On Writing: Editing Redundancy

Have you heard of The Department of Redundancy Department? I'm the department HEAD.

I'm currently looking over some of the changes my editor made to my Out of the Shadows manuscript and adding in my final additions before it enters the production process. I've discovered some of my main weaknesses as a writer: my ana-retentive side. Sounds crazy–you'd think being anal retentive would help my writing, and it does, but it also causes a big problem. See, I want to make sure the reader knows exactly what I'm saying–to a fault. I'm the engineer's daughter. I'm not just going to tell you its big. I'm going to give you its dimensions!

As a result, I have a tendency repeat information. It's called redundancy, and it's a common writing mistake. I just happen to make it a lot, and it's hard for me to catch. Fortunately, my editor caught a lot of the redundancies for me. (That's why publishers have editors.) I've listed a few of the funniest here, along with my own self-depreciating comments. (Note: most of the comments are sarcasm, intending to show how absurd my redundancies were. I.E., I know that blue fog doesn't exist.)

  • Mountainside'sMineshaft (as opposed to mineshaft that you typically find on the prairie…)
  • quiet tavern full of empty tables (empty tables would mean it's quiet, wouldn't it?)
  • Posh, upper-class cherubian shoppers (are there any non-posh upper-class cherubian shoppers?)
  • Davian pocketed the scroll, intending to read it later. (My editor's comment: "Readers will already assume he is planning to read it later. Fewer words quicken the pace.")
  • immense forty-person conference table
  • Water dripped throughout the mine into puddles on the ground. (In case some of you were under the impression that some of the puddles were floating in the air…)
  • His torn, black tunic hung on one shoulder by a few threads… ("By a few threads" indicates it's torn.)
  • the jaws and teethof a lion… (Other animals have the jaws of a lion and the teeth of a humpback whale, but this one is special. It's a minotaur, BTW, and Davian is chained to a wall. Oh, dear!)
  • He lifted his sword in the air… (Most people lift their swords in water… Actually, I'm changing it to "raised his sword" but not "in the air.")
  • The gnomes shivered in the cold. (The rest of us often shiver in the extreme heat… Note that I have already told the reader that there is snow on the ground… Did I mention I was the head of the redundancy department?)
  • Jim shrugged his shoulders. (Some people shrug their lips, some shrug their toes, but Jim, well I just want to make sure you knew that Jim shrugs his shoulders.)
  • wooden pews (Has anyone ever seen any pews that aren't wooden? Or at least part wood? You know, just in case you were thinking of a stainless steel, IKEA-esque church pew…)
  • She gave Davian a half-smile and looked at the ground below. (When I get nervous, I usually stare at the ground above me, but sometimes I'll take a good glance at the ground to the side…) (Incidentally, I never did mention who she is, did I? Ha ha ha!)
  • "We found the bodies of our missing archers cast asidein the woods about three miles from here." (Normally, my villains would have prepared the bodies for burial and left a nice note expressing their condolences to Davian for the loss of his men; however, this time they were in a hurry, so after murdering Davian's men they just cast their bodies aside.)
  • ice cold water (Now, ice HOT water? That's pure refreshment!)
  • white wisps of fog (You should see it when fog "wisps" in blue! And sometimes in green. So pretty, blue fog… Yeah, I suck.)
  • graciously donated (I'm currently hiding under my desk from the Cliche Police for this one.)

The moral of the story:

  • No matter who you are or how well you write, you always need to have someone edit your work.
  • Pay careful attention to repetitive information.

Be sure to check out my new To Elysia and Back Again podcast every Tuesday! Click here for more information.

Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason, which is being adapted into a graphic novel series by Wandering Sage Publications, Inc., with Weston penning the script and KISS comic book artist, Adam Black, doing the art. Weston hosts a podcast on her To Elysia and Back Again blog, which can be downloaded on itunes. Click here for a complete listing of the To Elysia and Back Again podcast episodes. Weston also hosts two radio talk shows: The Final Cut in Movies, an internet radio talk show about science fiction and fantasy movies on Ad Astra Radio, which can also be heard as a podcast on M. B. Weston's Podcasts site or on iTunes and Culture Watch Radio, a show that reviews movies, books, and TV shows from a Christian perspective on southwest Florida's Praise FM 89.5. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.

About M. B. Weston

M. B. Weston is an award-winning fantasy, pulp, young adult, steampunk, and paranormal author. Her attention to procedure and detail gives her works an authentic gritty, military feel that takes an adventure tale to the level of a true page-turner. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and Alabama Phoenix Festival. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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