Saturday, March 18, 2017

Emerging Author Mistakes - AKA Please Stop. Please.

As an avid reader and a publisher, I have become very aware, in the trends of authors. Now, don't get me wrong, I love authors. I love that they are creative, and passionate, and can bring to life worlds that existed, up until that moment, only in their heads. But, after years now of talking to writers and readers and buyers, formatting books, engaging in endless emails, I have compiled the following list of mistakes that most emerging authors make. If you, as an author, can overcome these mistakes, your writing will be more appealing to publishers and readers alike.

1. Telling not showing
    "Laurie was very upset."
    "Jennie was one of the most popular girls."
    " Neil was very charming."

     There are two reasons this is bad writing. First and foremost, it falls emotionally flat, preventing me from engaging and reducing the power of your writing. Secondly, I don't know that I believe you. Why are you an authority? Why should I care? This is lazy. Instead, show me that Laurie is very upset. Is she screaming? Is she crying? Is her face blotchy? Describe her character's appearance. How do we know that Jennie is popular? What do the people around her do when she enters? How does she carry herself? What is Neil doing to charm us? Is it working? Use actions, reactions, appearance, and reduce statements of adverbs.

2. The redundent people of redundency who say things more than once. 
There are two ways that writers are unintentionally redundant. First, they use the same word repeatedly in the course of a sentence, paragraph, or the entire novel. Please, get a thesaurus. Use it. The writing becomes magical instead of monotonous. Secondly, the writer will try to show the emotion or validity of the point that they are trying to get across by just saying it over and over and over. And over. Repeatedly. I mean they say it more than once. Again. You know what? I still don't believe you because you are providing no evidence to back it up. Refer to the first point; that's your answer.

3. Table of Contents 
If this is not an ebook, this is unnecessary. More than that, it costs your publisher money and makes your reader wait to get to the part that they want to read. .. your story. These things are important to the author, but truly not to anyone else. Similarly, do not tell me what happens in your chapter or give it a name. Unless you are A. A. Milne and these are Winnie the Pooh what you are doing is weakening your writing.

3. Scene Breaks
Scene breaks are necessary; there is no doubt about that. However, if you have more than one scene break in each chapter, possibly two in some specialized cases and chapters, what you need to do is rethink your chapter, not add more asterisks. It's hard to take a step back, but is sometimes necessary. I find that the old-fashioned story arc or outline is helpful in fixing this issue.

4. Ellipses - Ellipses have become a huge part of social media communication; part of the unique grammatical and stylistic language that online communication is developing. That being said, it does not transfer well to professional writing. Please. .. .. . . . ..  . . don't.

5. Letters to Readers - I'm going to say something that is going to be really, really harsh. I'm sorry. It needs to be said. That thing is, no one cares. At least, not yet. We come at this from the perspective of people who are avid readers who have read every interview and letter with and from our favorite authors. We are people who have planned what we would say when this moment came for years. Here it is and. . .no one cares. They will. Someday, if they are very lucky, people will hang on your every word. For now, though, save these for your blog and for interviews. Do not put them in your books, costing yourself profit and delaying the time until your reader can get to the story that will make the fall in love with you. If you must include it, please do not put it at the front of the book. Put it after, so that those who can't get enough of you get a delicious treat. But understand, because this will be important as you begin the work of getting your career off of the ground (work that is just NOW starting), the concept that no one cares yet will be plaguing you for a while yet. But they will. Then, add everything you ever wanted to. You can introduce a character and have him kill off a multiverse-wide Big Bad 70 pages later (erhem Stephen King I'm looking at you). Now, you just have to wait.

You don't like what I've said. I know. You're different. I know. All of your Beta readers have said that your work is amazing just as it is. I know. Who do I think I am?

Ah, well, that's the crux of it. I'm an author who has made the same mistakes I listed above. I am a publisher who has read thousands of author submissions. I am a salesperson who has sold, or tried to sell, to millions (!) of readers. I'm someone who has cried, and raged, and jumped up and down in glee. Most of all, I've learned through some of the most brutal and expedited hands-on experience that I could have imagined. Take the time to get over your ego, and overcome lazy writing, and your success will grow exponentially.

Trust me. I believe in you.

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