Eons ago, in the dark ages of my past, a popular comedy routine had the line, “And then? And then?” It was funny, the way they did it, but now as I edit it’s not so funny when an author uses “then” repeatedly.
So many other possibilities exist for expressing the same time framing, if it needs to be expressed at all. (Sometimes it doesn’t, really, you know.
*He jumped into the saddle and then rode off.
Leave out “then” and what difference does it make?
Other fixes for your “then” fixation could be using words like “before,” “after,” or “following,” if you feel the need to line up action in a time-sequence order:
*She patted his hand before leaving the table.
*He went to the door after he gave the book to the boy.
*After he gave the book to the boy, he went to the door.
*Following their picnic, they bathed in the stream.
Experiment with various ways of writing your sentences to avoid using the same sentence patterns and the same word choices over and over again. Thank you!
*No examples are from manuscripts I’ve seen.