Writing a book is a daunting task but the writing is only half the battle. Some seasoned writers would say, it isn’t even a quarter of the battle they faced to get their manuscripts published. Quite a bit of effort goes into editing it once the writing is done and I don’t mean just for spelling and grammatical errors either. A big publishing firm employs a whole department to edit books before they get published. That is a luxury that authors who self-publish can not afford. Self-publishing authors need to be aware of some of the traps that can trip them up if they don’t carefully edit their manuscripts.
Continuity and Consistency
One way that consistency is affected is a sudden change of premise. You must be careful that things like the character attributes, scenes and plot remain consistent throughout your book. Changing any of these things during your story creates a conflict that will cause your readers to question the plausibility and your entire story falls apart.
Another problem authors face is the unanswered question. While building a story arc, you’ll present the reader with questions. Will he find his way home? Will they get married? Will he finish his quest? Who is responsible? Will they survive? Not answering these proposed questions leaves the reader feeling unsatisfied. This is true of both fiction and nonfiction. The questions must be answered or left open in a way that the reader feels good about.
There are technical issues that can affect your continuity and consistency as well. Some things writers struggle with remembering to use consistently are:
- Digits versus spelled out numbers
- Regional spelling of words (British vs American English)
- Punctuation in bullets and tables
Write for Your Audience
You hear it all the time. “Write for your audience.” But what does that mean? Who is your audience and how do you find them?
The most important question when determining your audience is not who do you want to read your book, but whoever would want to read your book. “Everyone” is not an acceptable answer. No matter how amazing your revelation is, no matter how captivating your story is, not everyone is going to read your book. So, who is, realistically?
This doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think. If you are writing about your favorite hobby, chances are, people who like the same things you do, will want to read your book. If you’re writing a fairy tale, your audience is children, and the adults who read to them. If you stop to think about it, you probably already know who your target audience is.
Figure out who your audience is, before you even start writing. It might help to write to one person in particular and if you already have someone in mind, that’s great! Otherwise, you can create an ideal individual to write to, get chummy with the idea of him or her and get to writing.
Words to Kill
Words, words, words. There are just too many words! Wordiness becomes a concern when the sheer amount of words that you use detracts from the message you are trying to convey.
Unfortunately, redundancy abounds in our language. Use of these words add fluff and bulk, but no substance. Instead, they serve to distract and even bore the reader. Avoid redundancy where possible. Words to cut from your writing are:
- Absolutely [anything]
- Actual [anything]
- Added [anything]
- Ask a question
- Closer look
- End result
- False pretense
- Forever and ever
- Free gift
- Final outcome
- Invited guests
- Past [anything past tense]
- Plan ahead
- Still remains
- Written down
Most intensifiers contribute nothing to a sentence and are used only to create a sense of importance where there would otherwise be none. Instead of using an ordinary intensifier, like ‘“really” or “very” try try rewriting the sentence to be more exciting on it’s own merit. If you simply must use an intensifier. Find one that is unusual or gives a stronger picture.
Vague or Empty Expressions
Try to use precise language whenever possible; when it is not, get as close as you can. Vague language leaves the reader uncertain and without the ability to form a clear picture. Empty expressions create muddiness as well. Be clear, be concise.
- All things being equal
- As a matter of fact
- I believe
- I feel
Sure, once you write your book. You probably don’t want to look at it again, much less go over it with a fine tooth comb. Using this list of common mistakes in self-published books should help you to edit faster and even to write better. So you can enjoy that “freshly published” feeling, faster.
Piers Golden is a freelance blogger has been writing professionally since 2013.