A book reviewer’s 10 tips for authors, OR do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect

As I was saying in my last post which you can read here, no matter what I read I tend to notice errors in spelling, punctuation, anything not quite fitting together. It is distracting. As a reviewer, I have found those things also make it harder to write a review when I am bothered by them, but I try to stick to the story. Since I began in 2010 I have featured seventy books here on my blog. If the books are sold or offered on the following sites I also post my reviews on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Chapters.Indigo, Library Thing, Shelfari, BookLook Bloggers (if received through them), and Goodreads. My posts are noted on Twitter, Google+, and in LinkedIn. Several other books I have not covered here on my blog but I have posted short reviews on Amazon and other sites. This means they get a lot of coverage, so surely authors want their books to be the best they can be with that much exposure.

As you know, I want to be an author of children’s books. With that in the back of my mind, I notice those things that hurt and I try to remember the things that help. Most writers who seriously want to improve their craft look for tips and helps along the way. Some take classes or full courses, some sit in on writers’ discussions. Even though you didn’t ask, I have a few suggestions which I hope will be of benefit.

Especially for those who are self-publishing or who are trying to cut corners by omitting a good editor …

1. DON’T! Please don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need an editor. The editing phase is extremely important if you want to be taken seriously. It is painful to read an otherwise good story that has many misspelled words, punctuation and grammar mistakes. If your work is self-published and starts selling, you don’t want negative reviews because of things you could have avoided. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

2. On the other hand, don’t leave all the work to an editor. Chances are, your work – if found to be full of errors that could have been easily fixed by you – can be set aside out of exasperation, returned to you, or worse – refused with no hope of a second chance. You don’t want those delays or the disappointment, so do as much of the clean-up as you can first. Don’t chance looking as if you didn’t care enough to make it presentable. Obtain and use a good dictionary and a Thesaurus. Get someone you trust to do an honest read-through before you even hire an editor. Many writers find joining a like-minded critique group is very helpful. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

3. Take your time. What’s the rush, anyway? Once you get it all down on paper (or computer file) put it away for a few weeks. When you take that first draft out again read it as if you never saw it before. (Yes, I did say FIRST draft.) Read slowly so that you don’t assume what is there, and you can read what is actually on the page. This is the time to do your own editing before you hire someone to do it. Start your rewrite – yes, I mean write it over again working the bugs out of it. (Keep your first copy in case some things you took out work better after revision.) Many authors do several rewrites, and then an editor usually advises more changes. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

4. If you are not writing longhand and are counting on your computer’s spell check to find and fix your blunders, toss that idea now! Their are many weighs two due it rite and a spell cheque program is knot all ways the best oar only way too go! (How many errors did you find in that last sentence?) It is so easy for a computer program to change your words into something you aren’t intending to say at all. You have the brain, your computer has a program. Use the checker for the obvious things, but be sure of them – and use your dictionary, one with synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms. Take the time to do the research. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

5. Don’t use a reviewer as your editor. Errors are distractions but not the reviewer’s job to point out to you. Once you finish writing the story you have yet to do the work. Having written that last sentence does not mean the work is done. Now you start reading from the beginning – out loud to yourself, fixing it, picking it apart, rewriting it. If you aren’t sure of your spelling or how to word something, look for books that teach you. Or take a course. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

6. Don’t take yourself – or your writing – too seriously. Your story may be interesting to you, but it may not come across to others the same way. Make it interesting. Write your story in a captivating way. Read up on how to do that. Solid writing as free of errors as possible helps, and saying it in a natural way that is not stilted and preachy is more inviting to the reader. Be ready to take criticism, because criticism will come. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

7. Don’t assume any word that sounds the same as the one you are trying to rhyme it with is the right word to use. If you are going to write a story in rhyme, study how to write good rhyme, rhythm, time, and … again, use your dictionary. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

8. Punctuation is a serious snag to many writers. Invest in a good book that guides you through that part. Get help to avoid broken quotations, know where to insert commas, and to not use too many exclamation points!!! Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

9. Remember to watch out for details that pull your story along, but can get mixed up in your flurry of writing and rewriting. Interview their characters. Keep notes or an outline just for yourself to get to know them – describe them, their adventures, the scenes, and whatever else will add to your story. Even then mistakes can happen. That’s what editing is for, and very careful rereads. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

10. Be Patient. If you want it done right and well, take your time. Revise, revise, revise. Don’t write it, immediately send it to a reviewer or editor, and expect them to polish it to a fine shine. Take time to make it the best you can before you send it out into the world of “let’s see what we can make of this.” Your work is an extension of your genius and imagination, take your time to get the help you need to give it the best chance. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

An extra tip: Look for things such as these examples in your writing —

  • One of your characters is suffering a broken left arm from an accident, but later when he is trying to get out of the vehicle his right arm hangs uselessly.  Remember your details.
  • Your character stands to talk with someone and then he stands to leave having not sat again. Watch those scene changes.
  • Be sure if you change a character’s name that you are consistent all the way through your book. When a reader comes across a character who acts as if he has been there all along but was never mentioned before, the reader has no way of knowing it’s a missed change of name.
  • When editing, read carefully to see that your action scenes don’t intrude upon one another or get out of order, such as your character running from someone dangerous, then two paragraphs later the chase is just beginning. 

There are other things to watch for, and I’m sure you can think of some. What you see in your mind, and then writing it to make sense on paper, are two different things. Be sure you take the time you need to make it work. And then know when to stop.

If you want to write a book … do it right. And do it well, the best you can. I enjoy reading books like that. 

Finally … Don’t worry, just write. And will you do yourself a favour? Admit you aren’t perfect. It will be more fun that way.

What tips do you have to add to my list?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 

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12 responses to “A book reviewer’s 10 tips for authors, OR do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect

  1. Good solid , helpful advice Lynne.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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  2. Very good points. Even though I have several books published I’m not perfect. They went through many revisions and edits by the publishers’ editors. For my latest, I have hired an editor. I want this story to be the best that it can be when I submit it. She’ll work on the manuscript next month.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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  3. Great post. Editing is important. We all edit our writing, but a professional editor does not only check spelling and grammar. I once purchased a book that was self published. It was a mess and poorly written. Since then, I’ve been reluctant to trust self-publishing authors. Yet, I know some very good ones and have read their books. Those few that do less than a professional job of writing and publishing hurt the rest. Blessings to you, Lynn…

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    • I know how hard it is to wait until one’s book is as near perfect as it can be, but impatience does us no favours in this regard. I know people who interview authors, but if they are self-published the openness isn’t there for them. Self-publishing is a sure thing, but the author should take the necessary time to be sure his or her book is ready.
      Thanks for your comment, Carol Ann.

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  4. Well said. This will really help me. 🙂

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  5. Hiring a professional editor is very important, as well as not rushing the book out. I have recently corresponded with two writer-friends who are anxious to get their stories published but we all know they aren’t ready yet. I need to remind myself of this, too ~ get it done, but don’t rush it.

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    • I understand how they feel; it’s hard to wait. I think the key word in what you said is DONE .. get it done. Rushing often causes delays.
      Thanks for your comment, Claudine.

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  6. Wow, Lynn, I love this advice. As I’m reading it, I’m telling myself, “Sue, watch out for this. Sue, pay attention!” I particularly love receiving advice from a reviewer, because reviewers have a different slant on a book than an editor or a writer or someone reading for relaxation and escape. As you know, Lynn, my columns almost always have at least one typo, misspelling or grammar kink. My books are worse! I remember being entirely embarrassed to have the copy editor at Doubleday gently explain to me that I had misused every lie-lay-lain-laid in my first novel Mother Earth Father Sky. I’d been so sure I was right! 🙂 What? You mean I’m Not perfect? Zounds! How wonderful that we writers have resources, such as professional editors, reviewers, beta readers, and literary agents — even writing contests — to help us craft better books. Thanks for the great post, Lynn!

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I look forward to reading your greatly appreciated comments. Thanks for making my day! :)

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