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Writing Observation: Many Words in the Sea


I’ve been working through the most recent stack of pocket paperback horror purchases and right now, I’m in the midst of Ghost House by Clare McNally. A perfectly professional publisher, Bantam, and a perfectly professional looking book.

However, I’m being beaten to death by redundancies in word choice. On a page I’d recently read, five words were used two or more times in single short paragraphs, a couple used four times in a paragraph. I see this in novels and short stories I critique (yeah, plugging it right here in case you’re interested) and consider for publication, but that’s to be expected. Folks seek critiques to understand where they’re going wrong and submissions usually haven't been beaten up by an editor, but that stuff should already be done if a novel’s in my hands, edited, published, in print, sold.

It’s a little thing to some, and many bigger authors get away with it, but it’s a bad example for those trying to get somewhere. If you ain’t famous, your work better be tight, better be better than that big time author flying by on his or her name (or flying by in the eighties and nineties hay day of pocketbook horror.

Variety is the spice of... books and books break up the grueling monotony of everyday existence, so don’t let down your reader by clutching something, going back, or smiling, four times in half a page.


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