Judging from page views and comments, yesterday's topic about that three-letter-word, was, hit home for a lot of people. I think readers don't really care. I know I became much more critical of what I read after I started writing. I'm always looking at construction, word choices, and all the other "rules" as I read, wondering how I would say the same thing. It's often been said, that once you start writing, you'll never read the same way again. So while part of my brain says, "I wonder what an agent/editor would say to that?" another part is trying to figure out why it works.
Recently, I read a book that had my "writer as reader" radar humming. I know back story and info dumping has been a topic, not only here, but all over the blogosphere. We've all been given advice about the following:
Watch out for As You Know, Bob, or Maid/Butler passages.
Don't stop the story to showcase your research.
If you've already told the reader something, don't tell it again, unless it brings new information to the page.
Handle back story like an IV drip. Consider how much of yourself you reveal at a first meet at a cocktail party.
Back story dumping is author intrusion.
Now, the book in question is one by a top best-selling author. I love her books, and was looking forward to a new release. When an earlier book was offered as a free read, and it wasn't one I owned (although I'd read it), I jumped at the chance to add it to my collection, and decided to re-read it to refresh my memory of the series. When the new book was released, I bought it immediately and dove into the read.
Although the writer's skill was still all over the page, I was surprised at the way back story was handled. Not only was there a lot of repeating information from the earlier books in the series, a lot of it was done by taking parts from the earlier book and copying them into the new one.
Now, I don't know if it would have been quite that familiar had I not just finished reading the earlier book (and to be truthful, I didn't do a word-by-word comparison, so it might not have actually been a cut and paste job), but it was like re-reading the first book yet again through much of the second. This, in turn, let to skimming, and created a mental attitude that "I didn't really like the book", although had I never read the earlier one, I'm sure this would never had occurred to me.
Writing series is tricky. There's a lot of character arc back story that readers should know. But somehow, this didn't seem to be the best way to handle it.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society