Sunday, 4 February 2018

Ten miscellaneous tips for debut writers


Over two years ago, I wrote a post about the slip-ups often made by new writers, based on my own mistakes and the books I read in my role as a reviewer for Rosie Amber's Review Team.  It's HERE if you would like to read it.  Here are a few more miscellaneous tips that might be of use to the new writer, especially one who is self-promoting on social media.  It's based on further reviewing experience, talking to other writers and reviewers, and my excessive use of Twitter for the past 6+ years!



The book itself

1.  Make sure the names of your characters stand out well, particularly if there are a lot of them.  Don't have main characters whose names start with the same letter, or give them all common names; if you have a group of friends called Joe, Rob, Jodie, Andy, Tony, Ruth, Jack and Anna, it will be hard for the reader to differentiate between them.  One could be known by his/her initials, for instance; then there are nicknames, and the occasional Sapphire or Lysander!

2.  People don't talk in perfectly grammatical sentences.  Nor do they give exactly the right amount of information required by the person to whom they are talking.  They say lots of boring things that should not be included in your novel.  Enough ~ for a brilliant article that outlines everything you should know about dialogue no-nos, by Anne R Allen, click HERE.


3.  Before publishing your first novel, have it assessed by someone other than a friend/family member, unless you are absolutely sure that they can do so not only honestly, but objectively.  I can't advise on critique groups as I have never used one, but it's definitely worth exploring; I've seen many words of thanks to them in the Author's Notes at the back of books I've liked.  

I'd counsel research if paying for a professional assessment service; I gather that some refrain from negative feedback, which could be because of today's culture of encouragment, or simply because they're hoping to get more business and recommendations from you.  Receiving only encouraging feedback is lovely, but it won't help make your novel better.  Make sure they have proper industry experience (for instance, with a Big 5 or established publisher) before handing over any money; see link in 4, below.


4.  Always have a thorough, cover-to-cover read of the final copy of your book, after editing and proofreading, before publication.  You might spot a typo that the proofreader has missed, or a bit of bad formatting.  You should do this even if you have a publisher; always ask if you can see the finished draft before they press 'go'.  Don't just chuck it at them for the final proofread and think 'job done'.  I'd say at least 25% of self-published or indie press published books that I read have far more than the acceptable 5-10 errors  Some indie presses do not use experienced, professional proofreaders; you can read more about this HERE.

5.  If you're going to write about drink/drugs and those who use them a lot, or any sort  of 'street' culture/crime/gang life, etc, make sure you know what you're talking about.  Few crimes against contemporary literature scream 'amateur' more than getting drug terminology wrong, for instance.  You can't get it from Wikipedia or the Urban Dictionary.  You have to know about it.  And if you are not a drinker but your characters are, make sure you fully understand about quantities/effects.


For another post with some excellent tips for new writers, by Louise Marley, on With Love For Books blog: Click HERE

Social Media

1.  Your bios on your social media profiles should be about YOU, not your novel.  Of course you will mention that you are a writer, but people are more likely to check out your book if you look like an interesting person than if you have written 'check out my book' (or worse, 'buy my book here') in your bio.  There is no need to make a separate profile for the book itself, as these are clearly just promotional tools; many do not like to follow inanimate objects.  Remember the word 'social' in the phrase 'social media'.

2.  In relation to the above, please don't do tweets/other posts asking people to 'download, read and review'.  Even if your book is free.  It's a 'big ask', and it looks like begging.  The onus is on you to make your book appear interesting enough for people to want to download it, and to make it compelling enough for them to want to read it all the way through.  Few members of the reading public review; they're less likely to if they feel under pressure to do so. 



3. Don't advertise your book as a 'five star read'.  It's so 2011, and all books except the most dire have at least one 5*.

4.  If you have requested a review from a book blogger and they have provided one, thank them.  Even if you're not 100% happy with the result.  They've given up their time, free of charge; it's only common courtesy.  One book blogger told me that about a fifth of writers who are reviewed on her blog don't say thank you; some of them even have the cheek to submit another book.

I am always a little miffed when I've reviewed a book for Rosie's blog in a favourable way, tweeted it, and the writer just clicks 'like' on Twitter and retweets.  How much would it take to thank me for my time?  This lack of manners guarantees that I will never promote that review again, RT the writer, or read anything else by them.  

5.  And finally.... Twitter auto DMs asking people to check out your book/blog/website, donate to your kickstarter, follow you on Instagram, like your Facebook page, etc, etc etc.  Just DON'T.  Not even the ones that invite people to let you know if they want help in promoting anything.  I have never talked to anyone on Twitter who doesn't detest auto messaging.  This can't be underlined too emphatically, or said too often.


I hope some of this is helpful :) 


18 comments:

  1. Yes very useful Terry. Wise words as always.

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  2. Good tips, TT. I shall share!

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  3. Preach, sister! Yes, really my sister.

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  4. Yes, yes, yes! Great post, Terry :)

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  5. A great post and very useful tips, Terry. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks for reading, ladies ~ glad you approve!

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  6. Good stuff. ESPECIALLY the 'read through the final proofs even if you are going with a mainstream publisher'. When I was with Crooked Cat, I discovered their editor had changed bits of my book without telling or asking me, because she thought it sounded better. AARRRGGGHHHH!!!

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    1. Bloody hell, arghh indeed. Let's hear it for having control over our own work....!

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  7. Excellent post, Terry. Always good to be reminded,however long we've trodden this path.

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    1. I kind of remind myself of stuff by writing these posts too, J! x

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  8. Thank you for the mention, Terry! (And a great post, as always!)

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  9. Great post Terry- excellent detail and no spelling mistakes! I dare not read the published copy of the Life Assistance Agency in case of typos.

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    1. Ah well, you'll know next time!!!! It took a few emails from friends telling me about unspotted typos that got me into the practice of checking each book. Trouble is, most people don't tell you. Anyway, glad you liked the post - and no typos, really???!! You know how you don't see your own... my proofreading sister usually lets me know ;)

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  10. Hear, hear! Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Terry. Not that common these days...

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    1. All too often, one feels one is preaching to the choir, Olga ;)

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