Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Killed by Pedanticism

Cassidy, Riley, Hailey at Aladdin at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. And no, that's not teenage indifference - Mommy mistook the performance time and they had to rush out of the house without time to change.

At the beach earlier this week, Cassidy proved that Riley isn't the only grandchild to inherit Grampa Elliott's gift for photography.

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Now that Making Magic With Words is finally available on Amazon Kindle (link below), I'm free to continue with a few more comments on Writing and Editing. Today's subject:  how easy it is to shoot yourself in the foot by being too pedantic.


The first thing every author of Historical Romance learns is:  Do not alienate your readers by putting too much history in your Historical Romances. Now of course I had never heard of this rule when I wrote The Sometime Bride and Tarleton's Wife, but somehow I muddled through—they're both still selling after twenty years on the market.

BUT . . . over the past year I have seen what I can only call shocking examples of authors I wish had the benefit of the advice offered by the Romance Writers of America. There really are reasons for cautioning authors of fiction not to get so carried away by their research that they tell readers far more than they'd ever want to know about "facts," to the point of obscuring the emotions and personalities of their characters, as well as the unfolding of the plot.

1.  My first example has been mentioned on this blog before, but I felt it should be included here, as a pedantic, "non-fiction" mindset was the only excuse I could think of for the author who wrote an incredibly well-researched historical novel, but made it almost impossible to read as he/she used NO punctuation in the dialogue. As if the author had never read a work of fiction and had no idea how to express the spoken word. This is Pedanticism to the max. The Arrogance of Academia, if you will. 

The point:  Never, ever write anything without reading extensively the works already available in the genre of your choice. And never be so arrogant you think you know how to write a work of fiction when you have never read anything but text books and non-fiction!

2.  I recently bought a work of fiction by a new author. The blurb sounded intriguing, but when I turned to Page One, I was amazed to discover an "Introduction" that went on page after page in an academic style similar to a thesis or dissertation. In a work of Fiction?? I could not help but wonder how many would-be readers bothered to continue on to the actual story. I did not.

The point:  There is no place for "Introductions" in Fiction. In e-publishing, no place for anything at all upfront. Page One = Chapter 1. And I do wish print publishers would use a similar format for the e-versions of their books, relegating Reviews, Thank-you's, etc. to the back of the book, not the front. I grind my teeth every time I have to hit the Forward button multiple times to get to Chapter One.)

Repeat:  Author's Notes, historical background, thank-you's, etc., go at the back of the book. And absolutely NO information dumps that sound even remotely like a PhD. dissertation. This style of writing has no place in a work of Fiction. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. I've been know to put a BRIEF Author's Note at the beginning of a book when necessary. My most recent, Shadows Over Greystoke Grange, is a good example. I felt an upfront warning of "Do not try these spells at home" added a certain something to a tale of amateur witchcraft!

3.  Sometimes an author can mess up, even in a work of Non-fiction.

I was thrilled to discover that at long last a book by an ancestor of mine had been translated into English. I immediately purchased it (in print) from Amazon. When I sat down to read it, I felt obligated to read the Introduction first. The author had, after all, gone to the trouble of translating a book from a rather obscure language and an age far in the past. But as I plowed my way through page after pedantic page, I ground my teeth over the pace, over details that seemed patently unnecessary. Finally, after several abortive tries to get through the Introduction, I started flipping pages until I got to the meat:  what my ancestor actually wrote, lo, so many hundreds of years ago.

And guess what? His writing was concise, every sentence crafted for easy understanding. Paragraph after paragraph of precise instruction for the young men of his day—the very first book on "how to be knight." A book that lays out all the duties and responsibilities of a knight and the importance of that position as defender of his people.

A true treasure, and I'd almost given up on it because the translator prefaced the book, not with a reasonable explanation of how his translation had come about, but an entire thesis which was almost as long as the manuscript itself. 

The point:  Even when writing non-fiction, do not put readers off by a lengthy pat on the back because you did so much research or because you have to explain why your work is better than someone else's. A brief, to-the-point Intro is enough, with the Bibliography and/or Thank-you's in the back. Do not put readers off by intruding too much of yourself into the mix. Allow your work to stand on its merit.

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For a link to Making Magic With Wordsclick here. 

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords, click here.

For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,


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