Novel or Manifesto?

A few years ago, I was talking to a friend and a light bulb landed in my lap. Not a real one – that would have been weird – but an idea I couldn’t ignore. It was, a premise for the book I’m writing, whole as a nut. The idea didn’t magically appear. It came […]

via Crafting a light bulb: Are you writing a novel or a manifesto? — Muscat Tales


Tips on writing a battle

by Ian J Miller If you write historical novels, you may end up having to handle battles, and the question is, how to do it? The simplest way is to focus on one or more persons on the front line. You may be able to write some important character aspect of the protagonist, and […]

via Writing Authentic Battle Scenes — A Writer’s Path

3 Kinds of Feedback

I had my writer’s group last night and I’m still thinking over all the feedback I got. I love how a good critique can make you excited about your book all over again. Anyway, it’s my first time meeting with this group and I noticed something. I’ve decided there are three different types of feedback.

The first is the action-oriented. These folks notice what the character is doing all the time. How are they moving? Where are they in relation to stuff around them? Does your character suddenly have three hands – holding a knife in one hand, a gun in another, and a phone in the other other hand? They notice whether what you’re saying makes physical sense. This is really valuable, because some readers do this too – they put themselves in the book as they read. If your stuff doesn’t make physical sense, these readers will notice. I’m not great at this, so I really appreciate when someone else points this out. It can prevent some embarrassing moments!

The next is detail-oriented. These folks notice every word, every sentence, every punctuation mark. Do you have typos? Did you accidentally type a word twice? Did you use the wrong verb tense? This stuff can be fixed, of course, by a copy editor, but it’s nice to have a heads up before you get that far. (If you get that far.) These are the sort of mistakes that readers notice and wonder why you didn’t have an editor. I’m pretty good at this, but no one is perfect at spotting their own misteaks – err, mistakes.

The last is big-picture-oriented. This is where I generally fall. Do I like the main character? Is the setting well thought out? Am I emotionally invested in the story? This is what I notice as a reader, and it’s what I notice when I critique as well. If this doesn’t work, then I don’t care about how great the action is or if the copy editing is perfect. If I don’t care about the characters, if I can’t imagine the setting, if your plot doesn’t make sense, then I won’t enjoy it. Period.

If you are a writer and you don’t currently belong to a writer’s group, I really recommend that you look for one. Live and in person is best, but online works too. You need someone who tells you what works AND what doesn’t. If they’re just going to tell you everything is great, they aren’t really helping you. And if they tell you everything sucks, you’re just going to give up. Find someone who can give it to you straight but not make you want to hit the delete button.

Good luck, and happy writing!

10 Writing Mistakes That Really Bug Me!

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. Overusing characters’ names. Obviously you have to do it sometimes but there’s a balance. Too much and it becomes awkward and clunky.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Writing Advice #1

“If you’re struggling with writing a character, write 20 things that the reader will never know about your character. These will naturally bleed into your writing and provide a richness even though you don’t share the detail.”

–Barbara Poelle