Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Words

April has arrived with the promise of showers and flowers. It's a lovely month followed by an even nicer one--May. Maybe I love May because it's my birthday month, but I also like it because of the beautiful green shades of spring, the tulips and flowering trees and milder temps in our section of the country. 

My April words for today are about something that many published authors do that bugs me. I probably have no right to be criticizing men and women who have published multiple novels but, hey, I'm a writer and I look at all the writing details when I read a novel. 

Case in point is this:  Our book club selection for April was a great read. Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo. It's the third in a series about a young chief of police in a small town inhabited by many Amish families as well as the Englishers (those not of the Amish faith). Kate understands the Amish people better than most because she grew up in an Amish family and in her teen years was turned out by them. In this third novel of the series, we see Kate working a horrific case of murder in an Amish family that keeps growing. Of course, a bit of romance is tossed in and Kate's own character flaws become an important part of the case. It's a page turner that keeps the reader guessing who the killer might be. It tugs at the heart in several instances, too. The book gives us a fine sense of place, many sensory details. good character development and more. But...

Yep, there's a but. This seasoned author repeats the same information more than is necessary. She tells the reader over and over that Kate was from an Amish family, that she was turned out etc etc. Once is OK, twice perhaps but not more than that. One of the finest writing teachers I know came down hard on those in my writing critique group if we were too repetitive. Don't insult your reader, she'd say. Give them some credit. They don't want to hear the same information over and over again. They get it!

She made me very aware of this problem. I don't mean to be picking on Ms. Castllo, because I truly liked the book. It is my one and only criticism. She is far from alone in repeating information. I read a fine nonfiction book a few months ago--a memoir that was riveting in content but the author gave the reader some of the information far too many times. A small reference to whatever that important bit of info happens to be will suffice but we don't want to read the same thing a dozen times. 

What puzzles me a bit is why the editor of these books has not caught the problem and corrected it. If the book is self-published, the answer is clear, but if it's been published by a big house that let it slip through, then I'm not happy. 

Watch for the repetition problem in the books you read and it might help you avoid doing it in your own writing. I'm not saying that I've never done it because, most likely, I have. However, the more aware I become, the less I will do it myself. 

The first two books in the series of Amish mysteries featuring Kate, the police chief are Sworn to Silence and Pray for Silence. A high bit of praise came from a member of my book club who told me I don't usually like mysteries but I adored this book and I'm going straight to the library to get the first two in the series. High praise indeed coming from one of the best-read women I know.

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