Writing Improvement Software

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Did You Really Just Say That- AGAIN?

    As an almost infamous reviewer, I read, and review, a lot of books. I don't read just so I can review books, rather, I read for the love of it, and review it so everyone else can know about it, too. Like any other reader, I have my pet peeves. One of the biggest has to be repetitive, or redundant, information. A few weeks back, I read a fellow bloggers blog post on this very subject, and I was appalled at how badly his audience ripped him up for the example he gave. Wow, really? This got me thinking, is it just me? Or him? Do people really like to be reminded 3 or 4 times within 7 or 8 pages that Joe loved Sue deeply, and would do anything for her? How about 'Dan, the valet, took our car keys, and several hours later, Dan, the valet, brought the car back around for us.' Would there be any doubt in your mind that Dan, the valet that took your car keys the first time is probably the same Dan that brought your car back to you in the second part of this sentence? Better yet, would it really matter unless Dan was at least in some way connected to your story other than just being the guy that handled your car? Don't you think it would be just fine for this flash in the pan character to simply be called 'the valet'?
Trust me, stop making your readers tired. Trim the fat.

    Then you have some authors who have taken on an almost Shakespearean persona: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."  But they've  given it a modern twist: "How can I get something out of you? Let me see how many times I can ask for it over the next 4 pages." I recently read a book- I won't name names, but seriously, I've never seen so much rambling, repetitive dialogue and general descriptive text in any other book. This book could have easily had 150 pages trimmed off of it. It was painful to read. Seriously painful. There's a hard lesson here that every author should grab firmly hold of: if you're actually writing books with the goal of selling them, people other than you need to want to read them. If you load your book down with redundancy, and descriptive text that simply isn't necessary, you won't have to worry about paying taxes on money you make from book sales.

    Yes, yes, I know, it can all be a subjective - to an extent. But the one thing that can never be subjective is the happiness of the person who buys, and reads, your book. Do you want them to be smiling when they've turned the last page, or grimacing 20% into it because they can't take any more? It's your call.

    Chameleon Author


  1. I thought that was funny about Dan the valet, until I read the bit about the book you read recently and then I panicked and thought, 'oh no, I hope that wasn't mine.'

    1. LOL, Nope, wasn't yours, Kate :) Wasn't any BRD book, thankfully :)

  2. Chameleon - "Trim the fat." What great advice. You are echoing the words of Stephen King in his book, On Writing. I highly recommend Mr. King's very readable and short book on writing to any author who has not yet discovered it. In it, he encourages authors to do many things, and two of them strike me as relevant to your post: 1) get rid of words that are not really part of the story; and 2) avoid the use of adverbs. I took Mr. King's advice to mean: if a word or a phrase or a sentence or a paragraph does not add to your story, take it out. To borrow again from Mr. King, it seems to me that our job as authors is to connect with the reader, in a form of telepathy: we are indeed seeking to put our thoughts into the mind of someone else, the reader. It's both an intellectual and an emotional experience. In my view, the better we are at ridding our stories of intellectual and emotional distractions (words and thoughts that really don't need to be there), the better we will be at focusing the reader's mind on the story she/he really wants to read.

    1. Carlton, just goes to show that great minds think alike :D I definitely agree with you that you have really only succeeded as an author when you have connected with your reader emotionally and intellectually. Trimming the fat is the surest way to get rid of the distractions and completely draw your reader in. This isn't always an easy thing to do. Our stories make perfect sense to us, and we are already emotionally invested in it, so seeing this fat can sometimes be a problem. One great piece of advice I got some time back was: when you think your story is ready to publish, walk away from it for as much as a month, then go back and read it slowly. That fat will be that much easier to see then. Most authors are anxious to publish, though, and this is a step they very often simply skip.