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November 13, 2013

            I just finished reading an adventure-thriller by an underwater archaeologist. The main characters echo the author’s passion and are also underwater archaeologists. Though I’ve almost begged off continuing the series and skipped a few, I had a weak moment and picked up the latest. The problem is that since he is an archaeologist, he can’t seem to leave the lecture hall behind.

            He’s among a few authors that make for a very tough read. There’s another author that writes alternative history in the science-fiction mold. Though the series is quite good, the reading is tough to get through because the paragraphs tend to drone on-and-on and there’s not a lot of empty space on each page. Even the dialogue can be half-page paragraphs.

Why do these authors insist on punishing their readers with extremely high word count (Robert Jordan, cough cough)? I personally find this lecturing style to be excruciating. The paragraphs often take up half to a full page, tend to have sentences with thirty to forty words or more, and drone on-and-on with detail after detail. When I turn the next page, I see solid text with little air space for a breather. That makes it very hard to keep my place, especially while reading during commercials. Sometimes I can’t even get through a single paragraph during a commercial break, even speed-reading.

I know everyone has their own style, but to me, the whole point of a story is to move. In the case of the archaeologist author, his pattern is to have a little action, then find a way to pause things so the characters can go into lecture mode to explain a bunch of historical background for multiple pages before something else happens. Usually, the historical lecture takes up more space than the actual story movement. A lot more… I’m not kidding.

As for the alternative history author, he writes very detailed and meticulously, and slooowwww… It’s a fascinating world, but he doesn’t write anything in short bursts or does he give any room to breathe.

You have a path to get from point A to point B. Along that path, whether it’s seat-of-the-pants or outlined, I encourage you to parse it out in a palatable way so that you don’t punish your readers with a wall of words, huge paragraphs and super-long sentences. Break it up a little! Give them a bit of space on those pages! I can convey every one of my ideas without resorting excruciating detail as in a wall of words. I’m pretty sure these two authors (and they’re not the only ones) could do the same if they really wanted to.

Of course, they have their fans. They keep publishing books and making sales. They get mostly decent reviews and even some great ones. Mixed in are a good dose of negative comments as well.

I like both the worlds these authors created, but had to suffer to get there. I, for one, don’t what to make my readers suffer to get there. There are better ways to do it.

Remember, you’re writing a story, not a college textbook!

Happy writing!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy West permalink
    November 13, 2013 3:09 am

    The characters may suffer, but the readers shouldn’t unless it is to some end and will end soon. I can tell when I’m being lectured to and I don’t want that coming at me when i read. I don’t want that when I watch tv either. Now that I am writing fiction, I write with the beacon of keeping the story moving rather than making sure my reader knows every last detail. When my story just sits there, I either move it along or hit the delete key. It just about kills me to delete stuff, but ask any writer and she’ll tell you that she does.

    • November 13, 2013 3:52 am


      Exactly! We hate to delete but when it comes to it, we all have to pare down the junk to get to the meat of the matter. I’ve learned to write with economy over the years so I have less to delete during my second, third and beyond edit processes. It used to be a lot worse. Sometimes I don’t have enough detail.

      Thanks for the comment!


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