I’ve been reading more indie fiction, and one thing about indie books, they don’t always have great editing. I get it; editors cost money. If you’ve signed with a publishing firm, they pay for all that. But if you’re self-published, you have to pay for it for yourself.
I’m sure it’s hard to come up with the money for that before anyone has even bought a single copy of your book. But it’s money well spent. Having a good editor can be the difference between a book that makes me want finish so I can recommend it to all my friends and one that I am happy to put off reading for something better.
In the spirit of helping, here are 10 writing mistakes that I have noticed that really mark your work as something that could have used an editor.
- Typos. These are so obvious, but they are so very annoying. It’s one thing on the internet, but when you’ve released a book? They make it look like a junior high project.
- Spelling mistakes. This goes along with the first one, but it has to be said again. This time I’m including the mistakes that spell check doesn’t pick up, but are still wrong.
- Forgetting a character’s name. Hello! Make a cheat sheet or something. But calling a character by one name in one page and something else on another page? That’s sloppy.
- You’re/your, it’s/its. Contractions are for when you leave a letter out. If you’re (hint) not sure, look it up. Or get that editor to do it for you!
- Too many dialogue tags. Oh, and using something besides “said” when you do use one. Occasionally replied, or asked, or complained, is acceptable, but mostly use said. And mostly leave it off. We don’t need it.
- Overusing characters’ names. Obviously you have to do it sometimes but there’s a balance. Too much and it becomes awkward and clunky.
- Either too much action or too much dialogue or too much interior monologue. The best books have a mix of all three. Readers want action, but they need a slow space to catch their breath, to think and figure stuff out, to bond with the characters, and to figure out what the characters are thinking. But too much of any one of these three elements and the book doesn’t work.
- No subplots. That’s a real difference I see between beginning writers (like me, I admit it) and more polished writers. Beginners are focused on just one plot. But that can make a book too predictable. The best writers create depth by adding subplots and characters with back stories that engage the reader.
- Black and white writing. Characters that are all good or all bad. People in real life are very seldom like that, so reading about people like that is just boring. Give your characters reasons to behave they way they do and people will love them more.
- Not listening to your editor. Once you have paid your editor, or begged your friends or writing group, to read and reread your work, take their advice. I’m not saying everything they say has to be adhered to, but if you ask someone for help, take the help they offer. Make the changes. Even if it means starting over. Your work will be stronger in the end.