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Rehashing what the reader already knows.
Definition: Hanging on a plot point too long as a way to make sure the reader gets it, OR as a way to boost word count.
This is a big struggle for a lot of writers. I see this in published books all the time. The heroine ponders the hero’s invitation to dinner for three chapters. The hero ponders asking the heroine to dinner for a whole chapter. The heroine ponders her future husband while pondering what she has to do to save the family estate – for sixty pages.
Don’t linger! Move the story forward.
Set the problem once and move one. Hint at it one more time. The reader gets it. Then answer the question/solve the problem.
This kind of circular writing happens because the author is holding off a major plot or character reveal for “the right time in the book.”
Meaning: “Twenty-five thousand words and I’m not ready to drop the bomb.”
Bring on the story! Don’t hold back. Pace yourself, build the tension but when it’s at the highest point, don’t back off and recycle the dilemma. Drop the bombs!
How do you avoid rehashing what the reader already knows? Do your character work.
Once the hero has asked the heroine out on a date, and she’s said “I’ll think about it,” move to her world – work or family. In this scene, we see why she might not want to go out with the hero. Her roommate loves him. She’s engaged to another man. Her father is very ill and she feels loyal to him. She’s in the middle of a big case at work and can’t risk the distraction of love.
You also introduce other plot problems the protagonist faces. Her boss is selling the business and she wants to buy it. Her mother wants to divorce her father. Her sister is bridezilla.
The secondary problem should be a part of the protagonist story journey and story question. It should factor into her problem, what she wants and why.
For example, if she can’t decide if she wants to go out with Handsome Hunk, the next scene shouldn’t be of her at the car lot buying her dream car and driving off with her friends.
Unless it relates to the story. In this case, the heroine buying a car is her first ever act of independence. If she goes on a date with Handsome Hunk, she feels like she’s giving up a piece of herself.
The struggle with “rehashing” is the author isn’t convinced the reader “gets” what he’s trying to communicate. But the reader does. OR, the author doesn’t know the story himself so he keeps going over what we already know.
Often, in retelling scenes, only one or two pertinent lines of information are delivered. Combine them with another scene. Don’t make the reader bob for plot-apples. It’s too frustrating.
Tie it up. Drop the “bombs.” Let ‘em fly.
While writing Dining with Joy I’d planned the black moment to be when Joy is outed as being a fake on national television. But as I got to the middle of the book, I realized the time to reveal her secret was NOW. Not in another 20K words. I was floundering. Writing in circles. So I decided to drop my “bomb” and see how the story fell out.
I then refigured her black moment and wrote to that point. I felt the story was stronger than what I planned.
Rule: Don’t hold back a “big reveal” just to get to a certain word count.
Workshop It: Go over one of your scenes. It’s it just retelling what you’ve already told. Is part of the scene working while part of the scene is not?