My Writing Rant: Don’t make me trip over mistakes

Believable characters keep the reader turning pages.

I’m on a rant today. As I’ve mentioned before I love to read. I’m addicted to reading. But what I don’t like is being disappointed. Yeah, a plot can be disappointing, or characters can become blah. That’s not what I’m talking about.

The thing that drives me crazy is opening a novel and tripping over lots of amateur mistakes. Things that should have been fixed long before the publish button was pushed. I’ll admit that I’m a bit blind to my own mistakes. Okay, a lot blind. I need my critique partners, editors, and my Grammar Nazi husband to help me see what I don’t. When I read other authors’ works those same mistakes are glaring.

Some examples

Double word typos like the the.

Wrong tenses

No: He focuses on the past.

Yes: He focused on the past.

Lots and lots of backstory dump.

And the one oh so important thing. POV. If the scene or chapter is written from Sally’s point of view, she can’t describe her face. As the reader, you are looking through her eyes. And, you can’t know what the other character is thinking unless Sally is a mind reader.

It is easy to add a beat that is in the wrong POV. For example, Sally knew Mark was hurting from his past relationship.  How can she know at that moment he is hurting? If Mark turns away, changes the subject or fidgets with his keys when he sees his ex, then Sally would know or guess.

Don’t do it

My rant today is don’t publish that book until it has been thoroughly edited. Make sure it’s been through critique groups, proofreaders, beta readers, and your local grammar expert. Then do the rewrites and corrections, and run it through again. Three or more edits are not uncommon. The cleaner your manuscript the more satisfied the reader will be because they aren’t jerked out of the story due to amateur errors on your part.

Self-published work should shine

For those of you who self-publish, it is even more important that your work is stellar. Self-publication has been labeled something that publishers don’t want. It’s probably not true, but typos, grammar errors, and POV confusion will make the reader feel that way.

Help is available

If you don’t know who to contact ask other authors who they use. Be willing to pay top dollar for those edits. There are lots of books, blogs, vlogs, and websites on every aspect of writing and editing.  Learn about POV and how to sprinkle your character’s backstory throughout the novel rather than dumping it at the beginning of the chapter that introduces your newest character. Bleh!

Writing a novel is hard work and learning the craft is even more so. Don’t get in a hurry to get your book out there. Take the time to make it shine. End of rant.

What is a glaring error that pulls you out of a story?




Why So Many Rounds of Edits After the Contract?

Today and in other posts until my book is published in March 2017 I thought I’d share the many behind the scenes activities that take place after the contract is signed. This is not a time to set back and relax. Oh no. Whether you publish traditionally or self-publish, there are many steps before you see your book on the shelf.

Rounds of edits

First, is edits. Even though my book was professionally edited before I submitted it, there are still things that need changing.

Pansy O'Hara Did you know that Margaret Mitchell called the heroine in Gone With The Wind, Pansy? The publishers didn’t like her name. So it was changed to Scarlett. And if you’ve read the book or seen the movie, she is Scarlett. The name Pansy doesn’t have the power and sensual premise.


For me, my first round of edits included rewriting a couple of scenes. I needed them to be from my main characters’ points of view not the minor characters. I actually found them more powerful after I was finished.

The first edit found typos and grammar errors that were missed  during my final rewrite. We found overused words and mannerisms. I liked Jake to run his fingers through his hair when he was frustrated, nervous or thinking. Well, needless to say it was a lot.

So, the editor’s job is to point those out so I can find new mannerisms. A repetitive mannerism can get on a reader’s nerves and pull them out of the story.

The second edit is to double-check what I fixed and find new stuff like character names interchanged. I recently read a book where the character’s name was Joel and his late brother was John. But in one scene the tagline John said was used. This was not a ghost story.  It should have been Joel. The editor may also question your research. And you may be asked to go back and fact check.

There are two more edits after that. Why so many? You don’t want a reader to review your typos on Amazon.

Beta Readers

Next, Beta Readers read through looking for typos and anything that might take the reader out of the story. I’ve had the pleasure of being a Beta Reader. You receive a PDF file of the book and open another document to record any boo boos you find. I understand you can have as many as 30 Beta Readers. This way, any blaring problems are fixed as well as the miniscule ones.

There will be one more round of Beta Readers. They might receive an Author review copy or an e-book version to read. In the new format other mistakes are found. The goal is a really clean copy. The reputation of the publisher is on the line along with yours.

Read it again

Here is the key for you as a writer. Every time you receive edits. Read. Read the sentence being edited. The paragraph. The page. The chapter. The whole novel. Read as much as you need to be sure the change flows. Read enough to ensure the edits have not changed the story.

You are the author and not every edit is the right choice. Please do accept typos, misplaced names. POV shifts, things like that. But there are other things you might say no to.  If someone felt a scene needed more sensory beats. The smell of the hot asphalt. The chirping of a robin. The snoring of the old man. You are the one who decides if that would add or distract from your story.

Author Review Copies

By the time you get to the second set of Beta Readers there’s very little to be pointed out. Possibly nothing at all. These readers are good candidates for pre-release book reviews.

Some publishers might not edit as thoroughly. They might only use one round of Beta Readers. I don’t know that there is a set formula. And if you self-publish you are going to have to find your own Beta Readers.These should be people who notice details and grammar errors.

Beware of editors who go through a minimal of steps. A wonderful story can be ruined by those little grammar, spelling and POV shift errors. I’ve seen them in printed copy of wonderful books. An e-book can be fixed. But a paper copy will hold on to those errors until a new print run. Not what you want at all.

In between receiving your edits to work on, you will be doing a lot of other things. Next post I’ll tell you what I learned about cover design.

What has been your editing experience?


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How Beta Readers Help Polish a Maunscript

woman reading book

Another invitation to be a Beta reader came in my email. Because of this Speedbo challenge I had to pass on it. *sigh* This is something I love to do. So I’ll take a few minutes to share with you what it is all about.

What is a Beta Reader

I’ve had the privilege of being a Beta Reader a few times. Before my experience I had no idea what a Beta reader did or why they were important. Beta Readers are the final line of defense against typos and grammar fopas. The last opportunity to question flow and any other oddity in your manuscript.

As a Beta Reader I received a PDF file in my email of a completed manuscript ready to go to press. It’s the Beta Readers job to find misspelled words, duplicate words, punctuation, wrong character names, duplicate sentences and paragraphs. Examples of these are John said when it should be Joel. Tom sat nearby when it should be Tim.

How it works

A Beta Reader examines every word from the title, the acknowledgement, the body of work to The End. Anything that seems odd or unclear, forgotten words, incorrect punctuation or grammar is noted on a separate sheet- a copy correction template. Each correction starts with a page #, paragraph and line #   followed by specific verbiage.

I’ll use an example from earlier.

Page 142 paragraph 3 line 6

It reads: John said.

Should read: Joel said.

In this case the character John is Joel’s missing brother and he is not in this scene at all. So obviously he would not be speaking. Characters with similar names or same first letters are easy to confuse and often missed in initial edits.

What it’s not

A Beta Reader does not rewrite or delete sections. They are not the critiquer. Rather they are the polishers. Critiquers and editors sand and resurface the words and beta readers produce the high shine to take the imperfections out of the varnish.

Beta reading eyes

After my experience as a Beta Reader I have caught glaring mistakes in printed books. One recent example. “I agree.” He agreed. It drew me out of the book and I pondered the redundancy of those words for a few seconds. No author wants a reader drawn out of his story.

One novel had a page with the list of characters at the end of the book. The Korean-American was listed as a Japanese –American. Where were the Beta Readers on that one? Duplicate words are a constant bother to readers such as: with with or she with went with. Probably occurred during editing. The editor or author deletes part of a sentence but not all of it and in the rewrite adds extra words. This is another place that will draw a reader out of a book. Enough of these and the reader may stop reading and consider the author a hack.

How many Beta Readers is enough

Most books have several Beta Readers. I was one of 30 on my projects. Those small errors are usually caught by having multiple Beta Readers. In my case there were two groups. Fifteen read first and the second group went over the manuscript after corrections were made. This creates the cleanest copy possible. The words shine with the natural beauty minus most of the flaws. I say most because there can still be after all those readers a comma or misspelled word that got slipped through the cracks. But hopefully no one or very few readers will ever notice it.

Why be a Beta Reader

It builds your network of contacts. You slowly read through a ready to publish book and your mind absorbs what makes the book publication worthy. You catch mistakes you may be making in your own manuscript and you learn to do line edits.

If you are asked to be a Beta Reader go for it. If you really love the book offer to do a book review when it is available. My experience has shown me I want beta readers on my projects. Any Indie authors out there can only benefit from those extra set of eyes.

Have any of you had experiences with beta readers either as one or using them. I would love to hear about it.

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