Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Putting More Trust in You Reader

I appreciated the characters and plot of Jenny Proctor's Mountains Between Us. In fact, I probably liked it better than any of the other novels we've read so far. I especially appreciated the real-life circumstances of this story. Though my family life is a lot calmer and quieter than those of Henry (jailbird father and resulting abandonment issues) and Eliza (dead father, rehabilitated mother, alcoholic sister), all the experiences were realistic and showed two normal people addressing their individual challenges.

However, like the other novels we've read so far, I feel like this book could have used a couple more rounds of substantive editing because some elements of her writing style made me CRINGE. And it's not just Jenny Proctor. The authors Disprited, Will Wonders Never Cease, and even Seventh Son suffered from some of the same issues. You see, while I believe clarity is important, I think spoon feeding the reader lowers the quality of the novel. This idea may take getting used to for some readers or writers (and I'm not one to talk, being currently unpublished), but bear with me. Here's some examples:

After Eliza mentions she was baptized when she was seventeen: Henry turned to Eliza. He’d never thought to ask about her membership in the Church and was curious to hear how it came about. “Seventeen— that’s not very old.”

Problem? It's overstated. The quotation “Seventeen— that’s not very old” implies that he is curious. The reader is smart enough to realize this. The author doesn't need to tell us outright.

Henry turned to Eliza. “Seventeen— that’s not very old.”

 Good rule of thumb. If you don't need it, chop it.  

After Henry says he has to be careful reconnecting with his father because of AJ:
Henry made a very valid point. He did have to think about AJ, and that was reason enough to be extremely cautious.

Problem? He just made a point, Eliza thought it was valid, and then they restated the point. Overdone. The reader knows what the "point" is.

Henry made a very valid point.

Here's some no brainers:
....but Henry couldn’t help feeling like there was a giant elephant in the room— something they both wanted to talk about but wouldn’t.
Problem: The reader should know what the expression means. Explaining it takes out all it's pizazz.
Fix: Don't rob an elephant its pizazz!

Original: She shrugged. Apparently she didn’t know what this pertained to either.
Problem: Shrugging = "I don't know" 
Fix: Chop the explanation on why she shrugged

I like Jenny Proctor's novel, but at times the tone and voice became very amateur because of her tendency to overdo it. Less is more, especially in high emotional scenes. Her novel would have been elevated to the next level if she had let the emotions show what's going on.

Proctor, Jenny (2014-09-01). Mountains Between Us (Kindle Locations 1042-1043). Covenant Communications Inc.. Kindle Edition.


  1. You have quite the eye for these types of things--I'm impressed! I'm still not sure how you really feel about the storyline at the depth I would like to, but your observations are valid and should be taken into account during the editing stage.

  2. This commentary is great! Way to pick out specific parts and talk about them. You're post was a lot more fair than mine obviously, since I let me soapbox run away with me, but I enjoyed your honesty, appreciation, and examples.