Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Didn’t I Write This Already?

The problem with being a writer like me is that, upon re-reading my manuscripts, I find places where I repeat myself. A character may make a statement in chapter 1, and then she makes the same statement in chapter 5. I suspect this happens because my little old subconscious thinks this statement is really important. It might be part of a key theme of the story, and my brain is trying to make sure I get it out. The result is very similar passages in several places in the manuscript. On reading, I’ll often get to the first instance of one of these passages and think, “Hey, I think I say this somewhere else.” If I’m very lucky, I’ll have a pretty good idea where in the manuscript the second (and third) instance of this is, so I can jump ahead and write myself a note. “Same as on p.77,” I’ll write. “Pick and stick!” That means pick one spot for this idea, and stick to it. Of courses, I’ll frequently find myself in rewrites thinking, “Hey, this is really important” and I’ll start writing that same idea in almost that same way in another place. Oy.

The problem with being a blogger like me is I often feel like I’ve posted on the exact same topic, using the exact same words as I’ve done before. I’m in a permanent state of Deja vu. I sit down to write a post and I think, “Wait, I’ve written this before.” Quite often I have; the big question, though, is Did I post it?

I have a folder in my writing folder called, imaginatively enough, ‘blog’. Within that folder are subfolders: ‘posted’ and ‘pictures’. It should be fairly obvious what those folders are for. And then there’s the loose, unconsolidated part of the folder. It’s stuffed full of word documents with meaningful and meaningless titles like, “freudianslip”, and “scombrid” and, appropriately enough, “repetition.” Some of these documents, like “Extendocharacters”, should be moved into the ‘posted’ subfolder. Some of them, I can’t be sure. Did I post ‘repetition’ or not? What about ‘more harm than good’ or ‘External validation’? If I open those documents, the words seem awfully familiar, and why shouldn’t they? I wrote them. I just can’t remember if I posted them.

The problem is there are only 91 documents in the ‘posted’ folder. According to my blogger stats, as of today I have made 253 posts–see the problem? Now, there wouldn’t be a perfect match anyway, as some of my posts are strictly music videos or goofy little images relating to my state of mind on any given day, so those don’t get dumped in the ‘posted’ folder, because there is no corresponding document. And some of those 91 documents may have two or more posts contained within. And sometimes I write purely off the top of my head, as I’m doing now. Finally, some of the unconsolidated documents that have turned into posts–like ‘Extendocharacters’–have a second post on a different topic as part of the document, some other idea that was working up that I wrote directly in that document rather than start another.

I look at my list of posts and keywords, and that’s not much help, either. Titles don’t always indicate what’s contained within, and they don’t always jog the memory enough for me to say, “Oh, right, that’s what’s in there.” And my labeling system is pretty much a joke–half the time, I don’t label them anyway! So I sit down to write because something has been tickling at my brain for a while, and I feel like I’ve written it all before, and I go back through the posts and through my files and, after much searching–I can’t tell. It’s clear I need a new system, and so I turn to you, my friends: How do you organize yourself regarding your blog, so you don’t end up posting the same thing over and over again?

That’s it for me, have a great weekend!

11 Responses

  1. I posted about all sort of other things rather that just writing. I think writing is kind of like life it's something that is happening while you're doing other things. By just posting about key steps in your writing life and sharing all the other interesting things that are happening in your life you'll find you will repeat yourself less

  2. I Google key words to see if I've used them before.

    On a separate note, if you want a character to have a phrase that he says all the time, go ahead and do that, especially if that phrase ends up tying in somewhere later in the story. Sometimes repetition can have a huge emotional effect.

  3. How do I organize myself regarding my blog? I don't. Haha! In fact, I've caught myself ranting about something I had ranted about a year before. Guess it still bugged me, huh?

    I guess if your audience is constantly changing or growing, it won't matter if you repeat. It'll be new to SOMEONE.

  4. Well, I certainly realize by now that I can't fill 2posts/week with pure writing stuff. I just hope the rest of the stuff is interesting! Thanks for reading and commenting, Paula!

  5. Good idea, Patrick, I'll have to see if that works. As for the other, it's not so much a catchphrase as it's thematic elements, ideas or imagery. I'll sometimes find myself using almost the exact same paragraph a few pages or chapters further on. I definitely agree about repetition's emotional effect, though. I use it quite a bit, sometimes too much. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Sometimes it feels like there's nothing new to blog about. But even if you've written about a topic before, you will feel differently on a different day, or you might have learned something since the previous post (hopefully!) I wouldn't worry about it too much. You sound more organised than me already, at any rate.

  7. I write it right in Blogger and save it as a draft. That way I absolutely know for sure whether I've posted it or not. LOL. It's hard to come up with original stuff on a regular basis sometimes.

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