This technique can work well in literature if you want to drum home a point. It’s helpful in children’s literature intended to teach new words. Similarly, advertisers maintain that a new product must be repeatedly introduced before the populace will recognize it.
But, in writing, how much repetition is too much repetition? At what point does repetition cross the line and become redundancy? Is it beneficial or unnecessary to pose a question two or three different ways (as I’m doing in this paragraph) in order to convey a point?
The answer is subjective, with the writer and the reader often disagreeing. Once, an oft-published writer and expert in the nonfiction field told me that his publisher had told him to delete 20 percent of the content in the manuscript he submitted. The author said he did so—begrudgingly. In contrast, while I had read the book in previous weeks, I felt it was still 20 percent too lengthy, with too much stating and restating of the problem before providing a resolution.
Redundancy often occurs when the author sets a manuscript aside for a lengthy period of time. To explain: You craft a significant portion of your manuscript, then some situation arises that requires your attention. When you start to write again, you receive a great inspiration and include it in full detail, not remembering that you already described that same information in a previous chapter.
What do you do? When you finish crafting the book, read the entire manuscript—preferably without interruption or in as few hours as possible. You might be amazed at what you’ve stated more than once.
Then what do you do? Ask yourself if the similar passages are beneficial repetition or unnecessary redundancy. If redundant, rework those passages. You’ll probably find that the optimal outcome is a blend of your various iterations.
Being a freelance writer has many blessings. Freedom to combine travel with writing opportunities is one. With purposefulness, we go on magnificent adventures and weave our way into conversations with intriguing people. We see the unusual in out-of-the-way places.
I captured this image of chestnut pods on a horse ranch in Kentucky. I had gone there to help raise a barn constructed in mortise-and-tenon fashion. No, I’m not a carpenter. My assignment was to write an article about the crafters at Tillers International, a nonprofit that teaches non-mechanized farming skills both in the U.S. and developing nations.
To absorb the full flavor of the endeavor, I climbed the barn’s skeletal structure and swung my hammer with the rest of the crew. At night, around a camp fire with a wonderful hot meal in our hands, we talked about the day’s progress and events of our world.
For me, such experiences nurture seeds of ideas from which mighty stories, like mighty trees, grow.
Photo by Robert M Weir, October 2005, on a horse ranch in the mountains of Kentucky, USA.