It turns out that writing can be tricky business. You would think not, in these days of push-button churning out of words and push-button editing. But perhaps it is trickier than ever, now that we are wedded to a keyboard and not writing by hand in pen or pencil. Some writers—Jennifer Egan springs to mind—say they write first drafts by hand, then transfer the words to a computer. Others swear by read-throughs, which is always a good idea since then you can hear the sound of the language. When you are speaking spontaneously—not a rehearsed speech—you seldom think about your word choices. The words just flow. But when you write for publication, suddenly word choices become significant. And oddly, sometimes difficult to control.

You want to have a voice. You want to have a distinctive sound in your written work. See? That was a repetition. A deliberate repetition.

I’m talking about inadvertent, unconscious repetitions of words, usually distinctive words beyond the usual “but” and “and” that are only too easy to write and detract from the bold, precise language you want to use. A writer in a workshop I once participated in called it “writer’s echolalia.” I see it frequently in published fiction that has been analyzed by several pairs of professional eyes—the writer herself, an editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader.

Writer’s echolalia is tough! I have a wonderful copy editor at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction who catches my inadvertent repetitions.  She is terrific! And often surprises me. Working with her on my stories to be published in that magazine has newly raised my consciousness about this issue.

[In 2015, I published two well-received stories in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, “Teardrop” in the May-June 2015 issue and “Tomorrow Is A Lovely Day,” in the November-December 2015 issue. These were both chosen by Gordon Van Gelder. I published “Anything For You,” in the September-October 2016 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. This story was chosen by the new editor, C.C. Finlay. “Riddle” has been published in the September-October 2017 68th anniversary issue of F&SF, and “Aurelia,” will be published in the January-February 2018 issue. “Dangerous” will appear in Welcome to Dystopia, an anthology to be published by OR Books in early 2018.]

But even a lot of the pros can’t catch it.

The longer the manuscript, the more difficult it is to catch this stuff. It is often only when you boil things down for print publication, are down to the wire, need to blow through 130,000 words in a few days, not a few years—when you see those clean, shiny proofs ready to go off to the printer—that you can spot writer’s echolalia.

I recently had that privileged and unique experience preparing The Garden of Abracadabra for print publication. As I was up, burning the midnight oil, I noticed I had used the word “still” repeatedly.

I like bold, precise words, preferably monosyllabic, that get the job done. But it turns out that the word “still” has several different meanings and I had used it in all those meanings.

Still can mean “motionless”: “She stood in the darkness, silent and still.”

When I checked Webster’s Tenth, I discovered that “still” in this context can also mean “silent.” So that sentence has a redundancy. But to me, “still” connotes “motionless.” In the spooky library of The Garden of Abracadabra, the suit of armor stands “silent and still.” He’s quiet and also motionless—until he unexpectedly moves.

Still can also mean “nevertheless.” As in, “I was angry with him. Still, I wanted to talk to him.”

And “still” can mean that which remains the same. As in, “I loved him still.”

A good thing I hadn’t dreamed up a subplot with a demon at the apartment building brewing illegal moonshine in a distillery! I would have had yet a fourth use for “still.”

I globally searched for “still”—thank you, Microsoft Word for this invaluable function! Twenty percent of the usages of “still” were exactly as I wanted them. And got the job done boldly and precisely. But eighty percent of the “still” sentences could be rewritten to better effect. Which I did.

So there you have it, my friends. Watch out for writer’s echolalia when you’re polishing a manuscript!

From the author of Summer Of Love (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. BACK IN PRINT at https://www.createspace.com/7257603 or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Love-Travel-Lisa-Mason/dp/1548106119/

The Gilded Age (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book). On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. BACK IN PRINT at https://www.createspace.com/7511748  or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Gilded-Age-Time-Travel/dp/1975853172/

The Garden of Abracadabra (“Fun and enjoyable urban fantasy . . . I want to read more!) On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. NOW IN PRINT! ORDER at https://www.createspace.com/title/7675783 and on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1978148291/.

One Day in the Life of Alexa. On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. Order on Amazon IN PRINT at https://www.amazon.com/One-Life-Alexa-Lisa-Mason/dp/1546783091 or direct from the Printer: https://www.createspace.com/7181096

Arachne (a Locus Bestseller). On US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. On Kindle in France Kindle, Germany Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Spain Kindle, Mexico Kindle, Brazil Kindle, India Kindle, and Japan Kindle. SOON BACK IN PRINT!

Cyberweb (sequel to Arachne). is on US Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Brazil Kindle, France Kindle, Germany Kindle, India Kindle, Italy Kindle, Japan Kindle, Mexico Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, and Spain Kindle. SOON BACK IN PRINT!

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (“A must-read collection—The San Francisco Review of Books). On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands. SOON BACK IN PRINT!

Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) (Five stars) On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Shaken On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Hummers On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

Daughter of the Tao On US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in AustraliaFrance, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

Every Mystery Unexplained On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

Tomorrow’s Child On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.

The Sixty-third Anniversary of Hysteria On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

U F uh-O On BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

Tesla, A Screenplay On US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on Kindle in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, and India.

My Charlotte: Patty’s Story On Barnes and Noble, US Kindle, UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Netherlands, and Mexico.

“Illyria, My Love” is on US Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords. Also on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, Germany Kindle, France Kindle, Spain Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Japan Kindle, Brazil Kindle, Mexico Kindle, and India Kindle.

Please visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for all my books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming works, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson, worldwide links, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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