It’s nice to have a sure fire formula for instant success.
Well, this isn’t it. nstead, I’m talking about a few things I learned from my first novel. Now it’s indie published on Amazon, and right now I’m doing another edit job on it. With luck, it will help someone new pick up on a few things not to do.
So, here we go:
- Don’t write War and Peace. In it’s first incarnation, The Lawman: The Cross and the Badge was a whopping 1241 pages. Not exactly one of those books you’re going to sit down and read and finish anytime soon. I pulled it, split it, and the last half of it will be the second (maybe third) in the series.
- Don’t let anyone rush you, especially you. Another reason I pulled it the first time around is typos. And there were plenty of them. Take the time to invest in something beyond Word Spellcheck. Currently I use two different programs to look over my stuff, Grammarly and ProWritingAid. And put it out there when you’re ready, not because you gave yourself a deadline.
- Use the Economy of Words. Why use three words to describe something when one will do. Building on that, read every sentence in your manuscript. And approach it with the idea of does this sentence add anything to the story? Could that sentence be better? Buy yourself red pens and highlighters. Lot’s of them. You’re going to need them.
- If using numbers, try to stay consistent across the board. What do I mean? This simple. In one chapter, I’m spelling out numbers, and in the other using the numbers themselves? For example, Will Diaz’s call sign is “Conejos 4.” But in another chapter I caught myself writing “Conejos Four.” There are no hard and fast rules concerning numbers, but choose one or the other and stick with it.
- Keep track of your characters. I was reading through the first incarnation of the book, and caught a female character who went through a name change. First name stayed the same, but her last name changed. No marriage was mentioned in the book, so it was a mistake on my part. I ended up finding a form, writing down everything about my characters in it (full name, sex, age, marital status, do they have kids and what are their names, education, and so on). Then I run a check on the first name in the manuscript and make sure weird stuff didn’t creep in that violates what’s been established. I created these sheets for every character mentioned, and put them in a binder I keep on my desk.
- The cover. In one of my blogs, I wrote the only reason I picked up Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Cave Girl was because of the cover. The cover is your single best marketing tool. So make it pop. I’m reworking mine.
- Speaking of marketing. Years ago, I took a course on starting a small business. It covered all aspects of running a business. One of the things covered was a Marketing Plan. Before you ever publish your novel, think Marketing Plan. Having an author website isn’t the be all, end all of your marketing. Unless you get really lucky and someone influential reads your book and says nice things about it (Think Ronald Reagan and The Hunt for Red October), the responsibility of selling your book is on your shoulders. This is one I’m still working on, adjusting, and so on. But getting out there is 90% of the game.
- Use Beta Readers. You can spell check till Doomsday but it’s your readers that will catch the mistakes. Invest in a couple of a author copies, and let a couple of trusted readers tear it apart. And give them a red pen or three.
- Connected to Lesson 8. WHATEVER YOUR BETA READERS SAY, DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL. When we finish something, we’ve put our heart and soul into it, and now we’ve got people stabbing us in the heart with red pens. Take whatever they say for what it’s meant, that something’s wrong and you need to fix it. Your Betas aren’t out to get you. They’re there to make you better.
I’ll be happy to pass on more as I learn them.
Till then, keep on writing.