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Repeated Sentence Starts, A Self-Publishing Editing Tip

January 3, 2021
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We’ve talked about dialogue tags leading to a repetitive reading experience that takes away from the story. Now, let’s talk about repetition!

We can’t have enough of repetition. We can’t have it. We can’t!

See what I did there?

One thing I learned as I wrote, my mind writes with repetitive sentence starts. Doing this makes a section of story quite boring. It almost breaks our brain, at least mine. I’ve worked through this the past year and my repetitive writing has diminished significantly.

Read this example.

The cat jumped over the box while it ran. The dog skidded around the corner. The car sped down the highway.

It’s readable, but it’s boring. We can clean it up to remove the repetitive sentence starts. Not only that, the change makes it more exciting.

As the car sped down the highway, the running cat jumped over the box while the dog skidded around the corner.

We’ve condensed the sentences to increase readability. By doing so, the sentence becomes more exciting and action-oriented. Sure, it may mean we’re down a paragraph, but that just means we need to describe things more to build a better scene.

You Can Use Repetition for a Purpose. That Purpose Is Emphasis.

They just stared.
They stared at the hole.
They stared for all eternity.

Without a story, we don’t have context, but using repeated sentence starts gives the idea more emphasis by repeating it. It’s one stylistic approach to emphasizing a section of story.

This was a quick one. The next time you self-edit, look for those nasty repetitive sentences. You’ll find them. And don’t just look for them to be one right after the other. Look at your paragraphs and try to see how often they repeat.

I once had a story with “I” repeated as a sentence start almost twenty times on one page. Not good.

Keep an eye out for repetition. It’ll help you clean your story up and make it more exciting to read.

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