Parts of a whole
I have been looking through the notes I took on rejected books from 2017 that I had read, attempted to read, or almost finished reading. I admit that I have been searching for books to review, but also looking at what I see other writers doing wrong.
When you write a manuscript, you need to really visualize the finished piece. I have made mistakes in the past too and probably will make more in my writing career future. The point of today’s post isn’t to discourage any of the writers out there, but to point out places we all can improve.
The finished product is a book, but we start with a manuscript. Manuscripts go through many phases. The first draft to final piece requires effort on the writer’s part. We can’t just write it once and publish it. That is not realistic!
Here are some of the tips I have gained from looking through the list I made of why I rejected books for my blog review posts. I want to put these out here so you can see the mistakes and like I plan to do correct them in your own work.
The List of Writing Transgressions
- Where is the plot? I have done this one recently myself. You write an excellent dialogue and some description, but you forget to give your story a reason to be happening. Even if you developed your characters and their personalities without the purpose for their journey, you leave your readers unhappy.
- Characters that have nothing to like about them. I have written flat, one-dimensional characters too. Sometimes you put so much into your plot and the setup of the world you forget to give your characters personalities and make them each different. (I suggest Debbie Burns Character Deep Dive Workshop that helps you with this issue! She has a wonderful easy to follow writing workshops. Look her up on Facebook.)
- If you don’t know your genre and are unsure of the age range, then you must take time to figure both out. You can’t market a book efficiently if you do not understand who it is written for. If you wrote it for you, then that is fine, but to be a successful author, you must take your clients into consideration. If you have graphic sexual content and foul language galore, I suggest you make it clear that the book you just wrote is only for adults. Marketing that type of material to young adults is not acceptable and will get you the wrong kind of public recognition.
- Thinking cover artwork and back blurb alone will make your readers happy. I must address this idea because I have junked over 500 books now into my reject pile. I would say about 400 of these books had well-done covers and back blurbs. I do not shop for books to read based on either of those. I hate to pop the bubble of many of these author’s but if the outside is the best you can do when the inside screams edit me… you understand what I am getting at. Do not think that a reader will be satisfied without the inner content being the best part. A friend once said to me that society can dip a dog turd in gold and call it art, but that doesn’t make it desirable art. Some of my favorite five-star books don’t even have cover art associated with their Kindle They are rereleased classics that literally have a bland title and author name only front cover. Readers want quality writing, and once they find it, you can package it however you wish, and they will read it anyway. Set out to make your name the standard for excellent writing.
- Forgetting who you wrote the book for halfway through. I can not tell you how many books I got through the first half then suddenly they changed the style of writing and targeted age range. Whatever you start with remembering to keep it throughout the whole book. Same with series. If you start your book series for a specific age range, then follow that throughout. Changing it halfway through or jumping back and forth as you do each book is not going to bring you success.
- Misspelling or changing character names all throughout your book. Typos happen. I’ve suffered from my fair share of them too. I would say at least 200 of the books I tossed had this issue in them. The writer got caught up in writing what the characters said to each other (most of the time foul language) and forgot who was saying what or just randomly changed a character’s name. Listen you can drop the cuss words, and no one will care, trust me. Stop focusing on the use of inflammatory language and really look at the development of your characters. Make sure you keep their names and personalities true to your original story idea. If you get caught up in how many times you can drop the F-bomb in your writing, you’ll miss critical mistakes such as changing names and misspelling them too. As a writer, you need to focus on the essentials and remember that the reader needs to understand the what and why behind the dialogue not just be shocked by the content of it. Here is a good rule of thumb, if you can delete all the foul language and any unsavory written sense from a 50k novel and it leaves you with 10k of words that do not express any idea of what your plot is, then you need to trim the fat and focus on your plot more. Do not let colorful words or scenes take away from the actual story you are writing. Everything that you put into the manuscript needs to fill the purpose of making your readers understand what your characters are facing. The plot must be easily seen and followed. (There are exemptions to this rule, but I as a reader would love to see less of those.)
- Rushing your ending. I did this in my first book in the Louise Green series. I admit it was just one of my earlier manuscript mistakes. You should take time to really develop our story and then put it out there. I have learned from my past mistake and will be taking my time working to make sure my writing flows and ends at a good pace.
- Formatting your manuscripts for self-publishing. I did this poorly the first few books. I am still learning to do the set up of manuscripts for different types of books. Some of the mistakes I now see in my books really cause me to cringe. I do plan to go back and fix some of these issues. I suggest you grab a traditionally published book in your genre and take a look at the formatting inside of it. Look at typeface, headings, chapters, title page, copyright page, and so on. Really look at how it is presented. Not the actual story, but the layout of the book. This is one of the hardest parts of self-publishing because you are responsible for those essential elements as well as your story.
I think I will stop right there for today. You can see why I now have a new outlook on writing for 2018. My goal is to learn to craft better quality manuscripts and produce the best quality books I can. Sometimes it is hard to let go of our bad habits and really do the hard work of developing our writing style. One of my goals for this year is to take at least one educational course relevant to my writing career to help me grow as a writer. I would encourage you to do the same.
Your Small Town Writer,