The wind was brittle, bitterly cold. She sat on the park bench, waiting, the wool of her coat and pants no match for the cold seeping up from the cement. Her toes were frosty, her fingertips near to frozen, her breath formed a cloud when she exhaled into the cold air.
Yes, I wrote that. Just now. With very little thought. Yet if I saw that same paragraph in a book I would grumble. If I saw it in one of my own finished works, I would weep (and I have, because no matter how many editing passes, bits of bad writing always slip through)! Why? Because of the overuse of the word cold in that one single paragraph. It’s unnecessary and smacks of inattention. I once read a paragraph on the first page of a book that described a character’s short white skirt three times. Again. Unnecessary. We got that it’s short and white the first time, just like we got that it’s cold outside up above in the first line. This is, for me, what comes out in my first draft. When revising, I’ll roll my eyes when I run across passages such as this. I was in the moment while writing. I was feeling the cold. I wasn’t thinking about word choice as much as sensation. The words frigid, frosty, chilly, or icy were out of reach. During revisions, however, I will rewrite and rework to keep the above from happening. And, yes, this sort of repetition is totally different than words or phrases repeated purposefully for rhythm or emphasis. The above is just lazy writing. It’s so so SO easy to make different word choices, to give a different feeling to the snippet with an evocative selection of descriptive words.
The wind was brittle, bitterly cold. She sat on the park bench, waiting, the wool of her coat and pants no match for the icy chill seeping up from the cement. Her toes were frosty, her fingertips near to frozen, her breath formed a cloud when she exhaled into the frigid, biting air.