Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beating a Dead Horse

A Wednesday post is rare these days, but I'm trying to swing for the fences. Spring training starts soon.

I've gotten my crits back on THE DUKE'S DIVORCE and I have to say they were pretty good. My writing has gotten tighter over the last few years, and I'm very proud of that. I've learned how to say what I mean, and mean what I say. Most times.

However, the one problem I'm still having is my tendency to explain certain points over and over to my readers, thinking they won't get it, or remember it. A key issue, the "smoking gun" if you will, that has to be explained again and again. Beating that dead horse for all it's worth. (Like I'm doing right now.)

Yes, we know that Robert had issues relating to his ex-fiance, but do we need to read about it five different times? Yes, we were told Fiona has received a box of jewelry from her father, but do we need to be retold twice more before it comes out to the forefront of the narrative.

I think my tendency to do this comes from needing to repeat what I say to The Monster, over and over. "Did you feed the cat? Pick up your socks. The stove is hot."

My question -- Do you feel that certain key points in your story need to be made again? Do you feel your readers won't remember? Or hear it the first time? Do you love your critique partners as much as I do?

19 comments:

Em-Musing said...

OOooooh YEah. I've been told the exact same thing...that I write as if I think my readers are too stupid to remember. Also I've been told that all I've researched is just that-- research. I don't have to try and educate my readers with facts not necessary to the story. But darn! Those facts were interesting. But they should stay in my head or a file, not in the manuscript.

Laura Pauling said...

I have to watch for repetitive thoughts too! In revisions that's all I do! Good luck!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

The balance is tough. I've had times when I thought something was obvious enough that I didn't have to repeat it again, but my CP felt differently. However, a beta reader wanted me to cut it out because it became too repetitive. I finally figured out why the difference in opinion. My CP had been reading the novel over several months (I sent her chunks of it at a time). My beta reader read it in a week, so she didn't forget as much as the CP had.

Liza said...

I love my future critique partners...;)

B. WHITTINGTON said...

Of course I beat a dead horse. I'm a writer. What I find though is that in my 90th draft I see the problem and take out the repeated sentences that I really don't need. I'll say something ten times in different ways on the same page. Duh. Then we get it by about the time we get to the feeling if I have to read this one more time I'll shoot myself between the eyes even though I do not have a gun!
It happens to all of us. The awareness comes before it's too late and we've shot ourselves in the head.
Blessings on all your success. IT is coming!

Linda G. said...

LOL! I had to break myself of the same habit. Guess we just need to trust our readers, huh? And I adore my CPs! They are the best. :)

JeannetteLS said...

I live vicariously in here. Picturing myself one day having critique partners to love.

But I think that you hit on something about repeating yourself to The Monster. My sister used to say everything three ways, it seemed. She said it was from teaching teenagers. As matter of course, she tried to explain anything important three different ways, to save herself grief later.

I asked whether it worked and she shrugged. "There's always that fourth and fifth child who needs it explained in a fourth and fifth way."

I'll go back to being a spy on your blog now! I learn from what you all write about writing.

Ann Best said...

Writing isn't easy, is it!!! (sigh) If only we could see our own writing as clearly as we see others. Hooray for wonderful critique partners. Sounds like you have a great one.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

Anne Gallagher said...

HI everyone! Thanks for taking the time to come by today. I appreciate it. Sorry I can't get to you personally right now, but the Monster had a tooth pulled this morning and she's not doing too well. Poor thing. I'll try and sneak back later.

Jamie Burch said...

Aww...hope she's feeling better soon, Anne.

I catch myself doing this at times. It's mainly when my main character is thinking about something. Definitely have to work on that.

Congrats on finding a great critique partner! I'm going to have to find one for my next project.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Mom, I heard you the first time!
Just kidding.
And yes, my critique partners are awesome beyond words.

Angela M. said...

Oh man, do I do that sometimes. It took this EditPalooza workshop, where I've been working my buns off, to accept that the dead horse got the beating the first time 'round. I just cut half of my first chapter. Ouch, but it's soooo much better now. It felt not unlike your lil Monster's sitch. A yank and pain, but it's better in the long run. Hope she's feeling better. It's hard to take when they're hurting.

DL Hammons said...

I resist it as much as I can, and when I receive a consistent amount of feedback expressing confusion, then I'll add it some repeats.

And I love YOUR critique also! :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I hope your little one is doing better now. Poor thing.

I don't THINK I repeat myself in my WIP, but we're always much more aware of those things when reading someone else's work than we are in our own "priceless gems", aren't we? I do know that I find it very annoying if a writer repeats the same info over and over. Makes me want to scream, "I'm not stupid!"

Can't say that I actually have CPs. Readers, yes, but they don't provide much in the way of constructive criticism.

Donna Hole said...

I think I err on the sparse side. I like to think I'm being clever when perhaps I'm being obtuse.

So hard to know what the reader will "get" when you're looking at your own writing. That's why beta's and crit partners are so important :) Its so much easier to spot these real-life tidbits in someone else's work.

At least you're willing to look at a different opinion and see it as constructive and not devastating.

......dhole

Sarah Ahiers said...

i do this occasionally. Not with like large plot items, but with individual lines. My character will feel something, like sad, and then he'll go on to say he's sad. Usually i'm pretty good about cutting the second instance

Bish Denham said...

I don't THINK I do this, at least those who've read anything of mine haven't pointed that out. But I think mentioning something more than once may depend on how subtly it was first brought up. Easy, right? Hahaha!

February Grace said...

You're lucky to have such helpful and awesome crit partners! I know the book will be great.

Ed Pilolla said...

i've been told if it's said in the right place it only needs to be said once. easy said than done, huh?:)