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Old 05-09-2012, 04:40 PM   #1
Stanley
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Question Why does my writing keep repeating itself?

Hey AW community, this is my first thread. I'm still a newbie here, there might be something for it but I haven't found. Here is my situation:
I'm writing -or at least trying to write- fictional stories and novellas, but the problem is my writing style repeating itself constantly. I can see the exactly same sentences in my writings, same thoughts, same protagonists, same issues. I do have very good imagination and can be very creative, but while writing something, it doesn't work that way. How do I break this repeating circle?
I've published one short story so far, it's been said worth to read, but I can't continue on that story because I'm afraid of that second chapter will be exactly same as first chapter. It'd be like re-reading first chapter again and again.

p.s: I'm not native English speaker, but I do write my works in English if that matters. I'm still working on my grammar and vocabulary.
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Old 05-09-2012, 04:46 PM   #2
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So, I've been working on my German for the past ten years, so I can understand where you are coming from. When I speak, I express things the same way. It took me years to remember all the different ways to order things at a restaurant!

Working on vocabulary and grammar isn't enough. It wasn't enough for me with German, anyway. Yes, it is a piece of the puzzle. But for me neither of those things stick unless I am actually doing something with the language.

So I listen to the radio in German. I watch German TV when I can. I go to a German movie now and then. And I read a lot - magazines, newspapers, even novels. Novels in particular are a good way to build vocab and grammar.

The more you read in any language, the better you'll write in that language. That's my ultimate advice. Read. A lot. Look up recurrent words. Try to figure the what the words mean on your own first, though.
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Old 05-09-2012, 05:18 PM   #3
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Well, ironically I'm not a native english speaker and am studying german...

I have problems like these, but more like a language barrier, writing a novel in English reveals the repeating monkey inside me...
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Old 05-09-2012, 06:18 PM   #4
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Once you've got your story down I'd go through it and highlight all the repetitions... then I'd get a great thesaurus and alter some of the wording. Even I, as an English speaker, have a thesaurus constantly by my side... It may not help with the 'same protagonists' issues you mention, but it will certainly help with changing sentences x
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Old 05-09-2012, 06:24 PM   #5
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A lot of people repeat the same themes, protagonists, plots for at least a time of our writing lives. We're haunted, most of us, by our own demons we're trying to work out (for me, this went away after a half-dozen years of writing) or we simply love a genre so much, we're comfortable there for a long, long time. I doubt very much that Stephen King, looking over his retirement accounts in 1985, said "darn it! I can't seem to stop writing bland good-guy white working class Maine residents dragged into unlikely horror scenarios!" It's his schtick and it's done well for him.

Repeating the same sentences, if you are writing in a second (or more likely for you Europeans, third or fourth) language may be more a matter of struggling with the language. Do your best to find a year-long fellowship to study in the US or England (or a work situation) and a year's immersion will clear that right up.
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Old 05-09-2012, 07:14 PM   #6
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A lot of people repeat the same themes, protagonists, plots for at least a time of our writing lives. We're haunted, most of us, by our own demons we're trying to work out (for me, this went away after a half-dozen years of writing) or we simply love a genre so much, we're comfortable there for a long, long time. I doubt very much that Stephen King, looking over his retirement accounts in 1985, said "darn it! I can't seem to stop writing bland good-guy white working class Maine residents dragged into unlikely horror scenarios!" It's his schtick and it's done well for him.
Yes, readers who are the loyal followers of a writer _want_ them to produce more of the same stuff they liked. Also the themes of stories may seem more similar to their writer than readers. As the writer, I know that almost everything I write is a romance about overcoming prejudice, but readers see the surface first, they tend to say this story is the one with dragon people, that story is the one with space ships, the other story is the one with superheros in the '80s... it seems more different to them because they don't know where the ideas came from, while to me the ideas all come from the same place.
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Old 05-09-2012, 09:39 PM   #7
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I'm afraid of that second chapter will be exactly same as first chapter. It'd be like re-reading first chapter again and again.
Here's an idea...take yourself out of your environment. If your situation allows it, go travel. Do things that are out of the ordinary for you. When you start living in new ways and having new experiences, you'll be surprised how many new ideas come to you. When I was living abroad I was at my most creative, no doubt.

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p.s: I'm not native English speaker, but I do write my works in English if that matters. I'm still working on my grammar and vocabulary.
You're doing great. I've been editing for nonnative writers for 7 years (not fictional writing, but academic writing, which is almost the opposite of creative writing haha). But I'm really impressed. Keep up the great work!
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stanley View Post
I can see the exactly same sentences in my writings, same thoughts, same protagonists, same issues. I do have very good imagination and can be very creative, but while writing something, it doesn't work that way. How do I break this repeating circle?
Read a variety of authors, preferably in English. Read with a notebook at hand.

Repetition is the stuff of life in some genres. Romance, westerns, detective stories--many of them, especially from the same author, look almost identical, yet readers are not necessarily discouraged by this.
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Old 05-10-2012, 12:47 AM   #9
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I agree with the advice to read, read, read, and then read some more. Read everything you can reasonably get your hands on. One of the neat things about writing is that the more we read, the better our writing gets, and it's something that happens automatically, almost as if through osmosis. Just stretch your imagination as much as possible, and you'll find your writing improves from it.
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Old 05-10-2012, 02:51 AM   #10
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Wink That is so good!

All of you have my thanks! I've surely found solution(s) thanks to you.

I'd love to especially thank SeriousScholar for personal comment. I tend to be very self-destructive when it comes to use of grammar and word choice, but your comment is giving a little hope.

I'll do sum of suggestions were made so far to not forget or miss any of them. I'm also posting it here for other people to see, it would be very helpful for anyone experiencing same things.

1. I'll use the language which I'm writing on real life. Get the most of it and actually do something with the language.

2. Read a lot.

3. Find out recurrent words in my works and change them into other ones using thesaurus.

4. Try to make a vacation to country/countries the language I'm writing in is spoken. Making vacation to other places will also help to unleash creativity.

5. Repeating and using same things in writing can be a part of writing life and would be the stuff for some genres. Sometimes writers needed to be make same products, keeping same style for his/her loyal followers.

6. Do things out of the ordinary for me.

7. Read again, a lot, more and more!

That's all. It took a matter of time though worth it. I think there isn't anything I've missed. I'll start the ball rolling
I'm still waiting for even more opinions.
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Old 05-10-2012, 04:02 AM   #11
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Shakespeare has twenty something sonnets that repeat the same message: marry me and have kids before you grow old. And he did okay.
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Old 05-10-2012, 04:26 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suzie View Post
then I'd get a great thesaurus and alter some of the wording.
Ehhhh.... Be careful of the thesaurus. It's a very easy way to write "foreign English" because you don't know the exact feeling and usage of the words. Some words seem to mean the same thing, but are too formal for every-day colloquial use; others appear in the thesaurus, but aren't commonly used by native English speakers at all.

You can certainly use a thesaurus, but don't be surprised if native English speakers read your work and tell you the word choices aren't quite accurate.

(This isn't to be unsympathetic, by the way--it's just that I've seen this problem occur for ESL students before.)
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Old 05-10-2012, 05:54 AM   #13
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Forgive me if this comment seems too glib, but... why do you want to write in English? Why not write in your native language? It can always be translated into English later, and then your own style, rhythm, and creativity can better be expressed without you forcing yourself to work in a language you aren't entirely comfortable with. I don't mean to sound insensitive ~ I applaud you for trying to write in a non-native language, but I'm genuinely curious.
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Old 05-10-2012, 01:27 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Stanley View Post
All of you have my thanks! I've surely found solution(s) thanks to you.

I'd love to especially thank SeriousScholar for personal comment. I tend to be very self-destructive when it comes to use of grammar and word choice, but your comment is giving a little hope.
Glad we were able to provide some ideas Stanley. Good luck!
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Old 05-10-2012, 01:28 PM   #15
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Shakespeare has twenty something sonnets that repeat the same message: marry me and have kids before you grow old. And he did okay.
lol good point
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Old 05-10-2012, 01:35 PM   #16
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Forgive me if this comment seems too glib, but... why do you want to write in English? Why not write in your native language? It can always be translated into English later, and then your own style, rhythm, and creativity can better be expressed without you forcing yourself to work in a language you aren't entirely comfortable with. I don't mean to sound insensitive ~ I applaud you for trying to write in a non-native language, but I'm genuinely curious.
I can't answer for Stanley but I'd like to add one idea that I've had myself. I lived abroad for several years and got quite good at Spanish. I often fantasized about writing a novel or collection of poems one day. I debated your same question in my own head. I wouldn't want to lose my capacity for expression (and that surely would happen to some degree, despite being strong in the language). However, living, speaking, and writing in a new language can be an exotic, fun, and exciting experience. And there is a certain challenge to writing something in the second language that is also alluring. I would love to do that some day. Then again, I'd love to write a novel in English some day too haha. I think I'd probably start in my own language first and then move onto the second language, but I guess what I'm saying is that I could see the desire to do it.
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Old 05-10-2012, 03:49 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redneckballerina View Post
Forgive me if this comment seems too glib, but... why do you want to write in English? Why not write in your native language? It can always be translated into English later, and then your own style, rhythm, and creativity can better be expressed without you forcing yourself to work in a language you aren't entirely comfortable with. I don't mean to sound insensitive ~ I applaud you for trying to write in a non-native language, but I'm genuinely curious.
I don't take it offensive, I'll answer for your genuine curiosity.
Like SeriousScholar has said, it's an exciting experience. But there are more things for me. I've read many books up till now in my native language, but never gained habit to read, it was boring. Then I found some stories written in English on the internet and they were including my rare tastes-I mean things like my own people rarely knows about them let alone writing something on it. I finally gained habit to read, started reading everyday because reading in English's been giving me fresh feelings.

The other reason is my native language is an agglutinative language which means there are no words as many as the words in English. It constantly uses affixes to create new words from the same stems. Most of people living here have no idea what's a thesaurus, or what's the point of that. Opposite of that, I prefer learning new words and terms rather than conjugating them.

And beside all of that, there are some social reasons, the fact is many people here are conservative who are only read books related to religion. I don't have any problems with religional people, it's the way they are, but I'm telling there's no way an independent writer like you or like me has no future on his/her writing here. It's just a Middle Eastern country after all.
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Old 05-10-2012, 06:11 PM   #18
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I think it's probably largely just the human instinct to repeat a behavior once it has been successful. I found in my own writing for a while that when I did write I was stuck in a rut and the stories were redundant (I did 3 or 4 in a row about severe addicts to various drugs and behaviors who were at their breaking points / most desperate moments, which also could have been I was having my own comparatively minor struggles with addiction at that time).

You've apparently had a story published, though, and in not your native language to boot, so you have a leg up on most of us on here. I hate to use cliches, but "keep plugging away and putting words on page" and try your very best to "think outside the box" and utilize original and unique phrasing and plot details that have not been overused by either you or other authors.
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Old 05-10-2012, 06:19 PM   #19
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Quote:
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I don't take it offensive, I'll answer for your genuine curiosity.
Like SeriousScholar has said, it's an exciting experience. But there are more things for me. I've read many books up till now in my native language, but never gained habit to read, it was boring. Then I found some stories written in English on the internet and they were including my rare tastes-I mean things like my own people rarely knows about them let alone writing something on it. I finally gained habit to read, started reading everyday because reading in English's been giving me fresh feelings.

The other reason is my native language is an agglutinative language which means there are no words as many as the words in English. It constantly uses affixes to create new words from the same stems. Most of people living here have no idea what's a thesaurus, or what's the point of that. Opposite of that, I prefer learning new words and terms rather than conjugating them.

And beside all of that, there are some social reasons, the fact is many people here are conservative who are only read books related to religion. I don't have any problems with religional people, it's the way they are, but I'm telling there's no way an independent writer like you or like me has no future on his/her writing here. It's just a Middle Eastern country after all.
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I can't answer for Stanley but I'd like to add one idea that I've had myself. I lived abroad for several years and got quite good at Spanish. I often fantasized about writing a novel or collection of poems one day. I debated your same question in my own head. I wouldn't want to lose my capacity for expression (and that surely would happen to some degree, despite being strong in the language). However, living, speaking, and writing in a new language can be an exotic, fun, and exciting experience. And there is a certain challenge to writing something in the second language that is also alluring. I would love to do that some day. Then again, I'd love to write a novel in English some day too haha. I think I'd probably start in my own language first and then move onto the second language, but I guess what I'm saying is that I could see the desire to do it.
Thanks for the answers! When you put it that way, it makes perfect sense. And I truly respect the desire to write in another language. It's definitely something I could never do!!
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Old 05-10-2012, 06:49 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redneckballerina View Post
Forgive me if this comment seems too glib, but... why do you want to write in English? Why not write in your native language? It can always be translated into English later, and then your own style, rhythm, and creativity can better be expressed without you forcing yourself to work in a language you aren't entirely comfortable with. I don't mean to sound insensitive ~ I applaud you for trying to write in a non-native language, but I'm genuinely curious.
I want to add my answer too, hehe

I started reading with english authors and every piece I read was better in his original language. I think the books lose a lot of things during translation.

About my option of writing in another language, it's a exciting experience! And the knowledge acquired is unbelievable. It's also for me, a better professional option, there's no strong market in my country.
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Old 05-10-2012, 06:56 PM   #21
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Firstly, well done on working on your English - I wish I were as fluent in the languages I learnt at school (now very rusty!).

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I've published one short story so far, it's been said worth to read, but I can't continue on that story because I'm afraid of that second chapter will be exactly same as first chapter. It'd be like re-reading first chapter again and again.
I'm not clear here whether you're working on a series of short stories or a novel. Short stories and chapters are different things - chapters are arbitrary chunks of a larger work (some writers don't use chapters at all), whereas short stories are totally self-contained (though they can be connected).

If a novel, then you need to make sure that your plot progresses. Watch some movies and observe how the conflicts escalate, the stakes get higher, and the story moves to a dramatic conclusion. Read some good books in English (preferably in the genre you want to write), and see how other writers do it. Often, each chapter will be a separate incident, almost like a short story in miniature, but in a different setting or with different characters.

If you are writing short stories, again, look to writers doing similar things. See how they reuse ideas and settings but put a fresh spin on them.

Of course you will tend to come back to themes and motifs that interest you. I've noticed in writing my second book that some types of incident recur (a dramatic getaway by boat, for example) that I didn't plan but seem to bubble up from my imagination automatically. I don't think that's a bad thing as long as you don't repeat yourself in every story!
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Old 05-11-2012, 02:01 AM   #22
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Thanks for comments and replies on topic.

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I'm not clear here whether you're working on a series of short stories or a novel. Short stories and chapters are different things - chapters are arbitrary chunks of a larger work (some writers don't use chapters at all), whereas short stories are totally self-contained (though they can be connected).
Well, it was a short story at the beginning. I doubted even one person look at it, because I just upload it somewhere and never make any promotion about it to anywhere. It was like a drop in the ocean, people would find it by accident. Then one or two people read it, and commented on it. They wanted to read next chapters so the short story turned out to be a prologue for a novella trying
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Old 05-11-2012, 02:16 AM   #23
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Your speech patterns remind me of a friend of mine from Bosnia. Your English is quite good for a non-native speaker.

I would like to concur with the advice to please take care with a thesaurus. Feel free to use it to find new words and then look those words up in a dictionary, but it's a common problem with amateur writers (not just non-native ones, either) to try to add variety by plucking words from a thesaurus, and it is not usually a good idea because words have a flavor and they are rarely if ever perfect synonyms.

I do agree with reading a whole lot, every time you get the chance, and doing it with a notebook by your side to write down phrases that catch your interest, get you excited, or paint a really good mental picture.

Also, if you find yourself writing the same theme over and over again, it could be because you are struggling with your own inner demons or sub-conscious issues.

For years I wrote about straight women having eye-opening lesbian experiences. Guess who realized she was gay earlier this year? I feel like my sub-conscious was beating on me with a hammer and I totally missed it.
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Old 05-11-2012, 10:31 AM   #24
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Another thing I thought of last night, Stanley, is that storytelling and composing good prose are two separate skills, and few people are able to both at the same time, at least not well. Perhaps your stories are becoming repetitive because you are trying this herculean task in a second language?

You might want to try planning your story in your native tongue, which might free up your imagination to relax and do what it's good at - then when you come to write, you will be able to focus simply on turning your story into good English prose.

I don't know if this will help, but it's one possible approach...
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Old 05-11-2012, 08:56 PM   #25
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For years I wrote about straight women having eye-opening lesbian experiences. Guess who realized she was gay earlier this year? I feel like my sub-conscious was beating on me with a hammer and I totally missed it.
That's little scary. So my subconscious may be telling me I'm depressed and lost in my own thoughts, like my protagonists. I guess it was called psychoanalysis.

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Originally Posted by Anne Lyle View Post
You might want to try planning your story in your native tongue, which might free up your imagination to relax and do what it's good at - then when you come to write, you will be able to focus simply on turning your story into good English prose.
It might seem odd but I'm somehow better at using English active rather than using my native tongue actively. I'm not saying my English storytelling skills are good, but my native language storytelling is not any better obviously. It's because my own tongue doesn't impressive me as much as English. Maybe the reason could be I've been using this language for years, and I've had enough of it
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