Thursday, October 8, 2009

Some Writing Tips

I've spent several days reading and writing reviews for books.

Unfortunately there are only a few gems among them. A couple good enough I was sad to see that the author had chosen to publish with iUniverse or Publish America. Don't get me wrong, I have friends who have been published by similar type publishers because they got tired of rejections.

Because so many books that are published by these type of publishers haven't been edited bookstores won't order them nor will libraries. Even if the book was edited, it is almost impossible for the author to be asked to participate in a panel at a writing conference.

I just finished reading two romances that fell into this category. The plots of the stories were okay, but it was obvious the author hadn't taken any writing classes or learned some of the basics. Nearly every sentence in the dialogue throughout the book ended with an exclamation point. As most of us know, most of the time, if we've written the dialogue well enough, the exclamation point is unnecessary.

The use of better dialogue tags also help. If the author can use an action for a dialogue tag it can eliminate a lot of the saids.

I don't know about you, but I'd like to know something about what the character looks like--but it doesn't need to be a laundry list. There many clever ways to let the reader in on the character's description.

Betty Webb gave all of us a great tip at the PSWA Writer's Conference, to get rid of as many of the word "was" as possible. Now I do a word search for was and try to change the sentence around, or write it a different way so it is no longer passive.

Probably most of us know to use the most descriptive verbs possible to describe the action, and to get rid of as many adverbs as possible. Unfortunately, in some of the books I've been reviewing it's obvious the author hasn't learned these things as yet.

Point-of-view and head-hopping is often a problem in books written by those who have not taken the time to learn how to write before writing their book. POV is probably one of the most difficult concept to learn. Sure you can have more than one POV, in my Rocky Bluff P.D. Crime novels, I tell the story from any POVs, but only one per scene. When I change POV, there is a space break.

My head hurts from reading these books that could have all been better by some judicious editing.

My writing critique group is my first editor for any book that I write. After they're done with it, I go over the book again. In some cases I hire an editor to go over it again to look for inconsistencies and other errors. Fortunately, both of my publishers have good editors for that final check. Even then, sometimes mistakes slip through, but it won't be any of the things I just mentioned.



Jackie Houchin said...

Very solid writing points, Marilyn. They seem basic, but as you said, many authors who are resorting to POD fail to consider them. Then again... Pamela Samuels-Young publishes POD and her books are excellent. I've finished a couple books for Mystery Scene magazine, and fortunately these are good. But occasionally even a traditionally published book could have benefitted by some earlier editing. (A review on Conway's "South of Broad" said it needed more editing! Oops, there's one of those unnecessary exclaimation points.) Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

My books are all published using the POD process, but they aren't self-published. Many publishers use POD nowadays, even New York publishers.

My books aren't perfect, I can assure you, but over half the books I read and reviewed had lots of writing problems.

E's said...

Great writing points. There are some basics a writer should learn. It shows lack of practice and editing out the gate in the first chapter if I read a ton of adverbs & exclamation points.

I don't mind the head hopping much, if it's done right (Elmore Leonard is a fav, and he does it a lot). If not right, it's confusing.

Different readers like different things (I don't mind "said" used exclusively or little to no description about looks) but there are some basic keys to follow.

Thanks for an awesome post, b/c a fairly new writer that helped a lot.