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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Monday, 15 February 2010
Getting a book published gets harder and harder. What can you do to shorten the odds? The answer is simple, the execution is probably less so. To give your novel a fighting chance then you must make it as near perfect as you can before even thinking of submitting. READ IT. This can be hard for by now you are, no doubt, sick to death with it and you are convinced that it is total rubbish. (I hope you feel this way for anyone who thinks their work is brilliant is, invariably, in for a nasty shock.) “Why do I have to read it again?” To find out where the errors lie. This reading is not the way you would read a book by a favourite author. You are looking at it for errors. Repetition, flat writing, plot inconsistencies, sub—plots which have led nowhere, chronological errors. Characters left in limbo. Switches of viewpoint. Areas of telling and not showing – it’s quite a list. Do tackle it with pen and paper to hand – don’t for one moment think you will remember where the problems are for the simple reason you won’t. There are many things to check which can easily slip through:e.g. You have flowers blooming- then check that this is the right time for the. You have wildflowers, then check if they are indigenous to where you have put them. It is winter but you’ve got your heroine driving along at six in the evening admiring the sun set. If you have described a character do make sure that they have the right colour of hair and eyes throughout. If you’ve changed a character’s name have any of the old name slipped through. All the above are examples from work that has been sent me to look at, so it does happen! Crutch words. Most writers have crutch words and the odd thing is they are frequently unremarkable and so they slip, unnoticed, into our writing, but readers notice them and get irritated by them. Mine are awe, deplorable, gentle. So I do a Find & Replace. Bored? Reading your opus you find you’re skipping and you admit you are bored. The danger is to blame over-familiarity whereas it might be more serious and the writing has gone flat. My advise is to read such sections aloud, it is easier to diagnose the problem if you do. Is it too wordy, have you lost the rhythm, is it repetitive? Try cutting, if that doesn’t work then a rewrite of the section is the best thing to do. Is this necessary? When writing the first draft I’ve trained myself to keep asking is this chapter, scene, paragraph, sentence, word necessary? Is it helping me tell my story? Does it move the story along? This is the time, in this final polishing, to do this again. Be ruthless, cut that which is not helping, you’ll be surprised how much you can jettison and how much better your novel is.

4 comments:

  1. Brilliant words of not just advice but action!

    lx

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  2. That's excellent advice. It's something to have by your side whenever you revise or edit your work. Many thanks for that.

    Liz X

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  3. Excellent advice as ever. I do a find and replace on 'just' and 'all.' It's surprising how often these crop up when they're quite unnecessary.

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  4. Ah, those repetitive words...

    I use THAT about 20 times more than I need.

    I also use JUST over and over again

    Useful post again!

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