Writing Well, Or Seven Common Indie Author Mistakes

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Writing well is a challenge. Writing fiction even more so! Add to this the fact that you are writing in order to get paid, and it further complicates the scene. People want quality, and that means even if you are offering your badly written book with a great plot for only $1.99 (or less!) they will not buy it.

You will not make money. Your country’s economy will slow down, eventually resulting in a global recession, just because you did not fix a few silly mistakes in your book! Horrible!

Zen Scribe has agreed to share a few of his observations with us. He might be all calm and peaceful but he reads with the intensity of a ninja, adept in the way of the Hidden Easter Egg!

Mistake 1: Bad choice of Words

There are different kinds of bad choices. One mistake that nearly every writer, amateur or best-seller, makes is to lean too heavily on a few specific words. The humble ‘said’ often does overtime. He said, she said, we all said….

This leads us directly to another kind of bad word. Once you realized that you are leaning too much on a specific word, then you have to find a replacement. Here, the Internet is both a blessing and a curse.

It is littered with lists of alternative words. Butfor the sake of Zen Scribe’s peace and tranquillity, please choose your replacement words very carefully! Stephanie Meyer would not have made it if she chose Crepuscular for the title of her book!

Mistake 2: Too much Harmony

Zen Scribe, of all people, advocates some discord, strife and unhappiness in your novels. Although all of us can do with less of this in our lives, and especially in our relationships, a story needs some more of it!

Fairy tales end with And they lived happily ever after!We never get to read or hear that story because it is far too boring! If you think that I am wrong, have a look at the popular soaps. They go on for years and years and years precisely because there is no happily ever after. A tragedy is a great way to spice things up without your characters coming to blows.  Sadly this means that the beautiful young wife in your story should die, preferably in childbirth, with the little one following soon after. You will also have to decimate all pets and farm animals.

We do not read to walk along the path of harmony. We read, in part, to see how others overcome the obstacles in their lives so that we gain hope and courage in our own.

Mistake 3: Bad Descriptions

One of the bad analogies doing the rounds on the Internet is, “The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.”

Don’t worry, InstaScribers know that you will never fall that low, but bad analogies, metaphors and similes don’t make you smile!

In one of the Inspector Montalbano books by Andrea Camilleri, he writes something like: “The breast was painted by someone who understands the female body.” This is a great description because it leaves all the describing to the reader.

Mistake 4: Talking Nonsense

Dialogue can sink your ship, so to speak! Conversations require a lot of attention. Avoid long speeches that aim to advance the plot. Use dialogue to show your readers what the speaker’s character looks like.

A specific trait might have been attributed to a character. Something like funny, witty, caring, wise or the like. Dialogue is where you bring this to light. Think of real life.

You meet someone’s allegedly funny friend. You will only know whether this is true or not once they start speaking.

Take care that your characters do not all sound alike. Using “hip and happening” language of the day to avoid this would be a mistake. Words, especially slang, change so fast that your final work will become dated very quickly.

Just yesterday Peter was considered a happy and joyful boy, and today he is homosexual! (Hint: Gay.)

Mistake 5: Just doing it

Zen Scribe Reminder: Setting daily targets is a great tool to keep the book growing, but don’t go jogging when you have a cold!

We have all experienced writer’s block somewhere down the line. One great idea is to just write through it. Let the weight of the written words burst through the obstacle.

Sometimes, however, we write just to meet some pre-set per day word-count target. Our hearts and minds have lost the battle and have been evacuated from the battlefield. Be careful not to write when you are bored and/or distracted.

Your writing will reflect this! Unless you are aiming for a boring masterpiece with a distracted plot, this is not a good thing!

Mistake 6: Bad Grammar

Grammar is extremely important. Have a look at this sentence, and decide how it should be punctuated, “A woman without her man is nothing.”

If you are a man, you probably wrote, “A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

And all the ladies would probably write, “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

Mistake 7: Lack of Editing

All errors should be caught by a good editor. Yes, we know that self-publishing authors often do not have the means to employ a professional editor. However, the Internet has made it possible for you to employ a student completing a Ph.D in grammar on the other side of the world.

There are many great freelancers out there who will provide a first rate product at greatly discounted rates!

At least try to use the spell check feature!

Conclusion

None of these errors are really deal breakers on their own. With a bit of effort you can fix them or at least you can get someone to fix them for a very reasonable price. There is, however, one devastating  error that no editor in the world can fix

The error of not finishing your…

8 Comments

  1. Yes good points….but one thing that I have noticed myself as a writer (of fiction) is that I had some literary ideal in my mind of what I wanted to achieve in terms of quality of writing, but I discovered something very interesting after I joined a book club and started analysing books and discussing them with other like/unlike-minded people(I did it when I was at University too, but not recently….it was good to get back into analysing books when I started writing fiction). I discovered that in fact most books have flaws, some huge, some less huge, it just depends on who is analysing it and what they like. That there really are very few powerful books written these days.

    I was kind of disappointed with that new revelation as it indicated to me that after all these years this ideal I was reaching for was probably not possible.

    I haven’t written much since, ….hopefully I’ll get back into it.

    The other thing is (which is the extreme opposite to what I just said above!), is really too many writers don’t end up finishing their books because of the above problem, So I recommend to get that book as ‘finished as possible’ and try to get it out there onto the market and learn from the feedback, and get your head into your next one…..

    Great advice…I should take it!

    • I know the feeling 🙂 But dissatisfaction with what is there can also be the greatest motivator for producing something new and continuing to strive for the ideal. Ideal itself, fortunately or unfortunately, is not the same for everybody. So, we can only strive for our own ideal, while also producing something for the rest of the world on the side!

      – Jaya

  2. Hi

    It is true that there will always be errors, shortcomings, mistakes, flaws in any writing. But why make these mistakes if you can avoid them? That is what we are saying/asking here.

    We appreciate your approach of trying to ensure that a book is really finished before sending it out. This will definitely count in your favor come payday!

    And thanks for you comment!

  3. Good observation Zen. You made some valid points keeping Indian authors in mind. I think most of the things applicable to all authors across the globe and just differs as per the taste & the culture of a particular region. So the most important is to decide your readers. Regional level books are different from Global bestsellers. In fiction also there are readers who want to read “Happy endings”. When I wrote I just wanted to convey messages from the Masters and mostly written as it came in my mind. I was surprised to see that my book is doing really well in UK than in India. We can’t have a formula for a perfect book but yes we should try to improve the quality. Thanks for the insights Zen. God Bless…:-)

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