Tag Archives: tips for authors

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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Tips for author etiquette (a shared post written by editor Jon Bard)

Today I am sharing a post written by Jon Bard and posted on his blog. Jon is one of the editors of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers. He wrote an interesting article – actually a rant – to which he received a deluge of responses. Because of requests to share it, he gave permission to do so through tweeting or blogging, so here it is. I thought you might enjoy it also. You can also check out his blog here.

Sorry folks, but I’ve *really* got to vent about something

Complaint!

Note: This rant is almost assuredly not about you, dear reader.  It’s about a small percentage of folks who are really getting under my skin.  But even if you’re not in that group, please read on — just don’t take it personally!  :-)

If you spend a fair amount of time online, perhaps you’ve noticed it:

People are becoming ruder.  And angrier.  And more entitled. 

Really, I’m simply amazed at some of what appears in my e-mail inbox.  Folks with whom I’ve never corresponded are sending me demanding messages such as “SEND ME THE EBOOK!!!!” and “I WANT TO GET PUBLISHED. TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”

People (non-customers) send us long, detailed questions out of the blue and expect immediate responses.  If they don’t get one, we often receive an abusive message as a follow up.

And then there’s the magic words that many people seem to be using as a justification for curt, nicety-free missives:

“Sent via my iPhone”

Look, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve got a pretty thick skin.  So I raise this not to prevent my feelings from being hurt, but rather as a cautionary message about how *not* to sabotage your writing career.

As a 21st century author, your ability to communicate is paramount to your success.  Editors, agents, bloggers, book reviewers, distributors, promotional partners and readers are just some of the people who are important to your career.  For goodness sake, treat them with more respect than “Here’s my new book. Write a review!”.

Here then, are my tips to help you be seen as a courteous author worthy of consideration:

  •  “Dear”, “Thank you”, “Please” and “Sincerely/All the Best/Yours Truly” aren’t archaic leftovers from the distant past.  They’re still as important as ever.  Use them. Please.
  • Composing a message from your phone or tablet is not an excuse for overly-direct curtness.  If you have a business message to send, wait until you have the time to write it properly.
  • If you’re contacting someone for the first time, make the effort to introduce yourself, and clearly state the purpose of your message.
  • If someone doesn’t get right back to you, don’t fire off an angry e-mail accusing them of ignoring you.  Perhaps the message got lost.  Maybe they’re on vacation.  Perhaps they’re ill.  Calmly send another friendly message restating your request or comment.
  • Remember that you’re dealing with human beings.  In our case, every piece of e-mail is read either by me or by Laura.  We don’t have a building full of underlings to take care of that for us.  When you send us kind words (and many of you do — thank you!), it feels great.  When you’re rude or angry, it stings.   Treat me with respect — I think  I’ve earned at least that.

The vast majority of you are nothing but gracious in your communications with us.  That bodes well for your future success.  Keep at it, and gently work to correct those who aren’t minding your manners.

For the few of you who may have let your etiquette slip, please take heed of the points I’ve laid out, and make a resolution to make the online world just a little bit more courteous.

That’s it — venting over!  :)     Onward….

What is your opinion on what Jon Bard had to say above? Most of you will not be in his job situation, but do you find people are more impatient in today’s modern methods of communication? Tweeting, texting, and emailing are quick. Do you find people to be more demanding of you, or do you find yourself waiting for a reply and getting impatient when it does not come immediately?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂