“…Brevity is the soul of wit…”–William Shakespeare
Indeed. It’s also the soul of good writing.
I own to failure in this respect; my plots meet my standards, my writing does not. Simply put, my prose is ‘fat’. It contains too many words, too much repetition, redundant words, phrases, even sentences. We owe it to our readers to do better.
I’m sure you writers have heard similar advice. If you haven’t, you haven’t studied the art and craft of writing nearly as much as you should, but at least I’m willing to share what I’ve learned. I’m going to give concrete examples.
I just finished editing The Trek for Audiobook production (it will be available in about a month). Taking a break, I began reading a series by Evan Currie (recommended; he’s good!) and noticed many of my mistakes in his books. They’re probably in yours too.
Names: don’t repeat too often. Often, ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘they’ will work just as well and improve flow.
‘That’ is used FAR too often. You can often remove it without changing the sentence’s meaning in the slightest. Try it; read a sentence, read it again without ‘that’ and see for yourself.
‘to ….’; you can usually replace this with a better choice. Rearrange the sentence, use an active verb.
‘of them’ or ‘of us’. Redundant, usually.
‘all’; redundant. Try eliminating it.
So there you have my observations, taken from my own writing. Look critically at yours; you may find the same mistakes or mistakes unique to you.
Grammar is the writer’s toolbox, and among Indie writers too many of us have allowed our tools to rust or become dull.
I’m sharpening mine; how about you?
If you’re a reader of my blog, you’ll recall that my advice to authors and would-be authors is to sit down at the keyboard and write. Write every day. If you’re not writing, work on the plot. If you ever intend to write as a professional, you can’t wait for the ‘muse’ to strike.
I take my own advice. We’re approaching the end of July, and I published my 11th novel, NEO: Near Earth Objects, yesterday (on Amazon).
So what does this have to do with ‘write every day’? It’s the third novel this year. I published The Ship last December. Since then, I’ve published the second book of the series, NFI: New Frontiers, Inc in March, The Return, the fourth book in the Darwin’s World series in mid-May, and NEO yesterday. I’ve got four months to go…and I’ve already got two new projects waiting on my desktop.
Take a look at NEO; I think it’s my best book ever. It’s $3.99 to buy, free to borrow if you have a Kindle Unlimited account. I hope you like it. https://www.amazon.com/NEO-Earth-Objects-Three-Frontiers-ebook/dp/B01J8HUWKS/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1469794091&sr=8-4&keywords=Jack+L+Knapp
I subscribe to a blog called Mad Genius Club. Most of the time I find suggestions I can use, because it’s written by professional writers/authors. I suspect others enjoy it because they also write, or intend to someday. This morning, the post was there but the author explained why, and ended with “The floor is yours.”
Where a bunch of writers could see it? BIG mistake! 😀
So I wrote the following:
Ooooh! The floor is mine? Let the rebellion begin here!
I got an email from a writer this morning. He got through the slush pile but never managed to get his book published, so he left Baen (I’m taking him at his word). Now he’s getting ready to publish independently, and he’s too hesitant. Several editors. Beta readers. But importantly, not published.
So what would happen to me if I tried, say, Baen? Or worse, one of Hachette’s companies?
Slush pile, for four months. Discussions. Get an agent, son. You have to have an agent. More time gone.
The agent will then make a deal. He won’t tell the publishing company, “No. That’s not good enough. I’ll take the book somewhere else.” He won’t get paid if he does that, so he’ll accept an offer on my behalf. I’ll sign, and then the publishing company will own my blood, sweat, tears, and probably snot.
For, shall we say, not a fortune? No indeed. “Son, you’re a new writer. We’re taking a chance on you, you know. We could lose money!”
The important thing is that I would almost be guaranteed to lose money.
There are a few errors in the publisher’s assumption. I’m NOT a new writer. There’s no need for me to send my manuscript to the slush pile. No need for an agent. No need to smile and bob my head, “Yes, massa.”
Because I do it all myself. I write. I proofread, do the final editing too. I format. I assemble the document, prepare it by adding front material and end material. I write the blurb. I buy a cover from a professional. I publish it on Amazon, choose the 70% option (the other is for suckers; I was, for a while), price my book where I think it will sell, choose Select, and let that book fly. I wait until I have reviews, then advertise via ENT or BookSends. I’ve tried others, they aren’t reliable; FWIW, BookBub hasn’t seen fit to take my money.
Having done those things, repeatedly, I’ve reached ‘midlister’ status. Or I think I have. I don’t depend on income from writing, but if I had to I could live very comfortably on what I’m earning now.
It took me two years to reach this status.
Had I chosen to go traditional, I might have one, maybe two books in print by now. And how much money would I have earned from a publisher?
Less than I’ve made this year alone. Actual figures (horrors!): Amazon currently owes me about $17k dollars, and May isn’t over yet. That’s the sum total of what they’ll pay me at the end of May, end of June, and less than they’ll pay at the end of July because my books will continue to sell through May.
I doubt I’ll ever be nominated for a Hugo. Tsk.
I’ve been neglecting this blog lately. I have an excuse, I suppose; I really am a full-time professional writer, which takes up most of my time. I also coach new writers, a freebie pay-it-forward exercise. When I have some free time, I play music.
To update: since the Ship (published December 2015), I’ve published the second book in that series, NFI: New Frontiers, Inc (March 2016) and The Return (May 15th, 2016). That qualifies as full-time in anyone’s book! Plus all those Facebook posts…
That ‘controversial book’, the Ship, sold well enough to take on a life of its own. The sales continue, although not at the same pace as last month. But it was enough for me to put aside my other book, half finished at that point, and finish writing the sequel to The Ship. This one is called NFI: New Frontiers, Inc. The main characters are still there, most of them, but the company itself plays a large part in the story.
What happens when a company becomes so successful that even nations perceive it to be a threat? When massive transfers of wealth upset the status quo?
That’s the backdrop for the story. Meanwhile, the characters behave like people as best I could write them, they have human emotions, human failings, good guys aren’t exclusively good, bad guys aren’t always bad, triumph and tragedy happen in no discernible order, much as happens in real life. And since the book is ‘hard science’ fiction, there will be a lot of science (most of it as real as I could make it) and engineering. http://www.amazon.com/NFI-New-Frontiers-Incorporated-Book-ebook/dp/B01CTLTSMS
I wrote a controversial book. I didn’t intend it that way, but that’s what happened.
I made a number of choices when writing the book. I chose to include science and engineering, as well as references to math. But no equations, just discussions. The book isn’t space opera, it was never intended to be.
I also chose to omit descriptions of several scenes. There’s a rape, there’s sex, there’s a sudden disruption in a relationship. None of these are explicitly described; the reader must supply details from his/her imagination.
I also used considerable dialogue. Some felt that slowed down the action.
As a result, reviews are all over the place. One felt I left out a chapter and told me to go back and put it in. I didn’t; that was the way I wrote the book, some things inferred, not explicit. I tried to make it like real life. Real people aren’t omniscient, and often violence happens in boardrooms. Homes are foreclosed on, workers are laid off, healthcare denied, things like that. Disaster happens, and finding out who to blame is often impossible.
After some twenty reviews, all of them honest, those who like more science and less action love the book. Those who want more action, less science, are ambivalent at best. One said the book didn’t hold his interest, so he quit. And gave it a one star rating, despite not having read the book. Go figure. I’ve abandoned hundreds of books, including the Harry Potter series and the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series. Both were bestsellers, but I didn’t care for them. I didn’t feel it necessary to give them a bad review, however.
To each his own. If you like Science with your Science Fiction, you might like The Ship. If you want blood and mayhem, you’d be better off with The Trek.