3-2: The countdown is almost over to the biggest blunder-to help you avoid it.
There are only two left, so I will leave the last two up for two weeks each.
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, but if you pay walnuts, almonds and… money, you get healthy professionals…
3 Not employing a professional proofer and editor. So you’ve poured over your final manuscript (hopefully), then poured some more, you are rightfully proud. I’m going to self-publish it, maybe even before trying traditional publishers. But stop right there my impatient Grasshopper, like I said last week a book is never finished, not to you the author, even if it is to the reader. But you have to let go, let it back into the wild. There is one more step, and one that can be quite time consuming: proofing and editing. If you are very lucky you may have a dedicated diligent friend or family member that will proof and/or edit your book, both are very time consuming, and an experienced editor will proof as an innate matter of course. But here’s the three major problems, firstly, if you are not paying them, or paying them very little, they do not have the compulsion a professional would have, and secondly, they are your ‘friend’ or family member, so they can brush you off easier, and lastly, they have busy lives, just like you do. If you are in this fortunate position, and even if they have loved doing it, try and give them some money, which more than likely they will refuse, so have the check already written out, get their bank details and put it in without telling them until after the transaction. If they still refuse to take the money, buy them something extravagant, something they would not normally buy, but will make their face light up, you know what they are, vouchers, champagne or a massage day with George Clooney−but wait until after the divorce.
Some people use beta-readers, these are enthusiasts that are keen to look over your work, and they should be actively encouraged, but remember they are not being paid and have little incentive to look for minute errors, for by doing so it slows the reading and hence the enjoyment of novel for them.
The chances are you will not know someone in the industry, but that will change the more books you write and the more you tell people about your passion. The reason you are paying a professional is you want your book the best it can be. A professional will spend more time and care on it, as they are doing it for a living, and in their line of work, it is all about referrals and testimonials. If you cannot find an editor, they are hard to come by, as the nature of the job requires experience, and lots of it, just use a proofer, but encourage them to pass comment on any aspect you are not 100% happy with. You do not want people mentioning errors in their reviews of your book, as it will only put other people off reading it (and buying it) and any subsequent books. This is number three folks, it is that important, I come across self-published books that are technically good, but with an editor or a more critical friend could have been elevated that bit higher.
Don’t be skinflint Ebenezer, some things are worth paying for, if you’ve got to the final bend and the winning line is in sight, splash the cash, you won’t regret it.
2 Repetition. The three most obvious mistakes the new fiction writer can make are repetition of words, phrases or information. The first are much harder to spot when typing at a computer compared to the printed page, the same words appear over and over again, but this is more prominent when those words are more unusual words, use a thesaurus and not just the one in the word processor you are using−everyone is using that, the second are phrases, an overused phrase, however clever, turns into a cliché, you might have come up with a killer simile, but even if you use it again much later in the book, the reader will more than likely notice, and third, information, an obvious one being repeating what happened in a scene or dialogue, unless your book is enormous the reader will remember, just make a brief mention to it, “So I ran over the event of the exploding slug again with Louis.” To a lesser extent names can become a little annoying if repeated in very close succession, you can find a character trait, job description or idiosyncrasy that goes with that character to avoid this. All these can be irritants to the reader and highlight your lack of inexperience. If you feel that you may be over using any of these aforementioned, shove it in your ‘find’ checker and if the page lights up like a hay-fever sufferer has sneezed radio-active custard all over it, you might want to make some changes.
But repetition is a useful device and used for emphasis. Poets use it; we have come across the man named after the Lake and a small pie−Rudyard Kipling, marching earlier. Words can be repeated for dramatic effect, many writers do it: ‘Love brought me here, love made me feel, love broke me.’ Whoever is saying this, if we haven’t already been told why love did that to them, we certainly want to know why−because love is the most important emotion in the world. The invisible thread that connects us, then…
Repetition may be pivotal to the story, how different characters interpret the same event from a differing perspective, like the eight characters in Chris Tsiolkas brilliant novel, The Slap, where the three year old Hugo is slapped across the face by an adult, the architectural device employed is repletion within a narrow focus and is compelling as well see the world from the conflicting personal, social and moral POVs.
If your novel has something that is demanding, but paramount to the story, it may need re-empathising, or at least building upon for more clarity. Look for where repetition is used well by authors, along with everything else.
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, but if you pay walnuts, almonds and… money, you get healthy professionals… then if you give them a bottle of champagne, they will forget how much you actually paid them, but remember how the bottle of champagne, and ultimately you, made them feel! – increase the love and pass it on. Some repetition is always good!
So next week it is number one time, “Have you guessed it yet?” I have no idea, but like the previous 49, I’ll make something up down the pub mid-week, it worked for Dylan Thomas, almost… Corrugating and scheming, his mind somersaults in anguish, that he, like the sea, should live this long.
I intend at some point when life doesn’t get in the way, to turn these ramblings into a short book: 50 mistakes of the fledgling Fiction writer.
Ian M Pindar’s latest books, under his real name are: ‘Hoofing It’ and ‘Hoofed,’ the first and second novels in The Robert Knight Series and are on special offer http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Ian+M+Pindar He has another three novels out this year.