Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Stop Repeating; It’s Redundant,” She Said Again

Be A NovelistAvoiding the Redundancy Trap

Okay, so the title is overkill. But hopefully it grabbed your attention. How easy it is for a careless writer to slip into the redundancy trap.

“Writing is clear thinking on paper.”

The above saying was drummed into my head early on in my writing life. Near the top of the list (if not the top), of how to write clearly is to steer clear of redundancies.

Definition of Redundant

In order to avoid that trap, it’s good to first understand what the term redundant means. Below are several variations of the definition*:

a : exceeding what is necessary or normal : superfluous

b : characterized by or containing an excess; specifically : using more words than necessary

c : characterized by similarity or repetition <a group of particularly redundant brick buildings>

d chiefly British : no longer needed for a job and hence laid off


Since we’re talking about words and not buildings (or employees) we’ll stick with “b” – when writers/novelists use more words than necessary.

A Sneaky Culprit

Believe me it happens to all of us, no matter how many years we’ve been at this writing business. Redundancy is a sneaky culprit, lurking in the corners of your brain ready to fill out those seemingly weak sentences.

Clear writing is achieved by concise writing, as stated below:

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a Be A Novelistdrawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

—  William Strunk, Jr., Elements of Style

“…but that every word tell.” I like that statement. We writers are wordsmiths. Our craft is writing and words are our tools. The best writers are those who have learned (and continue to learn) how to wield those tools like an expert.

Lazy Writing

Here’s an example of lazy writing:

Erik was truly paranoid. He honestly felt that every person was out to get him.

This heavy writing is made heavier by adding truly and honestly – they are truly redundant words. Right? The two sentences hold the same meaning which again adds to the heaviness of the writing. Concise it is not.

Let’s look at a few common redundancies:

  • End result
  • Exactly the same
  • Past history
  • Basic essentials
  • New innovation
  • Protest against
  • Spell out in detail

You get the idea. Unnecessary words serve to bog down the text and muddle the meaning.

A Place for Repetition

Is there a place for repetition? Of course. When you are stressing a point. Or perhaps in ad copy when a declaration is repeated for emphasis. The skilled writer knows how to make repetition work for the intended purpose. The unskilled writer inadvertently lumps redundant words and phrases simply because of inattention, lack of expertise, or laziness.

Most readers could not tell you why a piece of writing is not effective – they just know. It’s the writer’s job to create clean, clear prose as a work of art. As Mr. Strunk alluded, clean writing is like a drawing with no unnecessary lines. The viewer of the art, and the reader of the prose, may admire each one, but the artist and the author remain invisible. Their techniques are subtle but powerful.

As you practice your craft of writing, whether it’s a blog, or an ebook, or a freelance assignment, or your beloved novel, strive for clarity.

Learn to make “every word tell.”

Be A Novelist


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Writer’s Block? Writing Anxiety? Which? Part II

In Writer’s Block? Writing Anxiety? Which? Part I, I pointed out that most writers are more comfortable talking about writer’s block (which they can blame on any outside force or circumstance), than to talk about their writing anxiety (i.e. plain old fear), which is an inner problem.

Writers are often told that in order to solve their writer’s block, they need only improve their technique, but that leads to yet another problem.

White-Knuckle Solution

Be A NovelistThe problem is that while a good novel-writing course will do an awesome job of teaching technique, it fails to address the crippling inhibitions that keep even the most gifted of writers from getting the writing done. The strongest piece of advice they can give for dealing with so-called writer’s block usually goes something like this:

  • Roll up your sleeves and get busy.
  • Create a goals list – so many words a day (or pages or whatever)
  • Set up a calendar with time allotments for work on the novel and follow the schedule
  • Just do it!

I call this the white knuckle solution. Or it might also be known as the grit-your-teeth solution. There is actually nothing wrong with anything on the above list – except that they ignore the root of the problem.

Am I the Odd One?

It’s sad but true, that because we writers would rather talk about writer’s block than face our writing anxiety, it means the horrific fears remain a deep, dark secret. This leaves each one of us thinking and feeling that we are somehow the odd one. The strange one. The one who is different from all other writers. And that is simply not true.

The working writer – the one who is producing on a consistent basis is the one who has faced the fears, pushed through them, and who has written, submitted, and sold in spite of the fears.

Confront Fears

Every writer who will ever finish a novel and get the work out there for the world to read must, sooner or later, confront his or her fears. And sooner is better Be A Novelistthan later. Your courage to write may never ever mean that you are fearless. It simply means you have decided to move forward no matter how scared you are.

As you progress, you will discover that you are brave in one area, and timid in yet another. It’s a balance between confidence today and terror tomorrow. Crazy, right? But then, who said being an author/novelist is any kind of sane occupation? It’s not. It never will be.

Get honest. Stop playing around with the writer’s block syndrome. Call it what it is. You’re scared. Say it out loud. “I’m scared.” Then move to the next point: “I’m scared and I don’t care!” Now you’re making progress.

I once heard this remark which helped me greatly: “If you’re not scared; you’re not writing.”

Conquer the fears – even knowing they may never really go away – and get your novel underway and completed.


Good news! At Last!

A novel-writing course that deals with your writing anxiety.

This is it!!

In the six-month writing course that I call the Be A Novelist, Six-Month, Finish-My-Novel Challenge we talk a great deal about what might stand in the way of your novel creation! It will be like looking into a mirror as you see yourself more clearly. The Be A Novelist challenge will allow you to dig deep inside of self to discover those hidden fears and to conquer them once and for all!

This course offers six full months of guidance and instruction. Guaranteed to light a fire under your novel-writing attempts and to launch you into a pattern of consistent writing! Details right here!

Be A Novelist