Then I published it...as in self-published with no idea what I was doing.
It didn't take long before I offered this amazing book to online readers. A few months later, reality hit me like a steel pipe across my face. The reviews started coming in and I soon discovered that what I thought was New York Times bound, in truth, had become another example of a self-publisher with poor writing skills.
I have recently unpublished that book. I can do better...much better.
So what sucked about my writing, you ask? Plenty.
The good news is, my writing is no longer what it was. I have since authored three books that are frequently in Amazon's Top 100 category lists. One of them has hit #1 in Amazon's ghost category and meandered around the top 200 on occasion.
I've read indie authors and many of them are amazing, selling, and getting incredible reviews. Unfortunately, some are not. The reasons vary, but these books suffer because of poor cover art, poor formatting, but most often because the author has much to learn. I know I did. Fortunately, I fixed my mistakes. Well, most of them anyway. Writing is an adventure, and I'm sure I'll be learning twenty years from now.
The following are some of the major mistakes I made before I knew what I was doing. If you see these mistakes in your book(s), especially if it is published, I'd urge you to fix your writing as soon as possible.
- My pages were littered with "was". I've heard this described at the "fuzzy wassies". Too many was words, including were, is a sign that your writing is weak. That is because when you use "was" too often, you create a weak sentence, giving very little imagery and using unnecessary words. Fix your sentence... She was running in the woods...with She ran through the woods. This is shorter and more concise. Limit your was words to less than three per page and watch your writing come to life.
- I had lengthy monologues that took the reader out of the story. I have since learned that where there is dialogue, there should be plenty of action, body movements, etc. Characters need to express themselves in shorter bursts of verbal exchanges. Include the character's thoughts and observations while another character is talking.
- Over use of adjectives and other modifiers. If you have a sentence that says something like.... Barron Von Dorkenwad ran his hands through Rapunzel's golden, straw-like, crusty hair... you probably need to do a rewrite. Limiting your modifiers is a must. If you can't find one good word to describe Rapunzel's ragged hair, cut it off and make her bald. You might as well because your reader will stop reading at that point.
- Boring introduction for the sake of establishing the setting. Your intro is your first impression and it better be good. If you write supernatural thrillers, as I do, you better give some kind of indication (or foreshadowing) within the first few paragraphs that your book is going to be a frightening, mysterious or disturbing story. Give a sense of the genre on page one. Raise questions in the readers mind about your protagonist that they will want to answer. Start with conflict and slow it down later. There's a reason directors start their scenes with the word, "Action!"
- I had a habit of telling my reader what was happening instead of showing. Here's an example: Jane Doe had it all together. Her hair was perfect, her smile glowing and she knew everyone loved her... Try this instead: Trixie stood nose to nose with Jane and sneered. Her lips curled and with one eye squinted said, "You act like you've got it all together. But your perfect smile and..." She flicked one of Jane's curls. "...flowing hair doesn't fool me. You're a mess. And I see right through you. We all do." See how that works? Let the characters do the describing. You hear it all the time ~ Show, don't tell.
- Similar words within close proximity. These words began to bother my reader. Had I thought of different words, I might have been able to prevent more of those wordy speed bumps. I think you get the idea.
There have been plenty of authors who write amazing first novels, but the vast majority do not. And in today's "anyone can publish" world, this has never been more true. Your readers want emotion, feelings, thoughts, fully-developed characters, color, believable plot lines, action, vivid yet brief descriptions, poetry and alliteration. They want a story that plays out in their minds, without speed bumps. They want words spelled correctly and used in the right context. And it is my belief that they want shorter stories.
Trust me. I learned the hard way. But guess what? There is no easy way. Writing is work... and writing well is exhausting.
Write your story for the reader ~ not for yourself. Study and take your craft to the next level.
Unpublish your book if it sucks.
If you'd like to improve your prose, check out the following books: Write Like the Masters by William Cane, On Writing by The Horror Writer's Association, Novelist's Boot Camp by Todd Stone, On Writing by Stephen King and anything you can find by James Scott Bell.
Thanks for reading. Please follow me and comment. BOOM!
~ Jeff Bennington is the author of Reunion, an Amazon #1 bestselling ghost story, Twisted Vengeance and Creepy. Jeff provides $79 book covers among other author services.