Do references to music in your writing have subtle meanings?


I got to thinking about this tonight as I was going through yet another edit of my novel to make sure I have all spaces correct, all i’s dotted and t’s crossed, and I came across a song my main character wakes up to: Dream On by Aerosmith. I placed the reference to this song in my novel for a reason as it speaks volumes about what David is feeling.

For those of you who quote or reference music in your novels, are there subliminal messages you are sending out (and hope people head over to YouTube to listen), or is it there just to add a little depth, a little background ‘noise’?

Redundancy vs. Elegant Variation


While doing the latest edit on my novel, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING, I realized (and my fabulous beta readers pointed out) I had a tendency to repeat words or phrases. My big ones: “He shuddered”, “He rubbed the grit from his eyes?”, and I must have repeated the word ‘gut’ fifty times if I said it once. The thing was, I didn’t notice it until I was running through my final edits. So, I decided to write about it and in doing so, maybe help you identify and eliminate redundancy in your own writing before you have to look at a 370 page manuscript and then try to find them all.

To me, repetition is repetition. It’s just some are noticable where others aren’t. We all use common words in writing: a, the, and, it, etc. These words we tend to overlook when we read; that is how much our mind has become accustomed to seeing them and we tend to skim over them. It is repeating those ‘elegant variations’, those words that catch the reader’s attention, that need to be weeded out.

Let’s take an example from my own writing. I have lots of sorcerers, magicians, mages, etc. in my novel. There was a scene where I have a sorceress tied to a tree and she is being tortured by a sorcerer and an enchantress. Another magical character shows up. There are lots of sparks and spells flying. That meant I had to come up with different words to show what these spells looked like. “The thread . . . the arc . . . the streak . . . the fire.”

Why? Because I didn’t want to repeat the same word half a dozen times in a single paragraph. The first paragraph below is the repetitive version.

“From the dark depths of the forest, a sizzling streak of blue light shot forth, hitting the ground to the left of the wizard’s feet. Avida screeched, “Seyekrad, you fool, you released your hold! Put it back!” Blue-green streaks flew from her fingertips catching Seyekrad on his shoulder. A black streak tore from his wand, crippling Avida’s advance upon him. From behind him, another blue streak arced from the forest; its cool icy heat caught him just on the elbow. More blue streaks unraveled in the dark.”

Here’s a version of the same paragraph with a bit of elegant variation:

“From the dark depths of the forest, a sizzling streak of blue light shot forth, hitting the ground to the left of the wizard’s feet. Avida screeched, “Seyekrad, you fool, you released your hold! Put it back!” Blue-green fire flew from her fingertips catching Seyekrad on his shoulder. A black thread of magic tore from his wand, crippling Avida’s advance upon him. From behind him another blue strand arced from the forest; its cool icy heat caught him just on the elbow. More blue tendrils unraveled in the dark.”

Elegant variation is a way to avoid repetition of notable words that make readers think you fell into a rut with your writing. However, repetition is not always a bad thing. It can be effective in a parallel structure, for example:

“He couldn’t leave, but he couldn’t stay.”
“There was no way in, there was no way out”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

In these examples, the repetitive parallel structure shows contrast and confusion and can be helpful in setting a tone for a novel.

Repetition is also good for emphasis, especially in dialogue:

Charlotte glared at her husband who stood in the doorway, his potbelly hanging over the top of his pants. She kicked a chair out of the way. “I’ve been gone two days . . . two days and look at this mess! What in the hell did you do while I was gone? Oh, God, I hate washing your clothes, I hate taking care of your screaming, bratty kids and I hate that you park your ass on the couch and never help me! Damn it, Charles. I hate I ever married you!”

And even though there are no hard and fast rules about it, I also try to avoid starting two successive sentences or paragraphs with the same word. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but being aware of the tendency forces me to look at ways to vary my sentence structure so I don’t fall into slow, poky rhythms.

So, are you a repetitious writer and if so, how do you become aware of your repetitions and what do you do to correct the redundancies? (Are you like me and have a thesaurus that is worn in two? :-))

Is this an understandable thing or a bad thing?


I had lunch with my girlfriends yesterday and one of them said she tried to read my novel, but she had to keep putting it down because all she could hear was my voice reading it to her.

While I can understand this, it makes me wonder if this is a flaw with my storytelling or if it is only natural to ‘hear’ your friend’s voice when you read something they’ve written, whether it be a letter, a sticky note, an e-mail or a novel.

What do you think? Is it something to be concerned with? I mean, I do want my friends to read my novel, but if they can’t get past ‘my’ voice, how are they going to hear my characters’ voices?

Poll Time –


So, I’m creating my elevator pitch, that crucial 15 seconds an author has to entice someone, especially agents, to read your book.   Please take a moment to look at the two I have and vote for the one you like the best.  There is a place to write one of your own, for those of you familiar with the novel.

Thank you!

I cannot believe it is March already!


Where is this year going?   My synopses don’t have that sizzle I want.  My query letters need polish and I’m already beyond my time I wanted to start sending my novel out to agents.  All I can hear in my head is ‘time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future.’  (Thanks, Steve Miller, for that one.)

Yesterday I did manage to read an Artemis Fowl book, write 3 chapters.  I did some editing for a client and did two reviews, so it’s not like I’m NOT working or perfecting my craft or writing.  I simply need help.  I need to stop time, but my timestopper is broken.  (Anyone have one I can borrow, please?)  Oh, and I need an automatic synopsis and query writer program.  You know the ones.  They’re called magic wands.  No?  Don’t have one?  Oh well.  Re-assess.  I suppose I’ll set another goal for the beginning of May to start querying agents.  Seems logical, do-able and attainable.  Come on, determination.  Let’s go.

I’m curious.  What happens when you don’t meet your goals?  What tools (internal and external) do you use to determine how long it will take you to meet those goals.  Do you just pick a day or is there a method to your madness?