Monday, May 27, 2019

That First Book

One of the writing sites I follow had a question from a new writer who hasn’t finished his first book but had questions on putting that book out as self-published.  Here is my reply.

First and foremost, write the dang book.  

Second, edit the dang book yourself.  

Third, get decent beta readers or a critique group who like your genre and listen to their comments.  If more than one notes the same problem, rewrite accordingly.  Otherwise, if the advice feels right to you, follow it.  If none of the advice feels right, you need to rethink your attitude toward your writing.  Arrogance has never produced good books.  

Fourth, hire a good content editor to help you fix your book, then a good copy editor to fix those typos and grammar problems.  Pay attention to what they do and learn from it so you won’t make those mistakes again.  

Finally, seek advice on self-publishing.  A few early resources are linked below as well as info on critique groups and beta readers.  

A few things not included in these steps.  The writing craft is learned in the same way as the skills needed to play a sport.  You will not produce a great book without those skills any more than someone who has never played basketball can become an instant professional.  Practice your skills, and find good teachers to help you.  It will be worth it in the long run.  

Also realize that very few writers produce a salable book the first time.  Most are dreck, and the first book you put on the market will define your career, particularly if it is the first book in a series.  Your other books may be much better, but, if that first piece is dreck, it will prove costly because readers won't read them.  


JANE FRIEDMAN INFO ON SELF-PUBLISHING (Friedman was in traditional publishing for many years and has worked at various writing magazine.  So, a good resource.)


Monday, May 20, 2019

How to Vary Sentences

QUESTION: It's recently been pointed out to me that I sometimes overuse "he" and "she" when referring to my characters in narrative as well as action. I also use direct referral by calling my characters by their names, and their general persons -- i.e, "Bob," "Jill," "the man," "the young woman," etc. -- but I find that these phrases soon become old too. What should I do?

Show what the viewpoint character is feeling and seeing. For example, Tom remembers giving flowers to Jane.

Tom recalled how Jane's face lit up, her cheeks equaling the pink of the roses she clutched to her breast. She had smiled shyly at him, and he'd fallen in love at that instant.


Her face had lit up, her cheeks equaling the pink of the roses she clutched to her breast. Her shy smile had won his heart in that instant.

The second version is a more intimate viewpoint, and I've varied the sentence structure a bit.

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't use a character's name as designation more than once a page unless it's a scene with a number of characters.

It's better to be a bit boring using the character's name, which the reader will skim, rather than to confuse the reader as to who is doing what action. This stops the reading process completely which is the one thing a writer should avoid at all costs.

Monday, May 13, 2019

How Long Should a Sentence Be

QUESTION:  I’ve just started writing, and I’m paranoid about my sentence lengths.  Too long?  Too short?  Just right?  Help!

Don't sweat the length of the sentences. Just write.  Sentence length and various style issues are part of the rewriting process.  It's also part of the growth process of being a writer.  The more you write, the more you sound like you.  

I believe that sentences should vary in length in most instances.  Too many long sentences are boring.   Too many short sentences come across as a tire with a bump on it.  Content.  Thud!  Content.  Thud!  Content.  Thud!  Too many noun then verb sentences have the same problem.  

The advice I always give on sentences is that, if you are in the viewpoint character's head, you will rarely go wrong on sentence length or content.  If your character is dodging bullets, he won't be thinking long, deep thoughts. If he's staring at the clue board in the precinct, he won't be thinking short, choppy thoughts.  

QUESTIONS, I TAKE QUESTIONS:  Have a writing question?  Ask me here

Monday, May 6, 2019

Make It Matter

I’ve talked a lot about various craft issues that make your book readable and approachable for readers, but one thing will mean the difference between a reader rushing through your book or putting it down and not going back.  

I call this idea Make It Matter.  

What is “it?” Each scene you write, every important character, and the book itself.

How do you make each scene, character, and the book itself matter to the reader?

The reader must care.  I’m talking not just interest in what is happening but an emotional investment.  

That murder being solved might be an interesting puzzle, but if it doesn’t have an emotional component for the reader and the main character, most readers won’t care.  

I’ve put down three different mysteries in the last month because the victim was such a pile of scum that I wanted to give the murderer a medal, and the sleuth had no emotional investment in solving the crime.  I didn’t care about any of it so I stopped reading.

In a romance, the love story should be life changing for the two characters and emotionally fulfilling for the reader.  Two people shacking up forever for great sex isn’t emotionally fulfilling.  Two people having a true meeting of the minds and hearts is.  

No quest in the world of fantasy will matter much if the reader doesn’t care about the characters, and the goal of the quest is selfish.

So, check every scene, the important characters, and finally, the book itself to make sure that you made it matter.