Publishing Before You Push That Self Publish Button

Discussion in 'Articles' started by peachalulu, Jun 12, 2013.

By peachalulu on Jun 12, 2013 at 1:00 AM
  1. peachalulu

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada

    Publishing Before You Push That Self Publish Button

    Discussion in 'Articles' started by peachalulu, Jun 12, 2013.


    Ask yourself, is this really my best?

    Years ago when I was thirteen I decided to make donuts for the first time. I timed them, watched them float, golden to the surface of the oil, drained them and handed them out to my parents guests. But one bite and their eyes betrayed their embarrassment and disgust. The donuts looked good but they hadn’t fully cooked. In my excitement, I hadn’t tasted them. It was an embarrassing lesson to learn. Now, with the fast paced world of the internet, it’s easy to click a button, share your story with the world and get paid for it! All in the matter of minutes. And if that’s your choice kudos! Only be sure to send out your very best.

    I’ve been checking out reader’s reviews on Amazon and discovered most want to like a story. In fact that’s one of their favorite quotes "I really wanted to like this story!" It takes time to read a book and they want something enjoyable. They’re fair, and easier to please than you might think but watch out, because they have pet peeves.

    And there are some things you just don’t want to appear in your feedback -

    "There's no other, nicer way to say it. Just... BAD. Errors - typographical or grammatical or BOTH - litter the whole thing."

    "I felt as if I were reading a rough draft of something that could have been much better."

    "This story had some grammatical issues - I’m in eighth grade and even I can spot them."

    * Fluky Grammar.

    The occasional mistake is a bump in the road, and granted if the story is good, the reader is very forgiving. But when several readers make mention of it, they’re calling you on being sloppy.

    How to fix: Invest in a good writer’s reference guide. You need an expert in the mix and having rules clearly stated will help you brush up placements of your comma’s, modifiers, and the like. Print out your story and start marking.

    "She uses the same word over and over. It got so annoying."

    * Word Echos

    I was reading a free short and it was the kind of story that if posted in our workshop would have gotten raves. But I was completely distracted by the author’s overuse of one word. It showed up nine times over the course of one page. One paragraph featured the word in every single sentence. The author had a clever image but beat it to death.

    How to Fix: Circle all the word echos. Discover which sentence is your favorite. Keep it. Read the section over and over until you can see how you can fix it. You might have to rearrange several sentences, or come into the sentence at a different angle altering the subject. But if you have it appearing nine times in one page - half-it.

    "...but the descriptions are sub par and it's very difficult to stay involved with the story; as the mc just basically repeats the same things day in day out - page after painful page."

    * You’ve Said That Already

    Eagle-eyed readers are unforgiving. Tone up your middle by creating dynamic scenes that strengthen your plot and show off your character. Scenes need to be fresh and engaging for the reader. Here’s a tip from Groundhog’s day - it only works because Bill Murray does new things even though he’s stuck in the same day, it the same places. Don’t put your characters - therefore your readers - in a rut. Any scene, piece of dialogue that sounds like a rehash - scrap it!

    How to Fix: Read through your story several times. Every scene/idea/conversation that has been discussed already - circle it. Every visit to a mall or classroom or setting that is eerily similar to another scene - circle it. Be honest. This won’t work if you’re defending each scene. The idea is to decide whether the content - they’re discussing the werewolf ancestry for the billionth time - is the problem, or the setting - oh here we go again he’s back at the bar doing the same thing for the billionth time - is the problem. Once you can see where you’ve missed it you can work in a fresh action, or change up the dialogue. This may lead to a side plot and a major overhaul but go with it, it could be what your story needs.

    "The story jumps from action to action in a very wooden manner, without fully describing the characters or their emotions."

    "Lots of flashy ideas, but no substance."

    "It doesn't need just another rewrite or five, or an editor worth his or her pay, it's frankly beyond help - DOA, sad to say."

    " The story/writing was so stiff and felt very detached it was really hard to enjoy it."

    * Blase Faire

    This happens when a writer is disconnected with his story and characters. He’s going through the motions. Four things should ring alarm bells - deadpan sentences, a whole lot of telling, more interest in explaining things ( be they worlds, scientific do-dads or mundane actions ) than moving the story forward, and indifferent characters

    How to Fix: This is a content fix and it will be the most challenging. Read your story out loud. Ask yourself four questions: Have I painted a clear visual of the setting for the reader? Do I show not tell, the reader my characters emotions? Do I vary sentence length? Have I used the five senses? If you’ve answered no to all the above, don’t freak out. Take one part of your story and focus only on developing it into a complete scene. Run the gamut: Use the five senses, describe setting, and explore your character thoughts and emotions.

    "... it employs so many cliches, for example: "The spectators got more than they bargained for when coming to the museum that day. Instead of viewing artifacts of times come & gone, they witnessed history being made in front of them." Isn't an artifact usually from times 'come & gone'? A person being arrested is 'history being made'?" - a customer’s review with quotes from The Sword Maker’s Seal by Trevor Schmidt.

    "The story drags along with nothing happening. On top of that the author used every cliché imaginable..."


    * It’s tough to avoid them but there’s nothing worse than reading a story that relies on familiar phrases. Let’s not get into cliched character’s here, I’m talking about phrases that can make a story sloppy and unimaginative. The above example is classic. Imagine this -

    Lisa barged right in, "Are your bags all packed and ready to go?"

    "Look, I’m already madder than a wet hen, don’t get me started," Willa wailed.

    "Let’s not beat around the bush we all know why you left Mike; blood is thicker than water." Lisa put her hands on her hips, scolding her sister. "You need to buckle down and get your shit in order."

    64 words and not one original thought conveyed.

    How to Fix: Cliches mostly come to mind when you want to summerize. When you want to say something fast, you’ll describe your character as ‘climbing to the top of his game’, or when you’re at a loss for words and this sounds perfect - ‘he didn’t know what hit him’. Remember the occasional cliche is not the issue, it’s when you rely on them Go through your story every phrase that sounds familiar put a question mark over it. If the cliche does what it’s supposed to ( sped up a lot of back story ) leave it. If it’s stifling your writer’s voice, axe it. Remember cliches always started as an original thought. You want to be the much-quoted originator, not the follower.

    "Glaring mistakes - Syd leaves a backpack in the car but five minutes later is hitting someone with the same backpack...."

    ""His bright green eyes reminded me of clovers and flourishing springtime leaves. He wore a pair of dark blue jeans and a black hoodie. I guessed him to be tall, but I couldn't say for sure unless I got closer to him." Not only is this a very strange description of someone's eyes, but how in the world can this character perfectly describe his eye color to me but can't tell me if he was tall or not?!?! Am I the only one going crazy here?!" Customer quoting from The Fallen Star by Jessica Sorensen & Kristin Campbell

    * Whoops

    Plot holes, blunders, mistakes, inconsistences, they happen. Don’t sweat it, just read over your ms with the specific goal of a content search.

    How to Fix: Sometimes fresh eyes are needed to spot what you’ve missed or over looked. Ask a good friend to check over your ms, but specify that you want this to be a content read as your friend might feel over tasked pointing out everything from plot holes, inconsistences to grammatical errors. P.S. Always repay your good friend for his/her hard work with a small token of gratitude.

    "The author of this book doesn't know then from than, when to use I or me, or basic sentence structure."

    "But what got me, what REALLY got me was a sentence that read like this: "I had just went off on him."

    *Wrong Word /Missing Word

    I’m guilty of typing then for than, and oddly enough - if for of. The trouble with leaning on grammar programs is Mr. Fix-it won’t always offer up his helpful squiggles for sentences missing words or wrong words. You have to look for them yourself.

    How to Fix: Get out the mug of hot tea, coffee, glass of Coke - whatever your favorite drink is - and sit down for a what’s-wrong-with-this-picture hunt. Goal; circle all the missing or wrong words.

    "Someone somewhere along the line should have told the author about how to reorganize the material so that it had tension and suspense. It's not the what of the information, it's when you reveal it and how."

    "But as it stands, it is without tension and is boring. In fact, the middle of the novel sags for the same reason the middle of many saggy novels sags, and that is the author, because she doesn't take the time to plot properly, never raises the girls' stakes."

    * Saggy, Soggy middles and or Piddling Plots.

    I’m going to use a movie example to show the importance of your story middle. The movie is National Lampoon’s Vacation. Absurd right? Wrong. The trouble with certain writers is they are in a hurry to get to their shocking ending or brilliant showdown without realizing neither work without the proper build-up, without the proper middle. For the punchline, of affable Clark Griswold holding security guards at b.b gun point while his family enjoys the rides at the closed Wally World, to work the middle has to have the proper build up. Had John Hughes been in a hurry there would be no Cousin Eddie, no Aunt Edna, no dreamgirl in the Corvette. The goal is not the climax, it’s the result of the journey.

    How to Fix: Check your scenes make sure they have a point. A scene should develop character, plot or set the mood. New revelations, or slight reaffirming actions should happen in scenes showing a definite progress. Don’t waste time reiterating.

    "The lead character was poorly developed and half the time I was rooting for the "bad" guy to kill her."

    "I found this character made one wrong choice after another. I just couldn’t connect with her at all."

    "The main character is unlikable and boring."

    "It’s really, really awful but probably the biggest factor for making it so is the really, really bad characters."

    "The main character of this book, has to be one of the most unlikable characters. Ever. She’s absolutely shallow, immature, pathetic, and lacks what actually makes a character interesting - depth. I can’t feel sorry for her and most of the time I just want her to disappear. She’s just not ‘real’."

    "You cannot care about these characters because there are no layers to them. Everything is told to you through the main character, and frankly, she is a moron."

    "How can the heroine of the series not be heroic at all? This girl is a twit."

    * MC woes

    Wow. That’s a lot of woe. Actually, most of them can be boiled down to three pet peeves - weak, cliche or flat characters. Genre will also play a part in reader expectations but for the most part everyone is unanimous that readers like a pro-action character and if they’re unlikable you have to make them at least relatable.

    How to Fix: Check to make sure your characters have goals/desires outside of the big one. It could be something simple - her stomach is growling for a Big Mac or something more long term sliding into sub-plot - learning to macrame. Make sure your mc is dealing with something from the past - a memory, a loved one, a traumatic event. Everyone carries baggage, and adding some to your character will give her complexity and depth. Does your mc have an item of interest? If not add one. Make sure there is something special about your mc. Basic types cannot be changed but reactions to situations can drastically alter your character. If her reactions are too predictable tweak one and see where it takes you.

    "The formatting was terrible, and to be honest I couldn't even get through the first few pages."

    * Format

    Readers don’t want great walls of text, nor do they want an undulating margin as they scroll down the page. But for me the pet peeve has to be when the writer has ignored the basics and dropped speech tags to the following line.

    How to Fix: Patience. Spend a little time working on the format before you upload.

    "This author definitely wastes no time on buildup for that first kiss, they're making out on a pool table within pages of meeting."

    " I think the worst parts however were the insta-best friends and insta-love."

    "Very slow read, way to much detail and description of situations. Got about half way through and it didn't seem to be any closer to the story really starting."

    "The writing is fairly amateur detailing every mundane thing to a fault. "

    "Every bit of minutia fills every page! Just for her to leave the house to go on a trip took pages and pages! (she had to check her bags, think about what she might need on her trip, double check her bags again, discuss her packing skills with someone else, wonder what they were going to eat on the way, and on and on and on)"

    "Took way too long to get to the heart of the matter."

    * Pacing

    Pacing is one of the most difficult things to diagnose because it can’t be taught, it’s something you cultivate simply by reading and instinct. Don’t allow yourself to assume that trimming paragraphs keep dialogue will fix it, as some dialogues can be more dragging than a quick transitional paragraph. A sign of faulty pacing is when your plot is no where in sight.

    How to Fix: Trim, cut, flesh out. Read your story with the purpose of only examining pace. Clip rehashed bits, reiterated junk, senseless scenes, redundancies. Trim and tighten lengthy descriptions, explanations, overlong conversations. If conversations have no action between them flesh them out. If characters are moving to fast, take a summarized scene and flesh it out.

    Whew, you’re on your way! And hopefully avoided the embarrassing slams of -

    "This is the final draft?????" "THE WORSE BOOK I'VE READ IN ALL MY LIFE!!!!!!! What crap." "I want my 99 cents back." "I didn't pay for this book and still believe it cost too much." "Blech!"​


Discussion in 'Articles' started by peachalulu, Jun 12, 2013.

    1. SuperVenom
      Dang your fingers must ache, But sound advice :).

      I was told a long time ago by a proof reader for a design firm, that large bodies of text can flow and when reading your brain skips over parts. So when looking for spelling errors etc. she would advise me on reading backwards to disrupt the flow and make error seem more visible and slow down your reading rate.
    2. Artist369
      Excellent advice! Much thanks.
    3. GingerCoffee
      I must be weird. I love re-writing my chapters. They're so much better. Then I get tired and have to go back to work on the newest chapter. And after some time passes I go back and either love what I've written, or I'm ecstatic with the re-write.
    4. BeckyJean
      GingerCoffee - i do the exact same thing. There are time when i completely forgot that i had altered/changed/embellished a section that i THOUGHT i remembered... it makes reading my own work fun again. :)

      On this topic all together, though - i dislike repeat-words and am distracted by them when i read somebody's work that is littered with them. I have my husband read my stories - intentionally looking for them, and am mortified if i see any that got missed by him or me. They tend to jump out for some people (like Tom) - but if you're the writer, sometimes you're so lost in your own writer-voice; you forget you used the same word three paragraphs up. It's definitely one of my pet-peeves.
    5. GingerCoffee
      Three paragraphs up, it's fine to repeat a word. I only change them if they are in the same paragraph or I've used a phrase too many times. You can only have characters raise an eyebrow so many times before it becomes annoyingly noticeable.
    6. BeckyJean
      I dunno, GingerCoffee. If someone keeps saying "Oh my god!" (i read a published book last year that did this... the character said it CONSTANTLY about their predicament) - i'll get irritated. Also, if i've used the word "warm" to describe something warm, and then use it a few paragraphs later, i notice that it's already been used. I prefer for someone (me?) to find another word for 'warm'. I, like many, keep my thesaurus open at all times while writing. Sometimes it's not enough... i have to look in a different way. Everybody has different rules for their own writing, though. :)
    7. KristinJames
      I believe a word can be used twice a page, but not in consecutive pages or paragraphs... might just be me, though
    8. BeckyJean
      I understand what you're saying, but for me if someone used the word 'consequence' in one paragraph, and then used it again a few paragraphs later - or even on the following page - I take note of it and wonder why they didn't choose ramification or repercussion. I guess it's key words that bother me. Obviously many words will be used repeatedly. They're necessary to form a sentence. But descriptive words, or words meant to inspire a certain vision - I prefer less repeats. But then again; that's just me. My husband was trying to read a book a few years ago. The author kept reusing the same phrase to describe thick, sticky mud. He used "glue like mud" over and over - countless times... so much so that my husband put the book down and never finished it. We both get bugged by that stuff, I guess. ;)
      thelonelyauthorblog and jannert like this.
    9. KristinJames
      I agree with this! Using the exact phrase over again is boring, and a sign of a limited vocabulary. I meant words like 'smiled' or 'petite'. I remember when I wrote a book, I managed to cram the word 'smiled' into it about four times every page! So my general rule of thumb is twice a page for basic words, but always mix up descriptive phrases. Also, using antithesis. Many people set up the exact same ones all the time (saying the moon was bright against the dark sky, for example).
      BeckyJean likes this.
    10. Jordan J
      Jordan J
      It is so true! There really is nothing worse than reading a novel/story/or even a textbook full of grammatical errors and lazy editing. The last novel I read was full of spelling mistakes and it just comes across as unprofessional publishing. Fortunately, the publisher had a link on their website to submit errors for correcting.
      thelonelyauthorblog likes this.
    11. Lilith_Duat
      Damnit, this is the second time today child porn has been brought up in my internet hangouts! The first was a podcast talking about Internet Safety. It was a good, though depressing, listen. It was on Geek Juice Radio for the interested.
    12. AASmith
      Also, put your work down. Come back to it and read it out loud slowly. I also find that when i print stuff I find a lot more errors that when I simply look at my work on the computer.
      BeckyJean likes this.
    13. jannert
      Unfortunately, this can occur during edits. You're reading through and thinking ...hey, this sentence would sound better if I used 'this' word. And you change it. Not realising that the reason you didn't use it the first time is because you used it two paragraphs down. That's why editing carefully is so important.

      I just finished reading a series of otherwise well-written sci-fi novels, where the author's stock method of showing apprehension was for the character's stomach to 'tighten.' I don't know exactly how many times he used that phrase, but I'd say at least 20 times per book. His characters have the tightest stomachs in the Universe, no mistake.

      Of course we have a wonderful tool on wordprocessing programmes ...the find/search option. That will flag up any words you suspect you may have over-used. I had a beta reader discover that for some crazy reason I was over-using the word 'scrabbled' in my novel. Bless her little cotton socks for spotting that one. And she was right. Shoot. I used that word 8 times in the first four chapters. Yikes! It's easily done. But this is why a writer MUST edit carefully, over a long period, and not be rushing off to publish as soon as a first draft is done and skimmed once with the spell checker.
    14. BeckyJean
      I agree with all of that! I cringe when I post even a short story on this site and realize I had used a word repeatedly to describe an expression or emotion. I noticed recently that I had used "this much i know; this much i've learned" FOUR times in four different stories! ARG! I only discovered this because I chose to re-read all of the work I'd posted on this site, just to compare how I'd (hopefully) improved. Anyway... lesson learned, I guess.

      Like you, for my bigger projects and manuscripts, I edit often. I've also done for years what someone else suggested above; I print my work, and then I read it aloud. Sometimes I even record myself reading it. I'm no actress, but this helps me. It's amazing how many clumsy sentences and incomplete thoughts I find this way.
    15. jannert
      The reading out loud idea is great. At our 'real' writers' group (we're all novelists) we sometimes swap and read each other's stuff out. This means you can sit and listen to somebody else reading your stuff out loud. If you are ever going to cringe, that's the time! :)
    16. SuperVenom
      Lol i see the arguments now. ...thats not her voice do it properly....why did you give him an English accent lol
      jannert likes this.
    17. jannert
      No, it's more like watching everybody drop off the branch because the stuff is so boring....
      BeckyJean likes this.
    18. BeckyJean
      Ya know, on this same subject; I have always been a big Stephen King fan... well; of his earlier work. But when I bought his audio books... the ones where HE was doing the reading, I hated it. I always felt I knew what his writer's voice was. But it seems - to me, anyway - that if you're not an actor (and most writer's aren't) - it's difficult for even the WRITER to give proper inflections, speak with the right rhythm, or add proper nuances to their work - specifically with dialogue. I struggle with it when I read aloud/record myself. It's gut-wrenching, but I do it anyway - because only *I* am going to be the one listening to it. ;)
    19. Mick Taaliek
      Mick Taaliek
      Thanks for all the handy comments. They are all very useful and I very much enjoyed reading through them.
      thelonelyauthorblog likes this.
    20. youbana rajthala
      youbana rajthala
      I believe paragraph should be short and clear. I only change paragraph if they are in the same paragraph or I've used a phrase too many times. You can only have characters raise so many times before it becomes noticeable. Everybody has different rules for their own writing, though.
    21. CanadianVince
      Hey there Peachalulu, I really loved this article! It is what I was looking for; and I wasn't looking for it, but glad I found it.
      I'm new to writing, well new to trying to write professionally and also to try and write a good story with depth and substance, that is easier said than done!
      One book I have found that helps me is, "The Elements Of Style" I'm not sure if you know it, but it is direct, small and packed with knowledge. It has been a great aid.
      Anyways, I have booked marked this article and it has helped me to understand a lot. I like how you give multiple examples and solutions. It's great you are on this forum and I will be asking some questions from time to time.
      One thing I've found that I do is use the word "and" a lot, do you have any advise?
      peachalulu likes this.
    22. peachalulu
      For the word and? Check out an author you like or an author you admire in the genre you're writing and just start dissecting paragraphs to see how they manage sentence variety. And is a quick way of stretching a sentence which means you might be ( it's hard to tell without an example ) starting your sentences on too similar a note. He did this and that - sorta thing.

      Sentence variety could really help break that habit. Maybe try a few flash fiction pieces. You could even try writing long sentences or flash pieces without using and. I did this for a while to cut down on my was' I really wanted to see how was worked and why I was over using it.
      CanadianVince likes this.
    23. CanadianVince
      Thanks, you are right I should have gave you an example, but my question was answered!:)
      peachalulu likes this.
    24. peachalulu
      I think you can post a small paragraph and ask about was' in General Writing or Word Mechanics - if you want to hear from the others.
      There's a lot of great writers on here with a lot of great advice.
      CanadianVince likes this.

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