Most writers understand the complexities of writing a novel. Even those who find success admit that they never stop learning and growing in their craft. I used to believe that one day I’d have it all figured out, but I’ve reached a dramatic conclusion: There’s no such thing. Why? Well…I’m convinced that there’s a huge gap between the creative and the editorial mind-set. Here’s what I mean.
Creativity might get you through an agent’s or publisher’s door, but there’s no guarantee for success WITHOUT an editorial mind-set. Sure. Some writers just have a knack for editorial issues in a manuscript, but I think that’s rare. For example, I’ve been teaching for 24 years and have Grammar Nazi tendencies down pat, but those mechanical errors aren’t necessarily the make or break element for success. It’s those BIG PICTURE elements a fresh set of eyes catch that often transform mediocre into good and one day good into GREAT. Therefore, I have some suggestions I’ve picked up from my editor and other sources I’d like to share.
- Check your dialogue. It’s insane how many times I’ve found people talking in my novels just to talk with NO plot advancement or character revelations.
- Check your dialogue tags. Are your substitutes for the word “said” appropriate for what’s being communicated? Ex. “I’m lost,” she proclaimed. Why would she proclaim this? What’s so critical about being lost that she has to announce it?
- Overuse of metaphors/similes. Some writers are brilliant, comparing things in such unique ways. But don’t overburden the reader every page just to prove how clever you are.
- We ARE visual people. However, our worlds consist of ALL our senses. Therefore, exposing the reader to 360 degree sensory details cannot be overlooked. For example, how many times has a smell brought back a memory? A taste? I remember coming home from school and smelling my mother’s home baked bread. And Sunday afternoons when she’d cook dinner for the family always made me feel like the most loved child of all. (She loved us all, but I was spoiled.)
- Finally, I’ve read many novels where the writer failed to ground the reader in the setting, both place and time. Readers want to know when and where things are happening. If there’s a huge gap of time between chapters, the writer is making it difficult for the reader to accept the false reality. You know what I’m talking about. Those times when you stop and say, “Wait a minute. How did the protagonist get from point A to point B so quickly? I never saw him leave.”
- I hope these simple suggestions give you something to consider BEFORE hitting send. I will add a few more in the days ahead. May 2018 be your year!