T.M. Brenner's Blog
June 30, 2016
Hey Everyone, I finished the rough draft of SKY WAR, and it came in at a whopping 109,000 words!!! As soon as I finished, I celebrated by starting edits! :-D Such is the life of an author. I’m going through my own personal edits, and I’m already 225 pages in, out of 373 believe it or not. So I’m just about 2/3 of the way there! Once I finish the rough draft, I call it my first draft, which I then send off to my lovely wife and editor, Nicole! I’m so fortunate to have a wife that can be brutally honest with me about my work. I need someone to tell me like it is, so that I can bring you best possible story I can. I value and respect her insights more than I could ever explain. Anyway, as I’m reading back through this story for the first time, I’m surprised at how strong the writing and story feel. This may be even better than Sky Machine, the book I look to and say is probably my best work to date. Hopefully readers agree! I’ve enjoyed writing this series so much, and I can’t believe how well it’s turning out. Thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me, and especially the people who have taken the time to provide me with feedback. Without your feedback, the quality of these books wouldn’t be as high.
October 4, 2015
Normally I write about how to be a better indie author, but this idea has been floating in my head from a long time ago…
Okay, so I know the idea that Darth Vader might have been working for the rebels all along sounds crazy, but hear me out. The first thing I’ll say is that at one point Darth Vader really was a monster. He killed all those Jedi, including the Padawan Learners. So yes, for a little while he went insane and did some truly horrible things. However, I think that he very rapidly figured out that the Emperor had tricked him into joining the dark side, and that by doing so set forth the events that caused Padme’s death. Anyway, once Vader actually became Vader, he cleverly plotted at every turn to destroy the Empire from within. Don’t believe me? Well here are some things that I’d like to point out that support my theory:
1. C-3PO and R2-D2′s escape pod wasn’t blown up by gunners on the Star Destroyer.
If you had seemingly unlimited ammo, and you were part of a very important military operation trying to prevent information from escaping, wouldn’t you have blown up an escape pod, even if there weren’t any life forms aboard? My guess is that Vader used his mind powers to persuade the gunners to allow C-3PO and R2-D2 to escape. It’s really the only thing that makes sense.
2. Darth Vader had a habit of killing high-ranking imperial officials.
How many admirals did Vader force-choke because they ‘failed’ him. A lot, that’s how many. He kept promoting idiots who would make key strategic mistakes at the worst times, guaranteeing that the Empire’s plans would fail, and then he killed them. It also guaranteed that only idiots would continue rising up the ranks, because who in their right mind would want to be an Admiral with such a high turnover rate?
3. Darth killed Obi-Wan Kenobi at Kenobi’s request.
Vader assumed he was being watched when he fought Obi-Wan Kenobi, so he knew he had to put on a show, pretending to try to kill him. That’s why he went so easy on Kenobi. But when Obi-Wan mentioned that he would become more powerful than Darth could ever imagine if he was killed, Darth obliged him and sliced him in half. Poof, super-ghost Kenobi to the rescue!
4. Darth Vader made sure there were design flaws in the Death Stars.
Of course Darth had his hand in the design, and of course he built fatal flaws into the Death Star. Seriously, how cheap do you have to be to not put a grate on an exhaust port? Or maybe add a right angle or two in the duct work?
5. Bothans got their hands on plans for the Death Star.
Darth let the Bothan spies get the plans that clearly showed the weak spots in the design of the Death Star. My guess is that many Bothans died because Bothans make terrible spies. They smell funny and are quite noisy. Eventually Vader was able to get the plans in the hands of the Bothans, but by that point a number were shot by imperial troops that didn’t know what Vader was up to. Oops.
6. Darth hired losers to track down the Millennium Falcon.
Did you actually take a look at the B-team reject bounty hunters that Vader hired to quote-fingers “hunt down” the Millennium Falcon? Bossk, a lizard guy who looks like a dead pet flushed down a toilet, and IG-88, a skinny robot that doesn’t even have fingers to be able to pull the triggers on the guns that he carries? Yeah, they’ll totally catch some rebels. *rolls eyes* And before you mention Boba Fett, he was there because he insinuated himself into the situation, not because he was invited.
7. Darth sent his fleet into an asteroid field.
Is it more believable that Darth thought it was worth the risk to send his fleet into an asteroid field just to destroy the people in the Millennium Falcon, who except for Han he later let go, or did he just want to do some damage to the Empire by sending a bunch of ships into an asteroid field? Me thinks the latter. Speaking of which…
8. Darth left everyone but Han in Cloud City.
So here’s this group of really pesky rebels that helped destroy a Death Star, and the most merciless killer in the Empire can kill them now… but instead he thinks “oh, I guess I’ll leave them hanging out with Lando Calrissian, because… why not.” Seriously, Darth only bothered capturing and carboniting Han because he needed Boba Fett out of the way so he wouldn’t muck with the Stormtroopers, of which Boba Fett was clone brothers with. And Han ticked Darth off when he shot him from behind like a coward during the battle of the first Death Star. He couldn’t let a wild card like Han mess with his carefully laid plans for destroying the Empire.
9. Darth let the stolen Imperial shuttle through to Endor.
So Darth senses Luke on Shuttle Tydiriam. Why didn’t he make a phone call to one of the Star Destroyers, tell them to use its tractor beam to suck in the ship, and then capture the team in one fell swoop? He still could have brought Luke to the Emperor, and he wouldn’t have had to worry about anyone mucking with the shield generators on Endor. Is it because maybe he secretly wanted the shield to go down, so that Death Star II was no longer protected? Hmmm, I wonder.
10. Darth distracts the Emperor from the battle on Endor.
Darth could have used his force powers to kick Luke’s butt. All he had to do was reach out and force choke him, or levitate him hard into the ceiling, but instead they have a really convenient lightsaber battle that kept the Emperor distracted from what was going on with the battle on Endor. If the Emperor had been paying attention, he probably could have done a better job of commanding the fleet that was supposed to be protecting the Death Star.
These are just a few of the reasons I think that Darth was working to destroy the Empire from within. Let me know if you have other ideas!
September 26, 2015
You heard it here first, because I’m the one who inventered it. The One-Two Rule is one of the greatest assets you can have in your author utility belt, and it’s kept me from making major mistakes on more than one occasion. It’s helped me swallow my pride, dig deep, and make the hard decisions. It’s never failed me, and now I’m going to share this ridiculously important rule with you.
If one person tells you that something about your book is wrong, it’s their opinion. If two people tell you that something about your book is wrong, your book is broken.
It’s as simple as that. I’ll give you an example. When I was writing my first novel Luminaries, I wrote a very boring first chapter, because I thought it set the story up nicely. For some reason I also got it into my head that it’d be okay to mess with my readers a little and drag out the story unnecessarily.
When my first beta-reader gave me feedback, they told me that the first chapter was annoying and needed to be fixed. I was like ‘mission accomplished’ and thought what I’d done was a good thing. Then the second beta-reader said they hated the first chapter and almost didn’t want to read the book because of it. That’s when I realized I’d gone too far. I’d gone from doing something I thought was clever to doing something utterly stupid.
So here’s what I did: I listened to them. I cut out the entire first chapter. I didn’t ignore them, I didn’t go back to try to fix it; I cut the whole thing out. Poof, gone! And you know what, I realized that nothing I’d said in that horrible first chapter was necessary. I was able to allude back to what had happened in the first chapter in only a few sentences in the next. It sped up the pace and made the book much more enjoyable.
Now that I’ve emphasized the importance of two people complaining about the same flaw, I want to illustrate the importance of what to do when only one person complains about something. When I was working on my novel Sky Child, one of my beta-readers said that I used ‘said’ at the end of sentences too often. Here’s an example of how I normally use ‘said’ when only two characters are in the scene:
“That was a great lunch,” said Sarah.
“I enjoyed it,” said Mark.
“We should get going.”
“I’m down with that.”
Okay, so here we have two different characters conversing. You’re told in this block who the two people are via the ‘saids’. Most people can inherently follow who is saying what as long as you remind them occasionally. What I try to do is use two ‘saids’ then leave the next two blank, and start over with two ‘saids’. It strikes an easy to remember balance. Anyway, I had a large page of dialog between two characters, and if I removed most of the ‘saids’ from it readers would have been lost. So I opted not to remove the ‘saids’ I’d already included in the book, even though someone had complained about it. I felt because only one person complained about it, that it was an opinion and just someone’s personal preference.
The irony is that the next day another beta-reader tells me that I’m not putting enough ‘saids’ in the story, even though I had plenty of them to guide the reader through the story. I realized I’d struck a happy medium, because two people complained about opposite sides of the same issue.
One of the biggest things to take from this is that people might not like what you’ve written. If only one person doesn’t like a particular part of your book, it’s just their opinion, of which they’re entitled to. If two people don’t like it, you absolutely have to go back and fix it. If you don’t, you’re letting pride get in the way of achieving author super-stardom.
September 23, 2015
Here’s a tough one. Should you write an outline for your book, or should you just wing it? Well, the answer is complex, just like life. It depends on a number of factors. It depends on what your favorite color is. It depends on how tall you are and how much money you make. Whether you prefer to keep your spare change in your left or right pocket; things like that.
Or maybe it comes down to personal preference. What works for you as a writer.
I’m going to list some of the pros and cons of using an outline, and then give instances where it makes sense to use one, and instances where it might not make sense.
1. It helps organize the story.
2. It gives you easily definable goals when writing.
3. It gives a consistent pace to the story.
4. It helps prevent writer’s block.
5. It helps you can keep track of complex concepts and details more easily.
6. Writing a novel may seem less daunting because of divide and conquer.
1. It can make the story feel rigid.
2. It can make the story seem formulaic.
3. It can cause your characters to act out of character to fit the outline.
4. It can cause you to add a lot of filler to the story.
5. It can stymie your creative process.
6. Stephen King will think less of you.
Looking through our list of pros, for first time authors an outline can be a good thing. I used an outline when I wrote the novel Luminaries, but my subsequent books I’ve written without one.
One of the greatest benefits is that it helps prevent writer’s block. If you are prone to it, you might consider using an outline. When you break down your story into chapters, you know in general terms what will happen in the chapter you’re working on. You have a starting and finishing point, and you can steer your characters into the direction you need them to go in. This is a normal divide and conquer technique that can and should be used on most large projects. It’s easy to get caught up in how much total work there is if you’re only looking at the big picture, but if you give yourself a series of tasks you can easily accomplish it will reduce your overall stress about it.
If your story is very complex and has a lot of intricate details, as is the case with many mystery novels, you might also consider an outline. It will give you a way to look at the big picture, and make sure that everything fits together correctly.
Now we get to the cons. The biggest problem with using an outline is that you’ll tend to make the story fit the outline, because you’ll rely on it too heavily. You’ll also introduce a lot of filler, because you need the characters to do something to move along the story, but you’ll feel inclined to make the chapter long enough to warrant being its own chapter.
Another downside to using an outline is that it can stifle your creativity. You’ve already planned ahead and finished most of the creative figuring-out before you even started writing, so that when you actually start putting your story together, you don’t feel that same creative spark that you did when you outlined it. The process of writing will feel a little more tedious and less exciting. When you write without an outline, every word you write feels creative, because you still don’t know exactly where you’re going with the story. This fly by the seat of your pants mentality can help you take your story to unexpected places, places that might be far better than you’d originally conceived.
Yet another problem with using an outline is it makes you think you can pick and choose what section of the book you’re writing next. Instead of writing the book in order, you’ll want to write the good parts, because they’re clear in your head or are interesting to you. But when you go back to write the rest of the story, it will mess with your continuity and leave your bored while writing the slower but necessary parts.
Probably the worst thing about using an outline is that Stephen King will consider you a dullard and a hack. The reason that’s a problem is because Stephen King is actually the boogeyman, who back in the 70′s got tired of having to go house-to-house to scare the crap out of people. He just started writing stories that did the scaring for him. If you use an outline in your book, lazy boogeyman Stephen King will come out from under the bed and get you!
The negative side-effect of Stephen King’s lack of outlining his stories is that his books can crush small children. They’re massive, filled to the brim with unnecessary story, and can be daunting for even the most avid readers. Occasionally he can be concise, but it’s certainly an exception when he is. And his most beautiful stories in my opinion are his short stories, like Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.
Sorry about the Stephen King ramblings; I didn’t use an outline when I wrote this article.
Genre also matters. Serious or complex stories may benefit from an outline, whereas stories that are more fantastic and straightforward may be better off without one. It’s up to you to decide for yourself what works.
September 21, 2015
There are a lot of bad book covers out there. A lot. I hope to help remedy this situation. I know as an indie author you probably don’t have a lot of money to be throwing at a professional cover artist. Even with access to websites like 99Designs.com the $299 price tag can seem expensive and not worth it. You also don’t have an art degree, or graphic design degree, or even have a decent paint program. Well I’m going to do my best to steer you toward the information and tools you need to make solid book covers on the cheap.
The first thing you should do is get Corel’s Paint Shop Pro. If you get the 2nd newest version, you can generally get it for around $50, about a sixth of the price of a 99Designs cover. See, we’re saving money already. Also, MS Paint is horrible. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU EVER CREATE A COVER IN MS PAINT. I’M SERIOUS. THAT’S WHY I’M YELLING.
The second thing is to find some stock photographs that will work for a cover. Unless you are a professional photographer, let someone else take the pictures. There are a number of stock photography websites out there, but the one I generally use is ShutterStock.com. At $29 for two high quality, high resolution images you can’t go wrong. Spend a lot of time looking through images that might work, and add them to your lightbox so that you can look at what you’ve selected later.
Okay, now that you’ve installed Paint Shop Pro, and you’ve played around with it enough to know the basics, mess around with the stock photographs and see what you come up with.
Unless you’re a savant, what you came up with probably still isn’t any good. I’m going to show you the process I went through to create a cover recently, and hopefully my thoughts will give you thoughts, which will make your covers better.
Here’s the picture I started with:
This is a good photograph for my book Clandestined, because the main character in the book has an attractive, young, blond girlfriend that is both an angel and a spy. This model fits every aspect but the angel part. We don’t see any wings, but that’s okay. I knew the background of this photograph wasn’t symbolic of the story, so I decided to cut her out of the picture. Here’s what I got when I did that:
Notice I also cropped the image, so she takes up most of the image space of the approximate dimensions of a 5.25″ x 8″ book cover (the proportions I most commonly use). The resolution I use for creating book covers is 4728 x 7194 pixels. Notice that’s not in inches. It’s a high enough resolution that it will look good even blown up as a poster. It’s also easier to shrink the image for other uses than it is to expand it and still have it look good. There are still things that need to be fixed on this image, including the weird strands of hair poking out, but I will do that down the road. So this is where a lot of amateur book cover makers fall down. Here’s an example of what a lot of people do but shouldn’t:
Here’s why this sucks. First, never put the word “by” on your book cover. Just put your name. People are smart enough to differentiate the author’s name from the book title. The background is also quite boring. Unless you have a real reason for needing a white background, don’t use one. Also, the cutout job I did on the hair kind of sucks. You should go back in and either blend it or trim it or do something to make it look like it wasn’t graphically cut out. It’s a dead giveaway of an amateur cover. The text is super boring too. It doesn’t catch the eye. You shouldn’t use simple single color text on the cover. Also, don’t outline it either with a different color. That looks bad too.
To make this look better, and to better fit with the dark nature of the book, I made the background dark and added a deep red lightburst in the background. I also added a filter called “posterize” that made the image look less like a sharp photograph, and more like a piece of art:
Notice that I trimmed in the hair a bit, and she doesn’t look like she was just cut out from a stock photograph? This is a bit better, but we’re not there yet. The book is a spy book, so we’re going to need shadows. What goes better with spies than shadows? This is a more advanced effect. In Paint Shop Pro you can add lights to the image that work kind of like spot lights. These are a little tricky to play with, but with some patience the results are worth the effort:
This image has three lights, one overhead creating a light spot and a shadow line, one on the right hand side that helps illuminate her face a little more, and one on the bottom that shines up from her shoulder. There’s a feature with the lights called “darkness”, which makes it so the sections that don’t have active lights are darkened. This works really well in this case. At this point I’m pretty happy with what I have. Now I just need to put in the title and my name, and maybe a blurb about the book.
Here’s why this sucks: the font is all wrong. It isn’t symbolic of angels or spies, and isn’t very good looking. There’s no class or pizzazz to it. It’s also a single color, with no texture or dimensionality to it. If you have a deliberately sparse image, then you can use monochrome letters. But this has a lot of color and depth to it, so you want the text to match.
Here’s another example of what not to do. This text is too fancy. It’s illegible, which is a big mistake when creating a book cover. Make sure that the title is easy to read.
This one is also bad, because my name is much bigger than the title. Unless your last name is Rowling, King, or Patterson, your name should probably be smaller than the title.
Here’s what my finished-ish cover looks like:
Notice the subtle blurb at the bottom? Notice that the text at the top has a much bigger “C” than the rest of the title? Notice that I put my name up at the top with the title for effect? I picked an interesting, easy to read font, gave the letters some texture and added a drop shadow. This cover was made on the super cheap because I spent the time to make it work.
I don’t want you to copy other people’s covers, and this particular design strategy I showed you doesn’t necessarily work for other genres, but you should look at the book covers of famous books in your genre and model your cover after them. It should look somewhat similar, but different enough that it doesn’t look like you’re copying their covers. Make it obvious what genre your book is a part of.
Once you’ve got your cover put together, share it with people on Facebook or twitter and get their feedback. See what they think. Take their advice if it’s good advice, and be critical of your cover. It really is the most important part of your book.
September 16, 2015
Part of this is tongue-in-cheek, part of it is a sad truth. We judge books by their cover all the time. We also judge authors by their profile pictures, now more than ever, because we can so easily access an author’s profile online.
When you look at an author’s photograph, you see a representation of them as a person. If the photograph was professionally taken, well lit, and in an interesting place, it makes the author appear more professional. It gives them the appearance of respectability. They have been successful enough to warrant someone taking a quality photograph of them. Subconsciously you assume that whatever they’ve written is a quality work, because they put forth the effort to look professional in their picture.
I’ll give some general examples of what not to do for your profile photographs.
1. Don’t use a picture that was taken more than five years ago. It’s obvious that seventy year old you doesn’t look like twenty-five year old you. Embrace your age, wear something refined and dignified and have your picture taken. It will give you an air of respectability.
2. Don’t use a glamour shot. Find yourself a good professional photographer by researching online and looking at their example photographs. Glamour shots should have stayed in the 80′s where they belong.
3. Don’t use a picture that includes anyone else in it. Leave friends and family out of the picture, because it will only confuse readers as to which person you are.
4. Don’t use selfies. Let me repeat: no selfies. They will distort your features because of the close proximity the photograph was taken in, and they don’t look professional.
5. Don’t Photoshop the picture. Let a professional handle that. No one wants to see you Photoshop yourself into a picture with Ghandi, or sitting on the moon, or covered in 8-bit butterflies.
6. Don’t use a photograph of someone else. I know this one can be tempting, but successful authors do book signings, go to conferences, etc. They meet people, and readers will be confused when you show up and the person they saw in your profile was someone you found on Shutterstock.
Things to do:
1. Dress appropriately for your genre. If you’ve written a crime novel, dress in something serious and respectable. George R. R. Martin can get away with how he dresses because he writes fantasy. J. K. Rowling dresses dignified but colorful because her main audience is both young children and parents. Veronica Roth dresses young because she is young, and because it resonates with her YA readers. Her short hair also matches her main character Tris’ short hair.
2. Pay to have someone take your photograph, unless you happen to be related to, or friends with, a professional photographer.
3. Comb your hair/take a shower/wear subtle makeup/shave. Be the cleanest, most polished person you can be. Readers subconsciously think that if you put forth the effort to look good, you’ve put forth an effort in your writing.
4. Have your picture taken somewhere representative of who you are. A home library is always a good idea, if the home library looks professional. If you love the outdoors you might have your picture taken in a lavish garden. If you like to travel, have your picture taken somewhere breathtaking. Talk to your photographer. If they know what they’re doing, they’ll have suggestions for you.
5. Smile. Successful people smile a lot because they’re successful. Make sure your smile is genuine though. A fake smile is worse than no smile at all.
So these suggestions won’t guarantee you fame and fortune, but without them I can almost guarantee you won’t find fame and fortune.
September 14, 2015
Your writing should have a reason for existing. Whether your story is meant to encourage, enlighten or even just entertain there should be a point to it. You need to have a goal for what you’re writing, or people won’t be interested in reading it. Make sure you clearly understand what your goal is before you start writing a story, because without it your main concept will be lost on your reader.
The series I’m currently working on, the Sky Child series, has a point to it. I’ve set out to prove that it’s possible to have a compelling main character whose gender hasn’t been defined. It’s been incredibly challenging writing a character you can never refer to as he or she, but it’s been worth the effort because of the praise the story is receiving. I’ve done such a good job that most readers don’t even realize that I’ve obscured the main character’s gender.
The point of Sky Child is to open eyes and to enlighten people. To make them challenge their preconceived notions and to hopefully help them grow. It’s what makes Sky Child an important book. It serves a purpose. It benefits humanity in some way.
Entertainment also benefits humanity. My first book Luminaries was meant to entertain, as well as show the importance of teamwork and friendship. Those are traits humanity needs if we ever want to make the world a better place.
Take a look at your own writing and think earnestly about why you wrote it. Did you write it simply because you enjoy writing? It’s great that you enjoy writing, and I commend you for it. If you’re okay simply writing for yourself then feel free to write whatever you enjoy writing. But if you want people to hear your voice, give them a voice to listen to.
Did you write a story solely to make money? Your book will likely suffer from the cynicism that will permeate throughout. Readers can tell when you’re writing for a meaningful reason, or writing to cash in on the next big thing.
So check yourself before you wreck yourself.
September 10, 2015
So here’s a tougher one that may generate some flack: it’s better to show than tell, except when it’s not.
There are a lot of writers out there who demand you show everything. By showing I mean instead of plainly stating that Jake is a really bad guy, you write an example of how Jake is a really bad guy. Like he swindles the elderly, or spits on babies or what have you. In this particular instance it makes sense to give an example of how Jake is bad. Drama can be generated from the bad things that Jake does, so the reader can decide for themselves how bad Jake is. In this case, showing is the way to go.
However, there are times when telling something makes more sense, because the information isn’t pivotal to the plot, or is just plain uninteresting. Take for instance Johan, a baker of pies. Let’s say Johan is going on a blind date, and part of his preparation for the date is baking a pie for his future paramour. Unless there’s drama or humor to be had in the making of the pie, you don’t need to ‘show’ the process of the pie being made. Pies are delicious, but making pies can be tedious. Avoid tedium in your writing at all costs!
Here’s another one that’s a little more vague: Erica’s friend died from a mysterious disease. This one really depends on what the story is about. If the story is meant to be about Erica taking care of her sick friend and trying to find a cure before time runs out, then yes, you should include the process of Erica’s friend getting sick, and what steps Erica takes to help her. However, if it’s not pivotal to the story, as would be the case in a zombie story where everyone has the mysterious disease, then it may be enough to just mention the fact that Erica’s friend contracted the disease.
So use your best judgment. Make sure you take a look at the context and decide what makes the most sense based on the direction you’re taking your story in.
August 21, 2015
Here’s something that will drive readers crazy nearly as fast as poor grammar and spelling: repeating yourself. Let me reiterate: repeating yourself is a bad thing. I’ll tell you one more time, just to let it sink in: don’t repeat yourself!
There’s many ways you can be repetitive, some are obvious, and some are more subtle. But they will all cause the reader some undeserved annoyance. So make sure when you’re writing, and especially when you’re editing, that you look for the following mistakes in your writing:
Mistake #1: Using the same word in a sentence multiple times.
Example: “The theory of relativity is a relatively new theory that theorists theorized relatively recently.”
Although it’s a fairly fun tongue-twister, it repeats the same words multiple times and distracts readers from the act of reading. As I’ve stressed before, you want to prevent your readers from realizing that they’re reading. It should be enjoyable for them, not a chore.
Mistake #2: Repeating something that’s already been explained.
Unless you absolutely have to have a character repeat themselves, avoid this at all costs! Your reader already knows why your main character feels compelled to stop the end of the world, or save puppies or whatever. You don’t need them explaining it to every new character you introduce. It becomes monotonous and distracting from the story.
Mistake #3: Repeating formatting.
“Thanks,” said Beth.
“You’re welcome,” said Johnny.
“We should go to the library,” said Beth.
“Sounds cool,” said Johnny.
The problem here is that the second set of ‘said Beth’/’said Johnny’ is unnecessary if they are the only two characters in the room. Readers will automatically grasp who’s talking, so you don’t need to spell it out. On the flip side of this, make sure that you’re dictating who’s talking enough, so that the reader doesn’t get lost. Find the happy medium.
Mistake #4: Using the same word throughout your story.
One of my longtime friends happens to be an amazing editor, and she mentioned that I kept repeating the word “though” in my writing, likening it to a nervous tick. I’d never noticed how often I used it, until I went back through the book I was working on and started removing the unnecessary ones.
We’ve only scratched the surface of the many ways you can repeat yourself. Just remember to keep this in the back of your mind as you edit, because it can have a major impact on your writing.
August 20, 2015
Here’s something that might shock you: your novel’s premise may suck. We’ve talked about how important your cover is, how important editing is, how important spelling and grammar are, and even how important it is to be nice. Now we’re getting down to brass tacks.
Before you lash out and send me nasty emails, please hear me out. What I’m trying to do is help you to take a hard look at your premise, and decide if it’s marketable. If you’re writing solely for enjoyment, I respect that. This may not pertain to you. If you want to make a career out of writing, you need to write something that people are interested in reading.
There’s two extremes I’d like to mention, and your goal is to find a premise that fits somewhere comfortably in-between. The first extreme is using a premise that only you are interested in. An example of this would be an autobiography about your non-famous, non-historically significant grandfather. It could be a very interesting story, but you’re not likely to find many readers.
The second extreme is copying someone else’s already successful premise. An example of this would be writing a story about a young Wizard named Harvey Potter, who battles the evil wizard Woldermart with the aid of his friends Rob and Harmony. At best people will ignore it as an attempt to cash in on someone else’s success, and at worst you could get sued.
What you want to do is determine what genres are popular, and come up with a story that hasn’t been told before. Find your own story, something that you haven’t seen or read before. Research to make sure your story falls within a popular genre, then see if someone has written something similar to what you’d like to write. If it seems too much like someone else’s premise, then change something about it until it does become unique.
So when you go to start writing your masterpiece, make sure someone hasn’t already written it, and make sure that someone will actually read it. Without those two things, your book has little chance of succeeding.