Saturday, December 29, 2012

Writing Tips from Author Zane

1. Do a search for the word JUST. In 98% of the instances, the word should be deleted altogether. In another 1%, another word would be a better fit, such as MERELY, ONLY, SIMPLY, etc. In the last 1%, the word JUST actually makes sense. I have seen the word JUST in some books up to a dozen times on a single page and that is ridiculous.

2. When you use the terms Mom and Dad in dialogue, or if a character is referencing their mother or father, please capitalize them. I realize that sounds elementary but it took me 30 minutes to correct that problem alone.

3. The word BECAUSE is overused in most books. Most of the time the two thoughts need to be in two separate sentences.

4. I THINK, I KNOW, and I KNOW are overused as well. It is common sense that the person thinks or knows something and it makes the writing seem convoluted with unnecessary words.

5. Please make sure that within your dialogue, there is a comma between a statement and a character's name. For example: "I don't care what you say, Darlene." You would be surprised how many seasoned writers still do not know that.

6. Also, please do not write: "You are crazy," she laughed. A character cannot laugh out words, giggle out words, smirk out words, or chuckle out words. It should be two separate things. "You are crazy." She laughed.

7. Speaking of laughing, please do not fill up an entire page with back and forth dialogue that ends with HE LAUGHED, I LAUGHED, HE LAUGHED AGAIN, and I LAUGHED SOME MORE. Once you establish the tone of the conversation, being repetitive only irritates the reader.

8. If you are going to use a proper name, the name of a store, the name of a historical figure, the name of a song or album, or the name of liquor, PLEASE take two seconds out to Google it and make sure that you are spelling it correctly. I am amazed at how many writers will toss things in a book and not even confirm the spelling.

9. The word SAID is used way too much with the back and forth of I SAID, HE SAID, SHE SAID, etc. Instead of using that, include some descriptive movement. Even if you use descriptive movement, delete the SAID. For example, instead of "You never understand me," she said, sitting down on the sofa, you can write "You never understand me." She sat down on the sofa.

10. Make sure that increase your vocabulary instead of using the same catch phrases over and over again. In Word, you can easily highlight a word and click on synonyms to find an alternate suggestion.

11. Do not have all of your characters sound exactly alike. Pretend like you are in a room with several people and realize that they would not all be sitting there sounding exactly alike.

12. One of the most time-consuming issues is the misuse of tenses by a writer. I have seen writers go from past tense to present tense in the same sentence. Pick a tense that you are comfortable writing and stick to it.

13. When a character references a particular event or conversation, make sure that they would be privy to knowing the information. For example, Tom cannot describe what his wife and mother were discussing in the kitchen while he was outside taking out the trash.

14. Keep a separate character file, if you need to, that references all of the personal information or traits of each character. Make sure that they drive the same car in Chapter 5 that they were driving in Chapter 2 and that they have the same color eyes and hair throughout the book.

15. Make sure that the spelling of character names remains consistent. I have seen one character with his name spelled four different ways in the same manuscript.

16. Most importantly, take pride in your work and read it over, word for word (out loud if it helps) before you send it to an editor, an agent, a publisher, or heaven forbid, self-publish it.

I hope that this helps. The amount of time spent by editors cleaning up these BASIC mistakes is unbelievable. As the industry continues to change, both publishers and readers will become more selective on what they select to spend their time on. Why should someone dedicate their time to read or to fix a book if the writer did not care enough about their own work to spend extra time on it to make sure it was right? Do not place yourself out of the game before you even get started.
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