Fashionably Late

The last line in one of my chapters said “Snow began to fall.” However, it was raining in the next chapter. Big trouble. I had to rewrite a little to make sure the weather in those two chapters was identical. 

In your writing, if your character is wearing a T-shirt and shorts, then the next paragraph cannot have him shrugging off his coat.

You can save yourself a lot of work if you will plan these things out down to the minutest detail before you write. 

It won’t be just a matter of substituting one word (rain) for the other (snow). No, what about the character’s physical and emotional reactions to the weather (He shivered…) or the fact that he/she probably wouldn’t be playing tennis in the snow?

I found it to be, quite literally, a house of cards. Maybe dominoes resting on each other would be a more accurate description. Just one tiny push—one small mistake—and it all comes tumbling down.

It is embarrassing to look at a proof and see gigantic mistakes staring right back at you. (I have literally hit my forehead with the heel of my hand more than once and said, “Duh!”) 

If I need to slow down and miss a deadline, then so be it. Better to be late than produce a book riddled with mistakes.

You may think, “I’ll just leave these things for my editor to sort out and clean up for me.”

From my experience, that would be a big mistake. I had my book edited twice and I still found mistakes on my twelfth read through!  

That’s right. I had competent editors, about eight months apart, go through my manuscript. Still, content mistakes were found as I read through them later.  Part of the reason, I think, is that they don’t—and will never—know the story like I do. Or, maybe they just get caught up in the story and forget what they are supposed to be doing. I’m really not sure. 

But, the point is this: Ultimately, it is your book. The buck stops with you. 

So, be diligent. Be a perfectionist. Make it the best it can be.

Even if, like me, you end up being fashionably late.

Five Things Writers MUST Do

I would say there are about twenty-five things writers need to do, but these top five are ESSENTIAL:

1- Know your audience and write for them.  I don’t write YA, but if I did, I would have to learn my readers’ interests… their unique vocabulary… popular phrases… wardrobe and hairstyle preferences… everything there is to know about them. No one—no matter how much they love to read—will invest the time in reading what doesn’t interest them or reflect their dreams and aspirations.

2 – Read. First and foremost, a good writer reads. Get to know what’s out there and how other authors approach their craft. All the while, read for fun and pleasure, too. After all, fiction writers must be able to offer their readers an enjoyable reading experience.

3 – Learn the writing “rules.”  Read books on plot, style, character, etc. Go to conferences. Talk to other writers. Ask someone to mentor you. (Don’t worry, after you learn the rules, you can grant yourself permission to break them!!! I’ll clarify. Don’t break all of them all of the time. Be careful. Pick and choose as you find your unique “voice.”)

4 – Make every word count. Be precise. I use a an average vocabulary because I want my readers to enjoy my stories and not have to look up unfamiliar words. I think this is good advice for most fiction. However, I can see that Sci-fi and some other genres may want to use a different standard. By reading other books in your genre, you will learn what to use for your specific story.

5 – Edit, Edit, Edit.  Mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation stand out like a sore thumb and draw attention away from your story. Even though no book is perfect, you don’t want to be embarrassed by mistakes. Take your time. Use an editor, but also read through your own work several times before sending it off to them.genre

The Problem With Repetition

Continuing on from my last post…

Another thing I realized as I scanned my manuscript was that I had used a lot of exclamation points in my writing. (I must really think my writing is exciting!!!!!!!!!)

With most things, the more you do them, say them, express them, the less effective they become.

Or, to say it another way:

A SMALL DOSE GOES A LONG WAY.

Exclamation points should be used sparingly and, by and large, in dialogue. After all, their purpose is to denote excitement. But, remember, not all things are equally exciting, so be careful not to use them too often. Then, when you do use them, the reader will pay attention.

Another thing that I remarked on before (when talking about pet peeves, I believe) is words that are repeated over and over. Take the word “walked”. There are so many more words—exciting ones— that can be used in its place: sauntered, ambled, jaunted…

This problem is easily fixed by going under the EDIT tab and clicking on FIND. You can type in a word you think you may have used too often, and your computer will search your manuscript for it, page by page. It is up to you whether you want to keep a given sentence as you originally wrote it, or whether you want to replace it. It’s as simple as that.

Don’t forget, your Thesaurus gives you plenty of alternative words to use. When you run out of replacement words, you can always cycle through your list, again. Or, you can try rewriting your sentences so they read altogether differently.

More observations next time. I’m always open to questions, also. If I don’t know the answer (which I very likely may not) I will find out…

Brenda