Oh no! I'm not only repeating words and phrases--I'm repeating actual plots too? Get the smelling salts!!
Once I recognized the issue, it didn't take much to fix it. A few hours of brainstorming led me to a different plot twist, one I hadn't used before.
Apparently repetition comes in many forms.
Recently I shared my latest book with a critique partner. She pointed out a repeat technique that I'd been relying on and, unfortunately, unaware of. Thank goodness for extra eyes! It forced me to find better, more creative ways to deepen the point of view.
Another trap I fall into time and again is using the same old action beats. It's not easy (for me!) to come up with fresh "movement" with dialogue. Sometimes my brain skips these tired phrases when I'm revising, so I've had to add another layer to my revising process--printing the book out single-spaced in a different font. Not much gets by me with that method!
As my writing develops, I find I have to be diligent about coming up with new plot twists, better descriptions, deeper character development, and unique characters. Anyone who has been writing a while strives to keep the details fresh.
Ways to Keep the Details Fresh in Your Manuscript
1. Ask yourself if the plot feels familiar? Why? Why not?
2. Work hard to avoid needless word repetitions. Find/Replace is your friend. Use it.
3. Challenge yourself to introduce new-to-you situations in your work-in-progress.
Chances are, these new situations will create problems for your characters too. For instance, I write contemporary romance. The external conflicts are usually related to the characters' jobs or personal lives. One way to "spice" it up, is to stay on top of current events and add a subplot based on one.
Think about it. Natural disasters continue to increase in frequency. Droughts or heavy rains devastate areas. Recessions dampen dreams throughout the country. Foreign adoption rules change all the time. Some countries are dangerous for missionaries or even travelers. Any of these could trigger a problem and subplot for the characters.
4. Picture the scene in your head to come up with better action beats.
This is a weak area of mine. I have to work hard when it comes to movement within a scene.
5. Keep a mental (or written) log of the sensory details you typically share. Are your scents, tastes, and descriptions tired, overdone? Come up with new ones!
The longer I write, the more I realize writing isn't something to conquer. I will never say: I made it! My first draft is a masterpiece! My manuscripts will always need multiple revisions. It's my process. It's how I take my draft from "cute idea" to solid book.
Writing is something we can always improve. Each new book provides another opportunity to pay careful attention to our craft.
How do you keep the details fresh?
Have a fabulous weekend!