“…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’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…
I published my latest book, The Ship, in December. It started slow, but soon it was on a wild ride that’s only slowed down this week. It was my first attempt at a long hard-science novel, and I’m sure I made mistakes.
As a result, ratings have ranged from five star to one star, two of them. Most have been four star, but it only takes a couple of bad ratings to hut a book’s average.I take bad reviews seriously; as a result, I’ve gone back to see whether I had indeed been too wordy, employed too much dialogue, used too many details.
I’ve gone back to review the chapters of my new book, NFI: New Frontiers, Inc very carefully.
Not everyone feels that the one star reviews (the only two I’ve ever gotten, BTW) were justified. A gentleman made his opinion known, and I’m grateful. I won’t repeat it here, but you can find it if you look at The Ship’s ratings. I’m glad to see someone defending my book, but the greatest defense is that last month, readers read more than 776,000 borrowed pages.
I learn from bad reviews, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy getting them. Nor does any other author.
An update: I sent off Chapter 9 of The Ship this morning, which means I’m about a third of the way through the book.
There are holdups, however, which have nothing to do with writing. First there was the Anniversary, which went off very well. Since then, it’s been one medical/dental procedure after another, some for me, some for my son John. He needed transportation there and back after wisdom teeth extraction, so I was happy to help out. I’m getting my own teeth worked over, including ‘preventive’ fillings. One yesterday, and three next week. Sigh. Then there are the pre-surgery exams, etc. I’m working part-time at best.
Sales and borrows are going well; this will be my best month ever, and it’s not over yet.
For you budding authors: Amazon’s new borrowing system promises to be very nice for me. As you know, I write mostly novels, and Amazon says they’ll begin paying by the page read instead of a flat rate for each borrow. We’ll see how that works in practice, but it should pay those of us who write longer works more while paying the short-story and novella writers less. Personally, I’m happy to see the change.
I’ve been very busy recently; it’s why I haven’t had time to write on this blog.
Books, to me, have an early section, a middle section, and a concluding section. Others describe this differently, as character arc and so forth, but to me, I introduce characters, concepts, and challenges in the first part. The second part develops those, especially the challenge that the main character faces. If there are several characters involved, I’ll also expand the roles they play. This sets the book up for the conclusion.
A kind of madness takes over when I reach that mid-part. I feel driven, anxious, if I’m not able to write. It’s not unusual to write a chapter each day while I’m developing that section.
I reach the ‘conclusion’, which usually involves an additional ten chapters and 20 000 words or more. I know I’m into that part of the book when I pass the 50 000 word count. The manuscript has officially reached ‘novel length’ when it passes 50k words.
Veil of Time is now at 52 000 plus words, things are moving rapidly, a certain amount of foreshadowing has been done. Readers can now begin attempting to anticipate the endings. This is where you, the reader, will be tempted to thumb through the remainder of the book to see if you have indeed guessed how it will end.
I’ve done it myself, more than once. Yes, I confess; I often turn to the end of the book when I think I’ve figured it out! But as an author, it’s time for me to hide that ending in the Big Twist. The last major changes don’t happen by accident, you know; we authors enjoy playing with our readers’ imaginations!
Veil of Time is now in the ‘Little Switch’ portion, and after that it will be time to carry through the Big Switch to the conclusion. I anticipate publishing the novel on Amazon in May. I haven’t yet decided whether to offer Advance Reader Copies or Pre-Orders, and option Amazon allows.
Meantime, Veil is the fourth novel in the Wizards Series; the other books are Combat Wizard, Wizard at Work, and Talent. If you haven’t read them yet, you can find them by following the link below. They’re free if you have a Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime account. http://www.amazon.com/Jack-L-Knapp/e/B00K35MWNA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1429376991&sr=1-1
It’s not so much that I’ve lost interest in writing about writing, it’s simply that I’m not willing to take time away from writing.
I’m in the middle section of my seventh novel, working title Veil of Time. The former trilogy Wizards is being expanded to a series, with the fourth novel in progress and a fifth one contemplated.
Writing, for me, begins with a concept; usually that’s not terribly complicated.
But it soon takes on a life of its own. One thing leads to another, which then branches out and becomes three or five. Which of the threads deserves to be nourished, which ones should I snip off quickly, which one will lead to the next book?
This book is unusually complicated. As you might guess, the plot turns on time travel. But my characters don’t have a dandy time machine with a dial, oh no. That would be far too easy. Instead, the protagonist has to work out an entire framework for understanding time travel. Which means I’ve got to do that before him, so there’s something to discover. Hint…a lot of math, simple but eventually complicated, that’s going into the description of time travel.
Then there’s the research. History is fascinating; so many people who did important things get lost, with only a few gaining mention in the history books. But I intend to feature some of the lesser characters and describe them as accurately as research will allow. That means research on top of research, necessary but also enjoyable.
Eventually I’ll have all the notes ready and I can continue writing the manuscript. The book is about a third finished, perhaps a little more than that. Projected publication date, late May or early July.
But I won’t have a lot of time to spend on this blog while that is going on.