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It turns out that writing can be a tricky business. You wouldn’t think so, in these days of push-button churning out of words and push-button editing.
But perhaps it’s trickier than ever, now that we are wedded to a keyboard and not writing by hand in pen or pencil on recycled trees, otherwise known as paper.
Some writers—Jennifer Egan springs to mind—claim they write first drafts by hand, then transfer the words to a computer. I have been known to apply this technique myself, especially with stories. But also with key parts of novel.
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—“You want to”. 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. Those repetitions 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 inadvertent repetitions frequently in published fiction. These are words that have been through several pairs of professional eyes—the writer herself, an editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader.
But even a team of the pros often can’t catch it.
The longer the manuscript, the more difficult it is to catch this stuff. It’s 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.
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