Friday, April 2, 2010

Slashing Repetition

As many of you know I'm revising my ms at the moment. I've come to realize I have a bad habit. I tend to repeat myself in first drafts - using different words of course. I've been slashing away with my editing sword, but my arm's getting tired!

Okay, it's not that bad, but it's a habit I want to break. The writing is so much stronger when I delete these additional phrases and sentences. I like writing to be tight, concise. (see - repeating!) Sometimes a repetition works for emphasis - but I like this technique to be used sparingly.

I've decided to blame a certain Geography teacher in high school for this habit. As a teacher, I feel a little guilty, but it's true! I remember getting back a short-answer test and being shocked at my low mark. I thought I'd done well. I checked out a friend's test, and she had the same ideas I had - but she'd repeated the same ideas in different ways 2 or 3 times. I tried it out next test, and sure enough - better marks.

So... Mr. M., thanks to you, my editing arm is getting a workout with this heavy sword. :)

Can you trace back any writerly 'bad habits' to a particular source? I'm hoping all the answers aren't teachers!!!

On another note, I'm sure you've probably come across a few posts in your bloggy travels already, but in case you haven't... my blog buddy Arlee Bird over at Tossing it Out is the host of a blog challenge in April. Skipping Sundays, the bloggers will be posting about A on the 1st, B on the 2nd and so on through the month.

This challenge is to celebrate Arlee's 200 folllowers. There are a ton of bloggers who have taken up the challenge. Check out Lee's sidebar to see the links. You'll also see a sidebar list of those of us who are cheering heartily from the sidelines! I only blog a couple of times a week - but this is a fun challenge to read about. Make sure you check it out!

92 comments:

  1. If it makes you feel any better, I just got revisions back from my agent and she was like, "Elizabeth, you repeated this same point over and over again...can you take some of these references out?!?" So...yeah, it's easy to do. :)

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  2. Those darn teachers! At least you know one of your weaknesses because then you can correct it. Well done! I'll have to check out Arlee's blog. Thanks for the heads up and good luck!

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  3. Elizabeth - that makes me feel SOOOOO much better. I've read and loved your work. So it's definitely fixable! Thanks :)

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  4. Alyssa - yup - and I'm one of them!! :)

    Thanks for the support - I do think I can work it out.

    You'll enjoy Lee's blog - it's lots of fun :)

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  5. It's my blasted teachers fault I repeat myself... It's my blasted teachers fault I repeat myself.... It must be right? Just kidding!

    My arms a little tired too. Wish I had the aid of the lovely Aragorn up there!

    I'm right behind you, Jemi. Keep up the good work :)

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  6. I tend to repeat myself way too often in first drafts as well. Participating in the A-to-Z Challenge and so that means many first drafts this month. Maybe I will get some inspiration and be able to edit a few. Maybe this is just for me. I haven't decided yet.

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  7. Oooo, you hauled me in with Viggo/Aragorn. Is he available to slash our repetitions? :D

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  8. Thanks Wendy - Aragorn is always helpful :)

    I will repeat the mantra! :)

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  9. Melody - Good luck with the challenge - it sure has been fun so far :)

    I'm hoping to catch all the repetitions in the revising too. Crossing fingers!

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  10. Tricia - Oh my yes, he's available - that's the best way to get through revisions, don't you think? :)

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  11. I repeat myself over and over and over in early drafts. Then I use revisions to cut it all back. I think part of that comes from the fact that I wrote only around 500 words a day- I can't always remember if I wrote the same darn thing a week ago!

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  12. Stephanie - I like that reason :) And I just may use it myself - thanks!!

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  13. I can't think of any particular teacher to blame for adverb addiction - darn! I don't want to have to accept responsibility. :-)

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  14. Shannon :) Too bad - maybe you can just make something up!!!

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  15. I blame teachers for... telling people they must use complicated words when simple ones will do! It's one of the earliest habits writers have to be trained out of!

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  16. Roz - so true - my students are always surprised when I tell them to Keep it Simple and Clear and Concise. :)

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  17. I use too many words: 'just' 'that' and dependent clauses especially. When editing, I pare and pare and pare. Clean, tight, spare writing is a beautiful thing. Writing mechanics should never be so obvious as to take the reader out of the story.

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  18. VR - I love 'just' - I think I've trimmed a million of them. They JUST seem to show up everywhere :)

    You're so right - the story is the most important thing!

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  19. I'm too "wordy" because of my professional background. Plus, there's the minor detail of not being a native speaker, which sometimes leads me use words in the strangest ways possible, heh.

    Also, I'm to hard on myself. But that's another topic. ;P

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  20. I tend to repeat things over and over and then I remember my readers are smart, they don't need the point to be hammered home. Maybe it's my teaching background (kinder) where things do need to be repeated over and over :)

    Good luck with the slashing :)

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  21. Mari - I didn't realize from our conversations you weren't a native speaker! There are no hints in your posts and comments. :)

    I'm hard on myself too - maybe it should be another topic!

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  22. Thanks Alexa - the slashing is fun! I like your teaching thinking. I do have to repeat a lot during the school day. Yay - another reason!! :)

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  23. Jemi, I had to do a lot of that! I realized I'd creatively said the same thing at least four times within a paragraph or two. I had to tighten up the dialogue, too. So it's not just you.

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  24. Alex - so glad to hear I'm not alone - gotta admit, it's been a tough day with the ms. Thanks for helping me feel better!! :)

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  25. Jemi:
    On my last manuscript I had to go through and take out some repetitions. Sometimes it happens. But I know what you mean. I'd rather get it right the first time without my editor catching them. :)

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  26. Kathi - yes! And I'm not even at the stage where I'd meet an editor - but I do get frustrated with myself :)

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  27. I'm sorry, but I have to say it might have been teachers. How often did they impose a word/page minimum? Almost every time. I understand why they do that, because some students will do the shortest paper they can get away with, but the minimum also contribues to word diarrhea.

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  28. Mary - So true. Minimum page limits were everywhere when I was growing up!

    When my students first start in Sept they always ask 'how long does it have to be?' They have a hard time with the answer 'until it's done well' at the beginning - but they get used to it! :)

    One of my classroom mantras is "Clear and concise" - so hopefully they'll never have this problem!

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  29. Love your post. I have to say that sometimes repeating one's self is necessary - well at least it is for those of use who can't remember what we said five minutes ago. :) I'm sure you'll have the repeats cut down in no time. Good luck.

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  30. That is so sad about your teacher! Some people just need the repetition I guess. My second grade teacher had a negative effect on my writing, but not in the same way yours did--I turned in a piece for a short story, and he took me aside, told me that "there is no such thing as talking monkeys!!" and then he tore up my short story. I was heart broken. It took me a long time to realize that some people just don't like reading about fantasy worlds. Such a shame, since that's what I write! Good luck with your edits!

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  31. I jumped out of the Honors English program my Sophmore year because the teacher seemed too taxing. My loss, since then I missed the year I should have learned grammar as well as the best teacher to learn it from.

    Now that's where I'm weak--grammar. (So it's my fault, not a teachers! Ha, ha.)

    Thanks for entering my contest, Jemi, you're the best!

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  32. Oh how I wish I could blame a teacher for my inadequacies, but alas I can not. It's all me. I do the same thing repeating the words. I have no idea why and as someone who's also revising, my arm is tired too!

    Good Luck ;o)

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  33. Alas, it apparently shows on my writing. But I'm working on it. ;)

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  34. You're lucky you have a reason! I don't, and I'm very repetitive in first drafts. Snorting, eye rolling, shrugging... not good.

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  35. We all have our writing quirks.

    My mother has a funny way of mixing up her sentence so it's not quite write. Being that I grew up with her and she taught me to speak, I constantly fight against this.

    "Was" is my problem.

    There's a fine line between repetition and pulling every similar word out of the thesaurus.

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  36. My first drafts are always wordy and in need of several whacks from the editor's sword. I can't trace it back to any teachers...wish I could! LOL.

    Have a great Easter weekend!

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  37. I'm also awful at repetition. I'll get a word stuck in my head and not realize it's in my head b/c I just used it. Then I use it over and over again. It's hard to catch too. I often need another pair of eyes for that.

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  38. I tend to do the same thing, like, "angry glare." I also have amazed myself by using the same word (tiny) five times on one page, and I didn't even notice right away when I was editing it. I can't think of anyone to blame for it, though. Wish I could! :)

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  39. I don't know where I picked up the words I repeat (like "just" and "that"), but the way I spot them is by using Wordle. And then hack and slash through the ms!

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  40. Mason - lol - how true! The older I get, the more I repeat myself :) I've spent the last hour or so cutting out more!

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  41. Tiana - my mouth literally dropped open! How did that man get to be a teacher??? No imagination whatsoever.

    I love fantasy! And has the man never seen the Wizard of Oz - proof there are specialized monkeys! :)

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  42. Jackee - you're welcome!

    I didn't take the grammar course until my last semester in university. Wish I'd taken it earlier. It might have been boring - but I sure learned a lot! :)

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  43. Erica - maybe we should have done some extra training with that sword arm before starting revisions! Maybe Aragorn could have helped! :)

    We'll get better - I'm sure of it!

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  44. Mari - I guess that's what we're always doing, isn't it? Working at it! And getting better I hope :)

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  45. Talli - It may only be in my mind - but I'm sticking to my reason :) Much better than blaming myself!

    I've gotten rid of a lot of descriptors too and I'm only about 50 pages in! Yikes.

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  46. Theresa - I see a lot of parents' expressions showing up in my writing now that I'm doing a Steampunk. They grew up in Scotland so at least it works!

    It's not words I'm repeating so much as concepts for emphasis. It's a bit much :)

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  47. Nicole - yes - those swords are certainly handy! I'm much better with this first draft than with my last ms. But obviously it still needs work :)

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  48. Tamara - so true! Another set of eyes is vital. I have wonderful crit buddies - thankfully! :)

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  49. Layinda - I tend to use 'really', 'very' and 'just' a lot in first drafts as well. It's something I take great joy in slashing in the first round of revisions :)

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  50. Beth - I love, love, love Wordle. Yes I know I'm repeating again, but my love of Wordle is that big. :) What a wonderful tool!

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  51. Ugh. I can't stand revising. It's like trying on that first bathing suit after a winter of successful and wonderful baking. Like, "Oh great. Exactly how did this get here and how do I fix it?"

    The same sense of coming to terms with things you'd just rather not think about.

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  52. Anne - great analogy :)

    It amazes me how much shows up in the first draft that I have absolutely no memory of writing! It WAS NaNo, but still!

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  53. My goodness, you have a lot of comments! I repeat myself a lot as well, and I have to take out the slashing sword to hack off all the adverbs :)

    Nice choice of picture. :)

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  54. Thanks Aubrie :)

    We'll all slash away together - and Aragorn can help! :)

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  55. Hey, you have really hit on a good idea here.
    Blame someone else for my writing, brilliant!
    I suppose it is kind of like a reverse "Teacher, my dog ate my homework".

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  56. Al - lol :)

    And I'm a teacher to boot - probably not a good long-term plan - but it's working at the moment :)

    Thanks for dropping by!

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  57. You're not the only one. I edit quite a few manuscripts where I'm commenting things like, you've already said this ...or ... you're telling us what's going to happen and then you're telling us.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  58. Helen - that reminds me of advice from another teacher who taught us to do essays ... "Say what you're going to say, say it, say what you said." Maybe I could blame him too! :)

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  59. I use certain words way too much and have to cut them out, find something else in the thesaurus, etc., but I can see how it would be easy to repeat ideas over and over to get it across. Essay writing in college often required that, and my salesman stepdad was always saying "people have to hear something three times before they remember it". Fortunately for me, my natural laziness makes me automatically cut things down so I don't write more than I have to :)

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  60. I definitely have a great deal of repetition in my first drafts, but it usually sticks out like a sore thumb when I revise and comes out pretty easily. As far as tracing bad habits, I don't know if it's a bad habit really, but I had a college American Thought and Language professor (horrible, horrible course mixing Colonial American history with writing essays in the most boring way possible) who had some weird rule about using commas in a series. I see his rule broken all the time in professional writing, so I do have to wonder if he just made it up. Anyway, he marked me down on one of my papers for it, ended up giving me a B in the class, and ruined my perfect average (okay, it was the first semester of freshman year, but still.) So, I'm kind of a freak about commas now.

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  61. So funny that you can trace your repetition back to an old teacher. I have a tendency to repeat dialog beats, but I have no idea whose fault that is. :)

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  62. We definitely need to borrow that edit sword of yours. Sounds genius.

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  63. Lorel - lol :)

    I don't have any salespeople in the family, so I can't use that one!

    Thanks!

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  64. Susan - lol :) that does NOT sound like an exciting course!! Glad I didn't have to take that one.

    Comma trauma - not fun - but at least you have a root cause :)

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  65. Kirsten - maybe you could make it up! :) I'm getting much better at my dialogue tags - it takes work.

    Thanks so much for dropping by!

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  66. Lisa & Laura - I do love me my editing sword! You're welcome to borrow it at any time :)

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  67. Wishes for a very happy Easter!

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  68. Love your sword. Good luck with revisions. (I think it's actually fun) And thanks for the link and stuff.

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  69. Thanks Buttercup - and the same to you - enjoy :)

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  70. Thanks Yvonne - I actually enjoy the first few rounds of revision too. Once I feel like I know the story word for word... not so much :)

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  71. Jemi, you caught my attnention with the photo!

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  72. Diane - lol :) I love the photo too! If you need to use a sword, might as well be a nice sword :)

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  73. Um, you had me at Viggo. *drool*

    I'm revising too, and my arm is tired from hacking at it. We ALL repeat ourselves, make poor word choices etc., during first drafts.
    Too bad Viggo can't come and do our slicing and dicing for us. That would make revisions a lot more fun, yes?

    Happy Easter, Jemi!
    Lola

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  74. Lola - yup - Viggo is always a good way to get attention :)

    I like that idea - partner slashing with Viggo - not a bad way to spend the day!

    Happy Easter!

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  75. Hey Jemi--
    I've been avalanched lately and am totally behind in making my blog rounds. I was pleasantly surprised to see your mention of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.
    Thanks for supporting me and so many of the others. I am so impressed by all of the talent that has been involved.

    Some time this week I plan to do a post that recognizes you and the others who have been supporting us. That will probably be coming on E Tuesday when my planned topic is "Eggs". Now how am I going to fit that in? I've got a plan.

    A big thanks and hope you had a wonderful Easter.
    Lee

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  76. Lee - I'm impressed as well - it's awesome :)

    You certainly don't have to do that - but I will enjoy seeing how you fit it into E for Eggs!! :)

    Thanks & Happy Easter!

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  77. Bad habits are hard to break, especially ones that were drummed into you in school! For some reason repetitiveness is almost required in a piece of academic writing. Definitely something to be chopped up with the sword in fiction though :) Work that arm, Jemi, work that arm! (Love the picture of Aragorn. *drool*)

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  78. Julie - I agree - Aragorn can make any task easier :)

    It really isn't easy breaking those habits! This first draft was better because I was conscious of it, but there is ton of slashing required!

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  79. The best thing about having a bad habit is being able to blame it on someone else. I dare say that Geography teacher has broad enough shoulders... and he shouldn't have given you a low mark in the first place.

    Love the sword slashing idea of editing and the photo's a treat too!

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  80. Rosalind - so true! It's nice to blame him - even if it's not all really his fault :)

    Sword slashing with Aragorn has been a treat!

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  81. First: I <3 Aragorn. Viggo, too, but Aragorn... Anywho, I have the same problem. Current ms just saw a re-ordering of sorts, first five pages are now pages 11-16, and I've come across those damned repetitions. The only good thing about the process is it's directly in our faces for when we go to work on the next ms!

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  82. Kimberly - Aragorn is definitely a help - in any situation :)

    Good point - we're always getting better. Hopefully the next first draft will be much less chatty!

    Thanks for dropping by!

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  83. I'm not sure I can trace my bad habits back to anything. Maybe just the fact that I'm still learning, and writing was never anything I wanted to do until I started doing it. So I basically had to start at square one and learn everything myself. So my bad habits? Yeah, they're just mine.

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  84. Elana - mine probably are too, but this way's more fun for the moment - and it does have a grain or two of truth to it!

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  85. hope you get through your ms quickly.
    The a-z challenge - that would take commitment!

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  86. Thanks Michelle - I hope so too!

    Lee's challenge is definitely about commitment and creativity - lots of great entries :)

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  87. Hi Jemi -- dropping by from Arlee's blog to say Howdy! and thank you for being in the cheering section. This challenge has been amazing and we're only on the letter "E"!!

    Have a wonderful day,
    Lisa

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  88. Hi Lisa - nice to 'meet' you! Lee has done a great thing with this challenge! There are so many people joining in! :) I'll pop on over to your blog after work!

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  89. just found you from Arlee's challenge I found some really fun letters and I just wanted to check yours out, I will be back and I am glad you are a cheering section LOL

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  90. Nf - Welcome! Thanks for popping over :) Arlee's challenge is sure helping connect a lot of people.

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  91. Oh, I do that too. I also have a habit of writing the characters name too often instead of using pronouns. But I do that in real life too. Not sure what to make of that. Ha!

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  92. Carol - lol :) - yes - that's another one to watch out for!

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