Pete and Repeat were sitting on a bench. Pete fell off…and so it goes…on and on and on.
Skilled writers who are proficient in grammar and punctuation and who know how to structure compelling sentences can kill a potentially great work with redundancies. Saying the same thing three or ten or twenty-five different ways, unfortunately, can drive a reader off to another book. Let’s consider a couple examples:
We need to be aware of the ways in which our words affect others. How we say things can dictate response and mood in our reader, so we must be mindful of this possibility. In fact, the reader may have an adverse reaction to our words, one we never intended. That reader may even be offended and take exception to our stated position. We want to be sure we don’t create an unintended response.
“Have you talked to Mary today?”
“She called me this morning.”
“What did she say about her situation?”
“Only that she has it under control.”
“What does that mean?”
“She’s taking care of matters.”
“Does she seem okay with the way things are going?”
“She’s handling it.”
“Is there anything we can do to help?”
“She’s managing on her own.”
“Shall we move ahead with the project?”
“We need Mary. She’s involved in her own situation right now.”
“Yes, I know, but we have a deadline.”
“Mary’s too busy to do her part at the moment.”
“But we have work to do.”
“Mary’s engrossed in her own problems. She can’t help us.”
We’ve already put these books down. The redundant discussion concerning the effect of words and the going-nowhere conversation are the last straws that put Pete and Repeat to shame. While these examples are extreme, I often find authors stating and restating the same thoughts in different words. Scenes that could be great instead turn readers off, and powerful points are lost in a sea of repetitions that render them impotent. Moral of discussion: say it right and say it once—unless you have a valid reason to repeat for emphasis or it moves your story forward.
What did I learn from this in 2013? I learned to be more patient with writers as I nudge them to forgo the redundancies and bring something new to the table. In addition, I learned to be more critical of my own work to eliminate saying a good or powerful or memorable (in my opinion) thing over and over and over. Once is enough.
Have you read books that state and restate the same points? Do you ever find this a problem when self-editing your own manuscripts? If you are a beta reader or an editor, how do you address redundancies with sensitive writers who take every criticism—no matter how valid—as a personal affront?
|Linda Lane and her editing team look forward to new opportunities in 2014. We wish you all the best in the new year.|