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43 Posts tagged with the writing_tips tag
1

Word count

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Nov 8, 2017

Years ago I struck up a conversation with a writer who proceeded to tell me about her book. As I am wont to do, I asked her the word count of her manuscript. She answered, "Penguin." I should mention that she was French, and there was clearly a language barrier. After a long awkward pause in the conversation, I asked the question again and got a less satisfying answer. She didn't know.

 

I tell you this story to point out that if you ever talk to me about your book, I am going to ask you the word count of your book. To me, word count matters. It tells me a lot about you as a writer and it also gives me a little insight into your book.

 

Knowing the word count of your book, tells me you've paid attention to the construction of your book. Depending on your answer, it tells me if you've abided by the unwritten rules of word count when it comes to genre. It tells me how engaged you are as a writer. 

 

There are a few times where word count isn't a huge deal. If you've written an illustrated children's book, word count doesn't matter. If you've written a book of poetry, word count isn't an issue. The same is true of graphic novels, and a select few other genres.

 

Know the word count of your book, especially if you're going to spend an evening with other authors. If someone with a publishing background asks you how long your book is, don't give them a page count or number of chapters. And whatever you do, don't answer penguin. 

 

-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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General Word Count Guidelines

Using Word Count to Stay on Track

778 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, genre, word_count, writing_tips, author_advice
2

Interested in writing young adult fiction? As someone who has taken a deep dive into the category as an author, here are my unofficial rules when it comes to writing young adult fiction.


1. Don't write for a young adult audience. Yes, you are writing a novel that is primarily for a young adult audience, but if you write with that in mind, you are going to overthink every word you write. If you ever ask yourself if "a young person would say that," you are asking the wrong question. You should only be concerned if your character would say that. Remember, the word "adult" appears in the name of the category. Putting too much emphasis on the "young" part of the name could lead to artificial writing.


2. Write what you would read. Or rather, write what the young adult you would have read. When you explore those topics and memories that appealed to yourself when you were younger, you are going to open a floodgate of nostalgia that will ignite a passion in you as you relive all the hopes and fantasies that gave you endless hours of daydreaming material.


3. Don't write down to your readers. Over using street language and slang leads to two things: Artificial writing and a short shelf life. Every generation develops its own way of communicating through acronyms and words that hold special meaning to that generation. When I was growing up, if something was great, it was totally boss. That phrase essentially means nothing today. Stick to standard English as much as possible. Don't exclude all slang. Just use it sparingly. 


-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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What is a young adult novel?

The "rules" of the young adult novel

1,038 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, book, writing, fiction, young_adult, writing_tips, fiction_writing
1

The publishing industry has developed word count standards for various genres. In the past, we've talked about those here on this blog. We may have even suggested using the word count totals as guidelines for your novel. My suggestion today will appear to go against that previous suggestion, but hear me out.

 

When writing your first draft, I would suggest that you not word count watch. Don't curb your creativity in an effort to meet a standard. The first draft is for letting go and letting the passages fly. Having a target word count can add undue stress and slow you down as you try to force creativity. On the first draft, set the target aside and just write.

 

Too many writers set up roadblocks to first drafts before they even start writing. As I've said many times, your first draft should be bad, so bad that you never want anyone to see it. Use your first draft to get the story from your head to the page. Once you've completed the first draft, the polishing begins.

 

Now, when you reach the rewrite stage, use the word count target as a guideline again. Cut or expand as necessary. That's what rewrites are for. The standards exist for a reason, and while ignoring them all together is your prerogative, adhering to them helps your book meet the expectations of your genre's reader base. A few thousand words above or below the standard are fine, but anything beyond that and you run the risk of chasing fans of your book's genre away.

 

To recap, standards such as word counts are good, but not when it comes to writing the first draft.

 

-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Word Count Paralysis

How to Get Through the First Draft

732 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writers, writing, drafts, craft, word_count, writing_tips, writing_help
3

The end

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Apr 24, 2017

     Endings are hard to write. In fact, for me, they are the biggest stalling point in finishing a book. Early on, it was particularly hard to craft the right ending. I struggled with it mightily. Here are three methods that I found to help solve my "ending" problem:

 

  1. Write the ending first: This is a bit of a cheat, but it's a brilliant cheat. If you write the ending first, you'll know how to tailor your beginning and middle to make the ending perfect. You don't even have to write the ending in the prose that matches your style. Just sketch it out and figure out the best way to get there.
  2. Write the ending second: This is something I've done more times than the other methods. I will write the first chapter or two, then I will set the material aside while I work on the ending. This helps me write an ending that fits the style and characters I've established. Again, no need to write a detailed ending. You can create a rough outline. I will say that using this method does allow me to confidently include dialogue because I have a better handle on character.
  3. Don't write an ending: Sounds crazy, but I have written a book that didn't really have an ending. Yes, the book ended, but it ended with a line of dialogue that suggested the story wasn't over, and it wasn't because I wrote a second book with the same characters continuing their journey. In fact, that's how the ending came to me. I got to the point in the story where the main conflict had ended, and I needed an ending. I had so much fun writing the book, I decided to essentially not end the book.

 

-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Don't force an ending

The three endings

5,098 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, writing_tips, writing_advice, writing_help, ending_a_book
0

Workshops

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Mar 22, 2017

I have been approached a few times about putting together a workshop based on the theme of a series of young adult novels I've written. I've resisted because I don't feel qualified. The topic is bullying, and while I wrote about it, I am certainly no expert. I wrote a fictional tale that incorporated the issue of bullying to advance a story.


It has occurred to me lately that I don't necessarily have to be an expert on bullying to organize a workshop or seminar on the topic. I could approach local experts on the topic and invite them to present important information about bullying. I would act simply as the facilitator. I would, of course, do my due diligence to make sure that the people I approached were credible and possessed the necessary credentials.


Why would I want to undertake such a task? Simple. It's a way to associate my brand with a topic that is crucial to the theme of my books. If that sounds crassly commercial, I suppose it is. But that's not necessarily bad in this case. I would be providing a valuable service to the community. That would be the primary focus of the workshop. The secondary benefit is the association with my brand and book.


Do you have a topical theme that drives the plot of your story? If you're not a qualified expert on the topic, you can still organize a workshop that addresses it. Do your homework and find the folks in your community that are experts, and you have the working parts to create a valuable workshop that can also help build your brand.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Invest in your writing

 

Sell yourself as an enthusiast

893 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: workshops, author_marketing, writing_tips, author_tips, writing_practice
0

I'm on the distribution lists of many indie authors who occasionally send out promotional emails about their books. Marketing is a lot of work, so I respect the efforts of these individuals to boost their sales. Unfortunately, however, many of the emails I receive are peppered with errors, and that doesn't instill much faith that the books being promoted are going to be good. The books might in fact be excellent, but if people don't want to read them because of errors in the marketing emails, that shows the power of a negative impression.

 

We all make mistakes, which is why it's important to proofread your messages several times before sending them out. My brain plays tricks on me when I write, especially after I've been cutting and pasting and moving things around. Sometimes I simply don't see mistakes because my brain sees what it thinks should be there. To help counter that, I have my mom read my newsletters before I send them out. If you don't have someone like that to help you, try reading your content out loud to catch errors.

 

If you were promoting yourself as a dentist or a mechanic, errors wouldn't be so detrimental. But, you're a writer, and you're promoting your writing! So think of your messages as a way to showcase your talent, to give the recipients a taste of what you can do. If your content is engaging, well written, and free of errors, it is more likely to encourage potential readers to pick up a copy of your book.

 

Note: I prefer to use a newsletter program instead of email. Mailchimp is free if you have fewer than 2,500 subscribers, and it's easy to use. If your distribution list is smaller still, bulk emails can also work fine. Just be sure to use the blind copy feature for the recipients.

 

-Maria

 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

 

 

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Watch for Errors in Marketing Materials

Book Marketing Is a Numbers Game

678 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: books, marketing, self-publishing, writing, promotions, writing_tips, grammar_advice
0

If there is one grammar term that I never understood until recently, it was "dangling participle." Now that I finally know what it means, I thought I'd explain it here.

 

A participle is a form of a verb. For example, writing and written are participles of the verb to write.

 

  • I am writing this blog post (present participle)
  • I have written this blog post (past participle)

 

A dangling participle is when a present participle, usually at the beginning of a sentence, doesn't modify the subject. As a result it sounds like the wrong person or thing is the subject.

 

Example #1

 

 

Writing this blog post, memories of high school English class came rushing back.


 

The dangling participle:

 

 

  • Writing this blog post

 

Why it's a problem:

 

 

  • Memories of high school English didn't write this blog post.


How to write the sentence correctly:

 

 

  • Writing this blog post, I was flooded by memories of high school English class.


Example #2

 

Climbing the ladder, the red ball on the roof was easy to spot.


 

    The dangling participle:

  • Climbing the ladder


Why it's a problem:

 

 

  • The red ball didn't climb the ladder

 

How to write the sentence correctly:

 

 

  • Climbing the ladder, Gloria found the red ball on the roof easy to spot.


Example #3

 

 

Reading over these examples, my blog poston dangling participles is easy to understand.


The dangling participle:

 

 

  • Reading over these examples

 

Why it's a problem:

 

 

  • My blog post isn't reading over these examples.

 

How to write the sentence correctly:

 

 

  • Reading over these examples, I think (hope!) my blog post on dangling participles is easy to understand.

 

I realize this is a tricky one, so if you're still confused, you're not alone. Just try at all times to avoid any ambiguity about who the subject is. That should lead you down the right path!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

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Solving the Mystery of Lie vs. Lay

 

Between You and ME

 

 

 

 

1,627 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, grammar, writing_tips, grammar_tip, grammar_advice, grammar_rules
0

Every author has a different way of getting to the finish line, but is there a best way? Expert Anne Janzer, who wrote a book called The Writer's Process, says the path to publication includes researching, thinking deeply, outlining/structuring, drafting, revising, and editing. I asked her for her top three process-related tips for aspiring authors, and here's what she came back with:


1.    Divide and conquer

Some phases of the process require focused attention, while others call on the associative, subconscious parts of your mind. Understand what you need and when you need it. You might love drafting while sitting in a coffee shop but need total isolation for revision. Knowing the phases of the process, you can match the work to your mood and environment.


2.    Schedule breaks to incubate the work

Focused attention can block creative inspiration. Add activities that do not require focus to your writing day. Many writers go outdoors, play piano, or do something physical as part of their schedules. This gives other parts of the brain a chance to contribute. You may be more productive when you next sit down to write.


3.    Trust the process

Process is invaluable when you're working on a book. During the long haul, you may doubt your ability to finish the project. But you only need to summon the courage to take the next step in the process. The path forward is clear, and you can keep going.


As for my own advice to aspiring authors, I love the way Anne states it on page 19 of her book: "If you are all inspiration and creativity with no discipline and focus, then your wonderful ideas never make their way from the brain to the world." In other words, just sit down and write. That's really all it comes down to.


Many thanks to Anne for her insight! You can find more tips from her at annejanzer.com.


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

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Writing Tip: Stay Committed to the Process

Writing Tip: Just Keep Going

3,224 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, writing_tips, the_writer's_process
0

Bad writing habits

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 6, 2016

Before you can address a problem, you must first recognize what the problem is. Take ownership of your bad writing habits. Face them, and overcome them. It's not easy to either identify them or conquer them, but with persistence, it is possible.

 

To set an example and kick things off, I'm going to list my bad writing habits and my best solution for each. Some of you, I'm sure, will relate to my list.

 

  1. Procrastination: It is the writing demon I struggle with the most. The focus it takes to write is exhausting, and sometimes the thought of diving deep into a story tires me out before I even sit down at the computer. I have found the best way to overcome procrastination is to split my writing day into fours. I commit to writing a modest number of words--500 or so--each session, and then I walk away feeling good about reaching my goals.
  2. Lazy writing: I know grammar, and I know how to spell. Most of the time I avoid major mistakes, but every once in a while, I'll get lazy and let typos and bad grammar slip through, and it is embarrassing. It was really a problem in the early part of my career. I've learned to read and re-read and re-read everything I write now before I commit it to submission. And when I read, I do so aloud
  3. Doubt: Whether it's questioning my skill or my choices, doubt always seems to creep into my writing time. It creates the hardest bad habit to overcome: over-thinking. It's not something you defeat right out of the gate. It takes time for a writer to gain confidence enough to trust his or her instincts. The trick is to keep writing and hone your skill.

 

Bad writing habits are pesky little buggers, but with self-awareness and determination, you can overcome them.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor

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Strategies to Beat Procrastination

Are Writing Rituals Good or Bad?

 

2,485 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, craft, writing_tips, authro_adivce
2

     It sounds like a stupid question. What purpose do writing rituals serve? Duh. They make you more productive, right? Yes, overall that’s the effect, but the question is why do writing rituals make you more productive? There are a few notable reasons for this;


  1. Comfort: Rituals provide a comfort zone of sorts for writers. They provide a space (both physical and mental) that puts an author at ease. When an author is more at ease, it’s just common sense that he or she will be more productive.
  2. Discipline: Rituals are disciplines in disguise. When you get up at 4:00 a.m. to write because that’s your ritual, you are a disciplined writer. When you write 500 words before you take a break, that’s discipline. When you meditate before you write, that’s discipline.
  3. Strategy: Rituals are building blocks to your overall goal. When you set a goal to write a 50,000 word manuscript in 30 days, you probably put a strategy in place to help you reach that goal. That strategy consists of rituals you will follow to hit the 50,000 word mark.
  4. Control: Rituals are your way of controlling the process. When you’re in control, you’re more confident, and you’re more productive.


Rituals make you more productive because they help you focus. They strip you of the stress of having to deal with the unfamiliar. They aren’t for everyone. Some authors use the unfamiliar to help get the creative juices flowing, but many authors like the structure that rituals provide them, and it makes them more productive.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor


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The Rituals of a Writer's Life

Are Writing Rituals Good or Bad?



1,322 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, help, writing, craft, writing_tips, author_tips, author_advice
2

     To some writers, procrastination is a dirty word. It's the bane of their existence. I don't mind it. I actually find it productive in a weird way, but for those of you who want to find a way to beat procrastination, here are three strategies to keep in mind:


  1. Disconnect: Let's face it, where there's Internet, there's a plethora of procrastination material. At times, the allure of surfing the web is just too powerful to resist. You need a strategy that removes you from the Internet's irresistible pull. I have a cheap computer that doesn't even have WiFi. It can be directly connected to the DSL line, but that's a task that involves some extra steps, and those steps keep me from jumping online. If you are so inclined, you could leave your devices at home and take off to a coffee shop with pen and paper and keep things analog.
  2. Reward: Give yourself a word count for the day. Break the word count into four sections. Reward yourself with your favorite activity after you complete each section. Write and reward is an excellent way to beat procrastination.
  3. Procrastinate: Putting actual words to the page is an important step in the writing process, but living your life is as important. Procrastinating is part of living. Ideas and solutions come to us creative types when our minds are busy doing other things. Give it other things to do. Procrastinate.

 

 

Distraction-free writing is a nice goal, but in today's world, it's not completely realistic. There's just a lot of cool stuff to see and do on a daily basis. If you can devise a way to keep procrastination at bay, great. But, getting off track and allowing yourself to needlessly waste time is not the end of world.

 


 

-Richard

 

 

 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

 

 

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Reward Yourself

 

Being Online = Not Writing

 

4,470 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, procrastination, writing_tips
2

The word of the day is "portable." It's a word you wouldn't think has much to do with the marketing world, but it's a concept that fits with the way people communicate today. Whether it's social media or texting, people are primarily using volleys of short messages to communicate. If you want your book to be part of that conversation you have to develop a marketing message that is portable enough to fit into this environment.


Today, more than ever, the one-sentence book description is essential to spreading the word about your book. Impossible, you say? There's just no way you can convey the complexity of your multi-layered story into one sentence, you insist? I'm here to tell you it can and must be done, and you do it by ignoring the complexity of your story. You want to concentrate on the main theme and the main theme only. Forget all the layers but one--the surface.


What is your story's hook? What was the "What if" question that compelled you to start writing? That is what you will build your portable marketing message around. The intricacies of character don't matter. A hint of a possible plot twist doesn't matter. There are only two things that you want to make clear in your one-sentence description: the main plot and the genre. Identifying the genre in such a small window may prove to be tricky, but it's just a matter of finding the right adjectives.


To be frank, making your marketing message portable enough to fit into today's world of texting, tweeting, and updating isn't easy, but it is well worth the time and the effort. Be concise. Be informative. Be portable.

 

 

 

-Richard

 

 

 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

 

 

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Grab Readers' Attention with Your Hook

 

I'm Sure Your Book Is Wonderful, But Don't Tell Me So

 

 

 

 

1,373 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, publishing, writing, media, promotions, social, hook, marketing_ideas, marketing_strategy, writing_tips, marketing_advice
2

I listened to an archived public radio interview with the late David Foster Wallace not long ago, and he made an interesting statement about his writing process. He said that he spent approximately an hour a day writing, then he spent the rest of the day worrying about not writing. Hearing a legendary talent make such a statement made me feel so much better about my own process. Every time I step away from the computer, I kick myself for not writing. I worry that I haven't written enough for the day.

 

Here's what I've come to believe: worrying about not writing is essentially writing. My mind's eye instinctively latches onto a point of the story I walked away from, and I, almost in a panic, focus on what's going to happen next. I replay it over and over again, adding details as I return to the starting point and play the scene out to its conclusion. I wouldn't do that if I wasn't worried about not writing.

 

So, this is strange to say, but I'm thankful for this almost obsessive inability to let go of the guilt of not writing enough. Without it, I might not be able to construct a story. I might not ever be able to develop my characters, or plot out conflicts and conclusions. If I didn't worry about not writing, I might never write.

 

So, to you, my fellow writers, I say embrace that worried feeling that you're not writing enough. It's all part of the writing process.

 

-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Life Outside of Writing

Is There Value in Formulaic Writing?

1,254 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self-publishing, writer, writing, craft, writing_tips, writing_advice
2

Read and Report

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Nov 4, 2015

I saw the following meme today, and it spoke to me: "Don't be afraid of artists who are better than you." I support the sentiment wholeheartedly, and I'm also puzzled that such a thing needs to be stated. The idea of comparing one's artistic talents with another's is foreign to me. It's a great big world, and there's room for all of us.

 

The meme actually ties in with the post I had planned to write today, so thanks be to serendipity. Instead of fearing other artists--authors in our case--whom you feel are better than you, be inspired by them. Be grateful for them. Envy is not a useful motivator; it's a step towards cynicism, which is not fertile ground for creativity.

 

Here's an assignment to help you gain perspective. Pick an author whom you feel has mastered his or her craft. Take your favorite book by that author and pick it apart. Examine every aspect of the story and analyze it. Set aside some time each week to report to your online community what you've discovered about this virtuoso. Encourage feedback. If you find weaknesses, point them out. No writer is perfect. Criticizing someone who inspires you is healthy. Personally, I love the imperfections as much as the perfections.

 

We aren't individual writers trying to make our way as authors. We are a community of artists supporting and learning from one another. Don't look at other writers as competitors; look at them as teachers. Take advantage of the lessons they offer.

 

-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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You Are an Artist

Four Steps to Become More Creative

1,271 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, author, revisions, feedback, creativity, criticism, writing_tips, author_tips
3

In one of my previous writing tips, I discussed how distracting (and annoying) overusing certain gestures can be for your readers. The same can be said for overusing uncommon adjectives.

 

I recently finished a book in which the main character was described as "astonished" so frequently that I finally stopped reading and (once again) did a search to see just how many times the word had been used. The tally? Fifteen. Now I realize that fifteen is hardly an exorbitant figure, but while "astonished" is a great adjective, it's also quite memorable, so by its third or fourth appearance it was hard not to notice it. For the record, I encounter this problem with my own writing all the time. When I find myself using an unusual word more than a few times, I use the "find" function in Word to make sure it's not getting out of hand.

 

Here's the deal: You want your readers to be fixated on your story, not on how many times you've used a specific word. Unfortunately, in this particular instance I became fixated on the latter. That may just be my obsessive personality, of course, but right or wrong, the end result was that I didn't enjoy the story as much as I could have. Each time I encountered another "Ben was astonished," the pleasurable experience of being immersed in a novel was interrupted.

 

The novel in question was published independently, so I';m not sure if the author had a professional copyeditor review the manuscript. But if you're going the indie route, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have objective eyes review your work before you click "publish." If you can't afford to hire a professional, bribe your English-major pals to help. A red pen in the early stages is your friend!

 

-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

 

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Two Mistakes Indie Authors Should Avoid

A Wonderful Example of How to Handle Constructive Criticism and Feedback

1,477 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, author, self-publishing, writing, grammar, writing_tips, grammar_tip, advice_for_writers, adjectives
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