My WIP’s Fourth Revision
I will continue to use a discarded scene from my First Draft as an example for editing. A prior post includes the original text alongside edits of the verb BE, one with edits to filters, another editing adverbs, still another editing pronouns, plus this one This time I will start with the edited version and then look at repetition.
So, what is repetition anyway?
Simple repetition is overuse of a word, or using a notable word several times close together. Or, it could be bringing up the same or similar ideas several times.
In my WIP I had no clue I did either, until Beta Readers pointed it out to me.
I quickly realized I needed a new approach to finding repetition because simply reading the scene wasn’t showing me where I’d sinned. Listening to a text-to-speech app helped but I still couldn’t see it. So I wound up applying my spread sheet’s word counting macro to help me.
After I got my word count, I sorted on the word count, starting highest to lowest, then looked at each instance of all words with counts of five or higher. I found that, on a scene of, say 1,500 words, I could look at about 20 or 30 highlighted words at a time. So, if I had 35 words which occurred five or more times, I could group some of them together, but it still usually meant I looked through my scene up to ten times.
With each sweep, I paid close attention to the highlighted words, how I used them in a sentence, and how the paragraph flowed. Quite often I found little or nothing wrong, but I felt compelled to make changes, to reorder or eliminate words. And, quite often, I found extremely similar if not identical ideas at several points in my scene. Often, I found ways to combine and streamline them.
In many instances I reduced my word count by as much as ten percent doing this.
This exercise was time-consuming, like watching water wear down a boulder, and I was usually quite sick of the scene by the time I finished. Gawk.
What I Tried To Do
My most used word list turned out to be this – the (17), to (13), and (11), her (10), his (8), of (7), with (7), you (7), he (6), in (6), she (6), but (5), Corston (5), and for (5).
After I edited – Scene = 398 (-32) words. TO BE’S = 1 (+1); FILTERS = 1 (0); NON -LY ADVERBS = 13 (+4); COMMON WORDS = 127 (-23); PRONOUNS = 47 (-2); SCORING = 0.43 (+.03).
As I hoped, the word count dropped down along with the Common Words and Pronouns. But the Adverbs went up, along with the scoring.
By making so many passes through the scene, it was much like waves lapping at a rock. Bit by bit, things changed, and the word count went down. And by going through it so many times, I managed to look at each sentence many times. And, instead of just finding ways to remove the word in question, I wound up changing a number of related words.
It’s all like magic. And my worry is always that I will somehow change the tone of the scene, but that’s always the risk in editing.
How It Looked
|Edited to Reduce Pronouns
||Revised To Reduce Repetition
|Without seeming, Corston steered Running Deer into an alcove, off the main hallway. Nodding to Bright Star and Vitona, he turned away, comfortable in the knowledge none would dare interrupting, let alone eavesdrop.||Without seeming, Corston steered Running Deer into an alcove, off the main hallway. Nodding to Bright Star and Vitona, he turned away, comfortable that
|In the knowledge really added nothing to the sentence.|
|He regarded the source of his troubles. Running Deer stood half a foot shorter than his 5’ 9”, no one would ever mistake her for Grand Haran with darkly tanned skin and glossy black hair. And carrying the Count’s child this deep into pregnancy enhanced her beauty and charm rather than diminishing it. And her animal magnetism continued to attract followers, the ones who called her the Lashan Princess, but threatened many others who resorted to calling her the Lashan Witch.||He regarded the cause
|For Grand Haran seemed to fit better after her description rather than before.
Continuing to attract followers seemed weaker than describing her abilities with touching and drawing.
|“You’re looking as beautiful as ever, dear child, but I’m rather astonished my sister, Ellana, would let you roam free without bricking you in, or whatever mysteries you conjure up in confinement,” Corston said. “What is of such great import for you to risk displeasure.”||“You’re looking as beautiful as ever, dear child, but I’m rather astonished my sister, Ellana, would let you roam free without bricking you in, or whatever mysteries they
|Of such great import seemed a little stuffy, even for Corston.|
|“Time moves ever slowly and I wish my son to come out.” After patting her huge belly she made a face, still clutching at that smooth agate with those fascinating swirls of green and blue. “Ebert.”||“Time moves ever slowly and I wish my son to come out.” After patting her huge belly she made
|Swirls of seemed less direct than putting swirls at the end of the description. Of is always a good word to hunt down.|
|“Yes. Ebert.” Corston tapped the floor with his cane. “You did well, girl, to break with him. I’m delighted you listened to—”||“Yes. Ebert.” He
|Corston gave way to he since they are easily separated by masculine and feminine pronouns.
With his cane became part of tapping instead of after the fact.
|“Make him stop.” She clutched at his sleeves. “He listens to you, Uncle. I grieve for his hurt perhaps matches the pain in my heart, but all must end.” Eyes flashing, she took a deep breath. “Please?”||“Make him stop.” She clutched at his sleeves. “Make him listen
|He listens to you is less direct in it’s appeal than Make him listen.
Perhaps matches the pain seemed to indirect for her, so I went with which echoes.
Flashing became glistening, better fitting with her mood of appeal and not demand.
|Corston took her small hands in his. “Yes. Well, I suppose it’s time.” A month had passed since she broke with Ebert, but he showed no signs of coming to his senses. “I shall, dear child.” He leaned and kissed her forehead.||He grasped
|Corston became he.
Coming to his senses became Recovering his perspective, and seemed more appropriate.
He leaned and kissed her forehead moved into the net paragraph and better fits with parting from her instead of considering the problem at hand.
|Then he motioned for Vitona and Bright Star to shepherd their charge through the gaggle of courtiers in the hallway. Throughout, the girl negotiate the hazards with remarkable grace, without a waddle to betray her condition when viewed from behind. People smiled at her approach and soft words spoken in that delightful accent won many over. She did that to people. Some ladies had started imitating Lasha dress instead of Grand Hara styles.||He kissed her forehead, then
|The gaggle of courtiers became swarming courtiers better fitting the image I wanted.
Approach and seemed unnecessary.
|Worry tugged at him. Until she bore a son, the Confederation amounted to little more than words with no physical reality. Given a chance, the heir might weave the two Peoples into whole cloth. But Ebert threatened to upend everything, and his nephew’s love for the girl could not endanger matters of state. Corston would put Ebert’s interference to a stop.
||Worry tugged at him. Until she bore a son, the Confederation amounted to little more than words with no physical reality. Given a chance, the heir might weave the two Peoples into whole cloth. But Ebert threatened to upend everything pursuing
|And his nephew’s love for seemed clumsy when pursing seemed more to the point.
Could not endanger seemed a little less forceful than and must not and better supports his plan to bring the interference to an end.
Next time I will talk about the power of listening.