Before I dive into this round of the Blog Chain, I have a quick announcement: today PT Dilloway has kindly let me visit his blog to discuss using Shakespeare's work as an inspiration for writing. Please stop on by; since I'm supposed to "class up the joint," I'd hate to be wearing pearls for nothing.
For this round, Christine asks,
What are your "go-to" scenes or phrases? You know, the ones you have to
remind yourself NOT to use too frequently? What do you do to keep
yourself from being overly reliant on them?
I have what might be an unusual approach to this topic in that I don't worry about my "go-to" words when drafting. In an effort to increase my daily word count, I'm trying to be less critical of what I write as I write so I don't disrupt my flow. This means if qualifying words, repeated phrases, or even dreaded adverbs insert themselves into my sentence, I type them anyway. After all, they do apply to my daily word count. It's important to keep the writing and revising phases of your work separate.
The time to worry about repeating yourself is when you're editing. This is when I go through my work and ask if all my "at least"s, "although"s, "just"s, adverbs, and other commonly used words are earning their keep. Some of them stay; many of them may be escorted none-too-gently to the curb. For example, "After all, they do apply to my daily word count" might become "They apply to my daily word count" after editing. "Do" might stay if I think the emphasis works in context.
Repeated scenes may be harder to catch. Even crit partners can have a hard time spotting them when they review a novel chapter-by-chapter over many months. The best ways to catch duplicate scenes are by reading the entire work in a short time (so you don't forget it), outlining (this works even if you're a panster; you can outline after the first draft is done and see you have too many scenes with your main character arguing with an authority figure), and hiring a really good content editor to find them for you.
For examples of scenes I personally may be using too much, there are several places in my current WIP where new characters enter the story, and my main characters have to explain the situation to them. The summaries will have to be shortened or skipped when I revise. I'm also not sure about the scenes which are mostly dialogue between my protagonist and his love interest. In this case, the scenes will change as their relationship evolves, but it's important to make sure the scenes are doing other things to advance the story as well. Right now, I just need to get the story written so I can revise it later.
Kate started the blog chain yesterday, and Christine will give us her answer to this question tomorrow.