I recently finished a freshman effort - a historical mystery. Didn't love it.
First let me say that I think historical fiction is probably the toughest subgrene to carry off well. (Well, maybe not THE toughest. Humor's difficult, too. And there can be a fine line between hard-boiled and perverted.) When not done well, historical fiction can be turgid (and this one was). There's also the heavy challenge of making conversation sound somehow "real" for the period while not making it tough for the reader to follow. (Crichton's TIMELINE solved that with technology; when all those folks got transported back in time to the medieval days, they were equipped with in-ear technology that converted Middle English to Modern English. Convenient!) Some (many?) of the historicals (especially in manuscript) read like textbooks on the period because the author has felt the need to include every interesting detail unearthed in the research.
But the challenges of writing historical fiction aren't the reason for today's post. I don't usually get too much into the weeds of the craft of writing - you know, whether it's OK to say "There is" and "There are" or whether "data" is singular or plural. However, this particular book had a problem that I realized I see not infrequently in manuscripts: The repetition of the same word in a sentence or paragraph.
Here's my advice: Don't do that.
In the course of one not-very-long paragraph, the author in question used the word "beautiful" three times. One might argue that the copy editor should be fired, but a manuscript with that kind of repetition shouldn't have been turned in to begin with. As writers, you're expected to have more facility with the language, to have a good grasp of synonyms. For beautiful, this author could have substituted lovely, gorgeous, stunning, dazzling, breathtaking ... the list goes on and on.
There is something lazy about a writer who can't be bothered to find different ways to express the finer gradations of a concept. I think this deficit registers with readers (and it certainly registers with this editor). Interestingly, I think this problem is symptomatic of this particular writer's issues - s/he described everything in a sort of freshman-essay style. I have no doubt she got the period details correct, but much of the description (and there was A LOT of it) felt lifted from an art history textbook. This was the primary reason the book didn't work for me; it didn't help that the mystery wasn't particularly good, either.
So, for the aspiring authors out there, do check for word variety before you submit to anyone.
[Maybe I'll do another post on some picayune grammar points I have noticed of late. Point #2 would be: Don't use semicolons. No one knows what they mean.]