that you won't be able to put down.

From Amazon:

Summer Henley is sick of playing it safe. Safe career path (accounting,) safe place to live (with her parents,) and a safe best friend (Mark.) 

In her dreams she was a screenwriter with a home in a Malibu and a hot actor boyfriend, but that was saved in her someday file. For the moment, she’d play the part of a good worker, good daughter, and good friend. Even though her heart longed for something more, especially with Mark.

It wouldn’t be so hard to stay just friends if Mark would quit being so amazing to her. Knowing her dream, he’s secured her a spot as an extra in Korean television show, placing her directly in the path of the handsome lead actor. Now, two incredible men are vying for her attention and she has to decided if her dreams are really what she wants, or if her reality is better than she could ever imagine.

Jennie is amazing when it comes to bringing romance to the page. I loved watching Summer's dilemma and seeing the great final outcome. These books are perfect for K-drama lovers and really anyone who wants a good, clean romance (yes, you teen can read this and you don't have to worry). I love all the books in the series, but this one is my favorite favorite so far. Get your copy here!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My Korean Crush Series Book 1

As promised, I'm back and am excited to share the first book in the My Korean Crush Series with everyone: Flower Boy Tour Guide by Shannon Kent.

When K-Drama Anonymous announced this book series I was super excited. I love all things K-drama and I love to read, so books that have flower boy oppas that make you swoon are like chocolate for me. This book did not disappoint. Here is the premise as taken from Amazon:

Flower Boy: noun 1. slang for a really hot guy 

Hannah Reynolds travels to Korea in search of her own drama hero come to life. What she gets instead is gorgeous, but surly tour guide, Jae Lee. He seems determined to ruin every romantic location they visit with his snarky comments, but Hannah can’t deny the crackling tension between them. 

As they travel around the country with a busload of wacky K-drama and K-pop fans, their chemistry keeps drawing the two together. Hannah sees the mountain of problems standing between her and a relationship with Jae. They live in different countries. She’s flying home in five days. And he always takes an emotional step back whenever they get closer. But her heart doesn’t want to listen to reason. All it can see is the flower boy tour guide.

The romance is fun, but the thing I love the most about this book are all the "wacky" K-drama fans. The author has created a handful of fun, unique characters that put a smile on your face from beginning to end. The hi-jinx that these ladies create will have you laughing. And, not to spoil anything, but the friendships formed are so amazing that another book was created from them. 

As with each book in this series, you can read them in any order as they each stand on their own, but this book is a great place to start. So if you love K-Dramas and need a good read, go get yourself a copy using the link above. And if you have never ventured into the world of K-dramas/K-Pop then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book. 

Just for Fun:

Who would you want to have as your very own Flower Boy Tour Guide?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

My Korean Crush Series

Four years ago my friend Rebecca showed up on my doorstep with some bulgogi and told me I had to watch a K-drama with her. The rest is history. I was hooked. K-dramas are the best. They are fun, cute, romantic, and all the feels! I probably should state that they are not the only reason I took a break from blogging (but they might have been one of the reasons--man it is hard to stop once you get into a show). Life has been busy. I also went from being an Administrative Assistant to being the Coordinator of Academic Quality Assurance to now being the Manger of the Curriculum Department for a major university. The largest one in my state. I also took classes on the side and got my Certificate of Proficiency in Editing and Document Design. And I have done A LOT of editing--and a little writing. But K-dramas have been my release. They are my wind down time. My stress relievers.

A few months ago--that same lovely friend invited me to join a group on Facebook full of K-drama fans. The rest is history. Now not only do I get to watch K-dramas, I have a whole community of amazing people to talk to about them. So when some of the girls in the group started a book series--My Korean Crush--of course I was interested. And so I read the books. Each one as they have come out and I have to say--they are awesome. Over the next few weeks I will review each book in the series so any of you reading this will know you have to have a copy for yourself. In fact, trust me, you don't need my reviews. Just go to Amazon and get them! But if you want to know what I have to say then tune back in real soon (no really, I won't get lost in Dramaworld and never do another blog). Until then happy writing, happy reading, and happy K-dramaing!

Monday, May 9, 2016

I'm Not Wonder Woman--And That's Okay

Once upon a time I was Wonder Woman. I was one of those people who could do 8 million things at once and still find time to read a book. I went to school and pulled straight A’s, I had two part time jobs, I had three very active kids that I ran all over the state and sometimes even to other states for soccer games, I kept my house clean--well except for laundry because really, even Wonder Woman knows laundry is a never ending battle--made dinner, scrubbed my toilets every Saturday, blogged regularly, and still had time to write 1500-2000 words a day.

Life was good.

And then one day it wasn’t.

I’d dealt with different forms of chronic aches and pains for years and just figured it was part of life. I felt like I had a fairly high pain threshold so I just downed a few Excedrin with a Dr. Pepper if I needed relief and went on my way. Around January 2014 the pain started to get worse and I found myself tired no matter what I did. Concentrating on one task, let alone my usual twenty at a time, became excruciating. A job that should have taken 10 minutes would span on for hours, I stopped reading anything that I didn’t absolutely have to for work because I’d find myself having to reread things five to six times to even remember what I’d just read, and writing? Forget about it. I couldn’t come up with 10 words a day let alone 2000.

I’d graduated in December of 2012 and was now working full time. I was also still doing a part time editing job, along with kids, husband, house, and all the other jobs a mom has. Throughout Spring and Summer 2014 I kept telling myself that I just needed a vacation. I was certain if I could make it to August when my mom, sister, and I were taking my son and my nephew to Germany, everything would be fine.

Germany was great. I got to sleep in, didn’t have to do anything but eat, shop, explore, and spend time with family. It was completely stress free and wonderful. I still was a little tired and had my bottle of ibuprofen on hand at all times, but I really thought that if I could just relax for a little longer everything would go back to normal.

Two days before I was set to come home (because of work I had to come home a week before everyone else) we went to Berlin. I woke up excited, but with a weird pain in my chest. I popped a couple of pain pills and went on my way. As the day went on, as much as I was enjoying the city, the pain got worse and worse, spreading down my arm, and making it even hard to breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack. So of course I did the stupidest thing possible (I was no longer Wonder Woman anymore so I didn’t have to be smart), I didn’t tell anyone how much pain I was in or my rather alarming symptoms, and just went on with the next two days until they dropped me off at the airport and I gave my little boy a huge hug goodbye.

Then I went to the terminal and silently cried--in pain, but also in fear because something was seriously wrong and I was alone in a foreign country and what would happen if it really was a heart attack and we were over the Atlantic and I would never see anyone again and…          

I survived Munich, Reykjavik, and Denver Airports and was still alive when I finally made it home. But I was glad I’d planned one recovery day before I was due back at work. The morning after I got home I went to the doctor. After a few tests he determined that I was not having a heart attack, but was having a severe case of costochondritis--inflammation of the rib cage. I just needed rest, ibuprofen, and time.

Two weeks later when it still felt like someone was probing my chest with a knife blade, and when the fatigue returned with vengeance I was back in the doctor’s office. After several more tests I got the news: Fibromyalgia. The good news the doctor said was that overall I was fairly healthy and should live a long time. The bad news was that I would be in chronic pain and fatigue for the rest of my life.

And so I went through the next year struggling to get out of bed each morning, collapsing when I got home from work, not being able to focus on pretty much anything, and gaining almost 40 pounds because all I could do all day was sit at my desk and make it home to collapse on the couch.

By this time I just knew pain and fatigue were part of my life, and I really had no choice but to deal with it. But around August of 2015, something strange began to happen. I would get up to go to the bathroom during the workday and it felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was walking down the hall, but my head felt as if it was watching me walk and not really there with me. Also I could never stand up without getting extremely dizzy--even to the point of blacking out a few times.

It turns out I had a completely unrelated health problem--extremely low blood pressure (which my mom has so I probably should have been more aware of it, but I was no longer smart, remember?) My fibro was also getting worse, which meant I needed to stop using Dr. Pepper as my wake up fix because sugar was becoming a no no. It also meant no artificial sweeteners--so diet soda was out of the question (which was fine by me because, gross!). My doctor actually recommended a cup of coffee every morning, but absolutely no caffeine after 2pm.

I tried it for a few days--but I am not a coffee lover. I had to gag the stuff down which made me not want to do it, so I went back to my Dr. Pepper fixes just trying to have them not too late at night. I did this because let’s face it, changing your diet is hard, and it wasn’t like I had a deadly disease, so I mean who cared if I had a low quality of life? It was better that than giving up Dr. Pepper and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, right?

I made it through the holiday season with good days and bad. I would quit soda for a week and then need just one, which would completely addict me again. In January I actually quit for a whole month, but allowing myself one for my birthday threw me back into the caffeine mood. Soda was my drug of choice. I always joked, I could give up bread no problem, but Dr. Pepper--no way.

And then I got a new pain.

Turned out I had arthritis in my hip. So that was super fun. Again, not deadly, but my quality of life was just spiraling down down down. I couldn’t go out back and play soccer with the kids. I hated myself in any and all pictures. I could barely muster up the strength to go to my much needed GNO/Writing Group once a week. I just wanted to sleep.

It was then that my friend sent me a TED presentation on achieving your goals. It was exactly what I needed to watch. For some reason, that was the spark that made me want to change. I’d read enough to know that fibro could be managed (a lot better than I was managing it, even if I tried to tell myself that at least I was able to get out of bed most days--Sundays became my actual day of rest, sleeping pretty much all day to recover from the week.

It was time to start reaching my goals. To get my life back. I decided of all the lifestyle plans I could choose, Primal made the most sense to me. So, a little over two weeks ago I took the plunge and cut all processed foods, soda, added sugars, and grains from my diet. I eat healthy fats, lean meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. In two weeks I lost 10 pounds and 9 inches. That has been an added bonus. But the real benefit has been that I have gone from a full dose of pain meds daily, to only have ibuprofen once in the last two weeks. (Because once the fibro pain stopped, I realized that I had tennis (mouse) elbow.) But even that is survivable.

Point is, I’m loving the way I’m feeling, and I want to keep it up. So I am going to blog again--sometimes about my fibro journey, sometimes about editing/writing, and sometimes about my accomplishments, because after a year and a half of feeling like I had no life, I have one back--and I want to keep it. The doctor said I would live a long time--I plan to do it in comfort. I'm not Wonder Woman anymore, and that is okay. I just plan on being a pain free me for as long as I possibly can.