Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Eleven ways to make your novel better.
1. Find and replace the word “even” with the word “odd.” If the sentence doesn’t work, delete it.
2. Quit using adverbs. They are evil, lazy, and destructive. They will destroy your creative work and cause you to rely on lazy writing techniques such as passive voice. They are evil because they should be considered evil and destroyed like ISIS.
3. Get rid of to-be verbs. Rewrite, restructure, and reinvent any sentence with the words: were, was, would, have, been, had, etc. If the sentence sounds lazy, rewrite it.
4. Please stop using passive voice. Take this: “They had decided long ago, almost as soon as we had left the cars and began this trudge up the mountain, that I was just slowing them down. They were right. If we did this hike at my preferred pace, the speed would be much slower than this kamakazi attack on the welch landscape.” Fifty-four words. I count five to-be verbs, incorrect punctuation that MS Word catches as an error, the word “right” being used instead of “correct,” extraneous verbosity… And do I see mixed present-past tense? Plus, you can tell the writer sees this sentence as a darling, and all darlings must be killed.
I’d rewrite this section as follows: “We left the cars and started up the mountain. If they let me set the pace, we’d proceed much slower than their attack on the steep welch landscape.” This is Twenty eight words that relay action and reads fast with the same point made. There is no prose, but the reader doesn’t expect to be reading a candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature. Give the reader a good read and he or she will buy your next book and recommend you to others.
5. Get rid of the word, “that.” Most of “that” can be deleted and not change the meaning of the sentence.
6. Kill your darlings. I know. I know. I’ve been there. We all have written beautiful prose. We’ve put them in places where they don’t fit, or yank the reader out of the story. Those are verboten. Kill your darlings!
7. Never use clichés. Those cute mousey phrases creep into any writers work as they pound the keys to get their story down. As you edit your own work recognize these rodents for what they are: vermin. Then exterminate them. Your readers will not know why your book is better than the average slush on the self-publishing book shelves, but you will.
8. Hire a competent editor. There’s millions of writers who need to make a living. Editing your self-published book is a good way for them to make five hundred bucks. Hire an editor who has proven credentials and pay them several times more than that. You get what you pay for. Or learn the hard way, write four or five novels, then hire and editor, and wish you had hired a good editor first.
9. Pick a theme for your story and stick to it.
10. Each chapter is a scene. Each scene must have a point. It must tell the reader something that drives the story forward.
11. Memorize the preceeding ten.
That's 11. Now edit, edit, and edit your novel. (That's 12.) And quit spending so much time promoting them on facebook. All you are doing in selling to other writers. (That one is 13.)