Lesson 4: Efficient or not efficient.

Lesson 4: Efficient or not efficient.

A Lesson by Crashbang

Dont repeat yourself. Or do. Hang on...


Efficient isn't a talent you would usually associate with writing the great short stories or novels or poetry, and therefore it feels strange and a little dangerous to do one of these articles on it. As if I'm treading a frozen glacier and you can hear the tiny, threatening cracks beneath your all too large size thirteen trainers.


There are arguments to be made for and against what some might call being lazy and others might call trimming fat. I myself think it is an important, though subtle idea. In it's simplest meaning? The art of not repeating yourself. 

Simple idea right? You re-edit those masterpieces you have written on the Apple Mac and you find to your horror that one of your characters thinks the same thing twice in the space of a paragraph. Terrible. Or is it?

For me? Repeating yourself isn't in itself wrong. (Lesson 1: There is nothing you cant write) but the way in which you repeat yourself could cause ill will towards your writing. Or alternatively, good will.

Confused yet? I am, but bear with me. Let me give you a solid example to chew into.


'As I kick back around, I see another, large fin. And another. My heart rate has exploded. The rest of me is chilled like ice.
With my feet firmly beneath the water, I kick as hard as I can. Breastroking as quickly as I can.
They can just swim straight upwards and wrap their teeth around me. Break bones. Tear away one of my legs like spare rib...
I am scared of sharks.'


This is some of my own writing on a blog. This a mistake I found while sifting through the editing process. (duly edited)

The problem with this piece of writing is the end sentence. 'I am scared of sharks...' Well dur. Lots of people are scared of sharks, and even if they weren't Simons (his name is Simon by the way) reaction to the sharks tells us quite blatantly without having to resort to a stupid last line like that. This, in effect, is repetition. Luckily it's a simple matter of removing the offending line and getting on with editing the rest of the mess.

But then, we don't have to get rid of the offending sentence.

Although this next idea didn't fit into the general feeling of the story and his emotions at the time, you could just as easily twist the sentence to something like:


'In case you aren't aware...I'm not a fan of sharks.'

Not bad. Mildly amusing, little bit sarcastic. We are now told that Simon could have a cynical streak to him by that sentence, that he has perhaps gotten used to his predicament. That sentence could tell us all sorts of things. It could say SharksSharksSharksSharksSharksSHARKS! and we would then know that Simon isn't sarcastic, he is hysterically terrified. Basically, with a quick modification, that sentence isn't repeating. It's telling readers something new about the character, or it's amusing to have in there.


Of course you can go either way on this. It really depends what you want to tell your reader and when. Can Simons sarcastic streak wait? Are you writing in such a style that typing Sharks many times looks out of place? It is your descision. Hell, actually that character can say the same sentence in the space of a paragraph - why not? It emphasises the point perhaps.


To sum up really - Efficiency isnt about avoiding repeating words that your character might have already said very recently. It's about avoiding saying the same thing twice, wheather with different words or not. Have you ever read a romantic story where the protagonist spends the entire thing moping over a lost girlfriend? There's probably bad repetition in it. That analogy I started with? Thats got bad repetition in it.

'...your all too large size thirteen trainers.' did the sentence really need all of those words?



OK, that will do. I hope it made sense. Class dismissed.

Previous Lesson


Subscribe Subscribe


2 Subscribers
Added on January 26, 2010
Last Updated on January 26, 2010

No Rating

My Rating

Login to rate this



United Kingdom

Hi, my names Rob, and I am working towards being a writer, be it screen writing or novel writing. I always look to write originally, am always looking to improve. My writing is highly versatile - I ha..