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 I Heard You the First Time

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Jae Baeli
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Number of posts : 103
Age : 55
LOCATION : Denver, CO
JOB/HOBBIES : Author, Editor, Artist, Webmaster, Singer-Songwriter
FAVORITE AUTHORS : Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsey, Laramie Dunaway,Darian North, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Obstfeld
GENRES IN WHICH I WRITE : Novels, Stories, Technical, Business, Academic, Scientific, Copy, Scripts, Journalism, Memoir, Humor, Essay, Blog, Reviews, Poetry, Lyrics
Registration date : 2008-11-22

PostSubject: I Heard You the First Time   Sun Nov 23, 2008 12:49 am

...Repetition as enemy to style and cadence.

Even great writers make mistakes. I can usually tell when it's an editing oversight, or the fault of the author. An editor's oversight seems a simultaneous contradiction, in that it can mean "overlook", but also "seeing-over," as in monitoring--same word, two opposite meanings. Accordingly, when I use the word "mistake" in this context, it doesn't necessarily imply the condition of being WRONG. I use the word, "mistake" loosely. What I'm really talking about are stylistic errors. But telling someone how to have a writing style, is like telling someone how to have clothing style. It's up to them how important it is. But you can learn how to have an impressive style in your writing, just like you can learn to have it in your wardrobe.

Some authors write only, and don't do much editing. Others do both, and endeavor to keep them separated. But I feel that most common stylistic errors are just plain laziness. For instance, to repeat an already established fact is simply careless, (just careless, I tell you! Careless!) unless it's intentional for effect (as in the outburst I just had) or in the case of the first mention being so far away from the second that the reader might need their memory jogged. Recently, I found an example in this passage from a popular novel:
Quote :
Christopher Stewart Hughes was one of Johnston's graduate students.
Then four paragraphs later,

Quote :
Chris was a graduate student in the history of science--
Then a paragraph later,

Quote :
Chris had been an undergraduate, in his junior year, when his parents were killed in an automobile accident. Chris, an only child, was devastated;
Okay, so once an author has established who someone is, and what part they play in the story (i.e., graduate student) it then becomes superfluous, especially within the span of a page and a half of text, to remind the reader. And it frankly aggravates me, and I talk back to the book. "Yes, I know he's a graduate student, you said that three times already."

The last snippet of quoted text falls into stylistic issues, as well, though perhaps it is more a preference on my part, and not necessarily considered an "error." The sentence,
Quote :
Chris had been an undergraduate, in his junior year, when his parents were killed in an automobile accident. Chris, an only child, was devastated;

...it is part of the previous style point, but also includes what I feel to be awkward phrasing. I would have revised the sentence to read,
Quote :
In Chris's junior year, his parents were killed in an automobile accident. An only child, Chris was devastated.
This says the same thing without the repetition that Chris was a graduate student, (saying "in his junior year" refers to the fact that he was a student, and need not be reiterated) and it also avoids beginning too many sentences with the same word.

It's something on my (long) list of edits I do after I've written most of the story. I go back and read like an editor, and make sure I haven't repeated myself, started paragraphs and sentences with the same word, or used the same construction all the time.

When constructing the style of your sentences, remember that writing is like listening to music; sometimes you need a long phrase that flows and continues for a time, and then you need shorter sentences interspersed. If you read your writing aloud, you'll find most of these interruptions in flow. (This is probably where the idea that writers are always talking to themselves came from. It's for a good reason, not the least of which is that they'll know who they're talking to).

So--There's a cadence in writing and I believe that developing your style has a lot to do with figuring out what your cadence is. But as for the pleasantness of reading it, while this can be highly subjective, just as music can, there are still things that create the most pleasantness for the largest number of listeners/readers.

Primarily, try not to aggravate your reader with sloppy sentence construction and repetitions and verbosity. They may not be able to tell you WHY it's aggravating them, but they might put your book down. And that is, of course, contrary to your goal as a writer.

Oh, and the novel I used as a reference?? That was from Timeline by John Grisham. (sorry).
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