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?

 

 

 

Six ways your manuscript gets buried in slush piles and rejected

Recently, I got another author submission for this blog with the title Cindy Ervin Huff’s interview on the attachment. I usually download it to Word and rename it with the writer’s name and subject. I don’t get hundreds of submissions a day. I have time to download and rename. Editors don’t. This led me to the list of reminders I’ve seen repeated at conferences and in articles that bear repeating.

Manuscripts get reject and lost faster than fast and this can often be avoided if you follow these familiar guidelines.

  1. Pubs don’t pub that

There are still authors who use the shotgun method they shot their manuscripts out to several publishers or magazines without doing the research to find out what they publish. Just because the magazine is called Muscle Cars doesn’t mean you can send a random article about cars to them. Most magazines have a theme page. Each month is a different theme with suggestions of what they are looking for.

I write Historical Romance and there are several publishers who don’t accept anything by Contemporary Romance. They have specific guidelines that must be followed about content. In some cases, the structure of the story needs to follow a certain outline. I would be wasting those publisher’s time if I submitted it there. Go to their website and read the blubs about their books. Order a few of their best sellers to see what they publish before submitting your manuscript.

  1. Bad Titles for Attachments

You title your manuscript Gone with The Wind final draft. But if you leave that title when you added it as an attachment the editor may not be able to find it later. A better title is Margaret Mitchell manuscript Gone with The Wind. Even the title on your email should be Margaret Mitchell’s submission you requested Gone with The Wind. Submission requests mirror so many other emails. So be sure your name is clearly in the email subject line. This is also true for articles.

  1. Wrong formatting

Times New Roman 12-point font double spaced is the industry standard for manuscripts of any kind. A few publishers prefer single-spaced. Some asked for your scene breaks to be notated differently. And although this can be an easy fix, it is time that the publisher doesn’t want to take. Again, read submission guidelines and be sure your formatting is correct. A big problem can occur if you make corrections in your novel and it skewers the formatting or there are additional spaces between paragraphs and sentences. Copy/paste can create issues as well. Use find and replace to fix those yourself. Clean formatting shows professionalism. Ask for help if you don’t know how to fix it.

  1. Typos and grammar issues

A great story will often get rejected if there are typos and grammar errors. Publishers get great submission clean of errors. Why bother to correct yours? Even the best of us don’t see our own mistakes. The spell check on your Word program is limited- if it’s a word but not the word you want, it doesn’t know that. Use Grammarly or ProWritingAid to comb your manuscript. Then ask someone else to read through it. Fresh eyes catch typos so easily. Be especially careful that the first page is error-free. Editors are busy people and they read manuscripts all day long. Typos and grammar errors distract them so much they can’t focus on content. Rejection will be inevitable.

  1. Not reading submission guidelines

I’ve already mentioned this. But it bears repeating. If your manuscript is formatted, clean and fits the theme of the publisher, it can still get rejected if you miss any points in the guidelines. Women’s World still takes their fiction by snail mail with a SASE. Chicken Soup for the Soul only takes submission attached to the form on their website. A few magazines prefer the article in the body of the email although most prefer them attached. Check submission times. There are publishers who only look at submissions from January to June, for example, others have even shorter windows. They want all their submission for the year in that timeframe. So read the guidelines carefully and read it again.

  1. Mediocre writing

Publishers are looking for great writing. Correct grammar is important but if the story isn’t awesome, it won’t matter if you’ve followed the guidelines to a T. Read best sellers in the genre you want to write. Study what made it a great book. Take classes at conferences or online, read writing books. Keep honing your craft. Make your words shine.

What other things get manuscripts rejected or buried in the slush pile?

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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