Tag Archives: recommendations

Authors Answer 115 – Common Mistakes by New Authors

Everyone goes through that awkward toddler stage of writing. There are mistakes. Lots of them. And frankly, the writing sounds weird, clunky, and just plain awful. The mistakes are extremely common, though. It’s not that difficult to avoid them.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 115: What are some common mistakes for aspiring authors?

Eric Wood

Since I consider myself to be an aspiring author as I’ve only been published via my blog posts, I would love to know some mistakes to avoid. Based on what I’ve learned from the writing I’ve done thus though, I would say one common mistake that is made is telling instead of showing. It’s quick and easy to tell me what happened. However, it’s much more meaningful if you show what happened. Give the reader details. Another mistake is editing. I know it’s one I struggle with time to time. I don’t do it enough. It’s annoying to read a book with spelling mistakes, tense inconsistencies, etc…  It takes tons of editing and revision to get to a final copy of a book.

C E Aylett

He-he… Where do I start? Well, let’s see…

– believing the first draft is where all the hard work goes! But that’s because there’s so much to learn to begin with, so it’s not just about writing the story. It’s also about learning technique, about effective structure, and pacing is so ‘out’ there to be almost obscure. It’s all very overwhelming to begin with.

-Expecting that what plops out on the page the first (or even 2nd) time is the way the story should be and is not in need of change, aside from tidying up some errant commas and smoothing out a little bit of grammar.

– Not seeking out vigorous critique partnerships. There is a belief out there that the way to learn how to write well is solely through the act of writing and reading. And yet, for all the books people have read and writing they’ve all done throughout their lives, the majority of people will have their manuscripts rejected. This just goes to prove that reading and writing alone do not work as effective instruction. If you don’t understand the why of fiction (why does this work and this doesn’t) then you won’t understand the how of fiction (how to improve, create desired effects, etc). I’m of the belief the key to good fiction is not only to read and write, but to learn about and practice techniques, plus — crucially — critique fiction too. That last one in particular. It develops your skills as an editor and I’m always flabbergasted as to how many writers I encounter who don’t participate in vigorous critique, not just of their own work but in giving it to others’ too. Many people are too scared of what readers will say, but I go on the premise that everyone will think my work is shit, or at the very least it won’t be to the tastes of the majority, so it can only go upwards from there, surely?

– Being apologetic — if you write stories, even if they are flawed, you are a writer. Own it and don’t feel guilty or undeserving of it.

– Writing stories as a reason to rant about politics, religion, or any other highly emotive subject involving society and/or its ills. Ranting is rarely attractive, unless it’s funny and a part of someone’s ‘brand’ (think Victor Meldrew: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46flaThCYhE).

– Not swatting up on the publishing industry/book marketing early on. This is probably because when we first start writing our inner critic/lack of confidence says our writing is purely for our own pleasure and we’ll never be good enough (or sometimes arrogant enough) to assume we’ll ever be published. However, I think it is prudent for writers to learn about how publishing works as early as possible because, for those of us who find ourselves hitched up to this passion, talent, instinct, or whatever you want to call it, in writing, there will come a day when we will want to step over that threshold between bedroom writer and professional and give publishing a serious whirl (be that self-publishing or trad). Once you feel your MS is as perfect as you can make it, you want to to be as industry savvy as possible so that if you get any offers of representation you’ll be well-prepared or, if you decide to self-publish, you will have a plan. Which brings me onto the next point…

-Lastly, self-publishing a novel and believing that marketing it is all about bombarding social media with free links. This doesn’t convert into sales for a new author with minimal online presence. Someone more established, yes. They can send out freebies to their fan base in order to seed the market, but when no one knows you and you’re yet to prove your massive talent, it’s just white noise to the majority. Tempt potential readers with intriguing morsels of book blurb that will work as (honest and interesting) click bait, get a decent front cover, make links to your book and it’s sales outlets available wherever you socialise online (without mentioning every five minutes that your book is for sale), socialise with people in your niche. Blog about your book. Written a book with a bear in it? Socialise in wildlife forums. Spy novel? Socialise where people have an interest in things like the cold war period, or wartime espionage (Bletchly and the enigma box, etc.). I know a historical fantasy author whose books bazookaed in the self-pubbing charts because of her membership in a historical society who happened to also have as members some other best-selling authors in her niche. They got to know her and her books then publicly rated her series and — boom! — she was away. DON’T socialise with writers as a means to find readers! Not saying writers don’t read, but they are there for the same reason, and that’s not to find books. Here’s a great free class from Leah Berry for more ideas.

Most importantly, bear in mind it takes time to accumulate a fan base. Get on with the next book. Write short stories and get them published in reputable publications, and put some on your website. Short stories are your best marketing tool — people get a taste of your work and that might lead to a book sale if they are hungry for more. Plus, short fiction markets are popping up all over the place. That’s where you’ll find audiences.

Anyway, bet you wish you’d never asked now! Hope I haven’t hogged your page space too much…:S

D. T. Nova

Thinking that writing the first draft is the bulk of the work.

Overuse of near-synonyms that aren’t common parts of their vocabulary (the thesaurus, like so many other things, should be used only in moderation), and overwriting in general.

Linda G. Hill

Aspiring authors have much to learn – we all go through it, and really, there’s no easy way to get around all there is to know before we publish. It’s a matter of experience. If I were to pick a single thing, it would have to be the one that causes me the most worry on behalf of the author, and that is the belief that a raw, or even a self-edited manuscript is readable. Even editors who are writers have editors. At the very, very least, as few as six and as many as twenty beta readers — ones who are unbiased — should read a manuscript before it goes off into the world. Sure, it may sell. But if it’s not the best work it can possibly be, the author risks ruining his or her reputation.

Jean Davis

There are so many mistakes to make. Let’s see. Not finding a critique group or qualified beta readers before submitting or publishing. Your best friend reading your novel doesn’t count. Getting so fixated on what your trying to say or do with the story that there’s no plot. Rewriting the first chapter twenty times before ever starting the second one.

Elizabeth Rhodes

The biggest trap, in my opinion, is the same one in which I fell. I got too excited about finishing Jasper and released it too soon with minimal outside input. Looking back at it now it definitely could’ve used more polish before it could be considered ready.

Gregory S. Close

Editing!  If you’re going to spend money on your first effort, your first priority should be a good editor.  Covers and presentation can be improved upon in a later edition with minimal effort.  Editing is vital to ensuring that the work itself is seen positively, and gives you a fighting chance to be recognized and successful (and have the nice-to-have problem of wondering if you should upgrade your interior/exterior etc).

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I’ve spent a bit of time on Critique Circle in the past, and one of the most common “mistakes” that I saw there was that many aspiring authors simply haven’t taken the time and put in the effort to really learn how the English language works. I hate to discourage anyone from continuing to write, but it was always frustrating to read a piece from an aspiring author that was so riddled with spelling and grammatical errors that you could hardly discern what they were trying to say. That’s not to say that these people couldn’t become wonderful writers, but if you can’t write a single proper sentence, you should probably work on that before trying to string several thousand of them together into a coherent narrative.

The other big mistake that I’ve seen most often is simply being too proud and too arrogant, or else too hard on yourself. Every aspiring author seems to either think that they are beyond criticism – that they can do no wrong – or that everything they write is drivel that no one will ever want to read. There needs to be a happy medium of tentative confidence. You have to be able to deal with criticism, but you also have to have the ability to stand your ground and recognize when you’ve actually done genuinely good work.

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. I have met people that wanted to write books, but didn’t like to read. If you don’t read genre fiction, don’t try to write it. That said, I think the most common mistake is giving up. Not believing in yourself. If you have a story that needs to be told, then tell it. You can do it. Aspiring authors always talk about what holds them back, life, family, jobs, etc. Guess what, we all have these problems too. Just set aside some time, and don’t think about anything except your story. Then type it out. And finish it!

Cyrus Keith

Today seems to be a day for lists, I do believe.

1.) Excessive adverbs. Adverbs in and of themselves are not evil. But they can be a crutch for lazy writing that has no energy. We walk slowly when we could meander, stroll, or wander, we run quickly when we could dash, sprint, or rush. We walk unsteadily when we could blunder, stumble, stagger, or limp. Each one of these more active verbs has a different and energetic meaning. I allow myself three adverbs per 10,000 words.

2.) Excessive speech tags. There are countless creative ways of letting us know who is talking without using “He said” or “she exclaimed.” I won’t go into a lesson here about that. But it’s worth looking into.

3.) Assuming everyone who reads your work is going to “get it.” This includes everything from writing as though your reader can see your world, to assuming that the first editor who receives your manuscript is going to tearfully write you the biggest advance check in history. Write like you want to communicate. And still expect your message to bounce off a few thick skulls. And if it does, remember, it’s not a rejection of YOU.

Jay Dee Archer

There are so many mistakes. As an author who has not published yet, I can probably mention some of my own mistakes.

First, my earlier dialogue sounded more like written language. The problem that many people have is they write the dialogue, but don’t say it out loud. You need to read it out loud to see if it sounds natural.

Second, spending too much time editing while writing. Just write the damn thing, then edit. That’s one of the biggest problems people have. They never finish their first draft because they’re so caught up in trying to make it perfect. The constant editing can kill a story. Just write it, then make the changes. But don’t do it right away. Leave it for a few weeks, then come back to it from a fresh point of view.

And my final mistake is infodumps, especially character descriptions. My earlier writing had characters described fully right from the start. Don’t do that! It’s dull. Put descriptions in a little at a time, and it’s great to do it from the perspective of the point of view character.

How about you?

What mistakes do you think aspiring authors tend to make? Let us know in the comments section.

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Authors Answer 101 – Books That Make Us Laugh

Everyone loves a good laugh. There are some funny books out there, but not all of them make us laugh out loud. It takes a special book to make us laugh. The art of comedy is difficult to be successful in. An author who can make the reader laugh has a certain talent. But what we find funny may not be funny for someone else. So, what do we find funny?

laughingQuestion 101 – Which books have made you laugh?

H. Anthe Davis

I don’t read humorous books on purpose, so they sort of have to ambush me with the laughs, and I can’t really remember any off the top of my head.  Terry Pratchett’s stuff amuses me, yes, but it doesn’t make me laugh out loud.  Usually it’s some quirk of character interaction that does it, and I don’t know that any book has done it in a while.

Jean Davis

My favorite laugh out loud novel is Heroics for Beginners by John Moore. Milking the giant cow never gets old.

Beth Aman

I have so many answers to this.  Two books that come to mind are The Fault in Our Stars and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.  Both are fabulous.  But also the Harry Potter series is full of humor.  And the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Mass is equal parts terrifyingly suspenseful and surprisingly hilarious.  OH!  I almost forgot!  The Martian is the funniest thing I’ve read.  Ever.  It’s so great.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

The one that comes to mind immediately is “Apocalypse Cow” by Michael Logan. Jason found it at Chapters one day, we shared a laugh at the cover and summary, and then he ended up picking it up for me for Christmas. It’s basically a zombie apocalypse story in which the outbreak starts with cows. There are plenty of serious, scary, and morbid moments, but there is also a ton of dark humor, some of which made me seriously laugh out loud. I haven’t read the sequel – “World War Moo” – yet, but I expect it to have a similar effect.

I also got a good chuck out of Max Brooks’ “Zombie Survival Guide“, mostly because of the dead seriousness with which it’s written. Apparently I find the undead to be quite humorous. I wonder what that says about me?

I’m sure there are plenty of non-zombie books that have made me laugh as well, but since I mostly read horror and supernatural stuff I can’t really think of any at the moment!

C E Aylett

A Fraction of the Whole – Steve Toltz.

This book deals with mental illness, but in a most hilarious yet sensitive way.

The Help – Katherine Stockett.

The pie. You know it’s all about the pie.

When I was younger I used to pinch some of my mum’s books. She had a few Jilly Coppers hanging around which were funny, in a chick-lit, Carry-on-Camping kind of way.

And then there’s a short story I read by Irvine Welsh back in my twenties. Was it in Ecstasy, or The Acid House? Can’t remember now, it was so long ago. Anyway, there’s a scene where the protag has taken a trip and he’s thinking about dolphins forgetting to breathe and other abstract nonsense. I found it hilarious.

Eric Wood

Lamb; The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore and The Sister Brothers by Patrick DeWit both had me laughing out loud. I literally LOLed.

Gregory S. Close

Anything by Douglas Adams.  Specifically, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, and it’s full of profound observations about the nature of existence, humanity, and the truly brutal prose of Vogon poetry.

Paul B. Spence

Well, many books. Most recently the Vlad Taltos novels by Steven Brust. In general, I don’t read many books that make me laugh. I prefer serious works.

D. T. Nova

Several science fiction short story collections, though I don’t always remember which story was in which book.

But by far the two books that made me laugh the most were What If? and Thing Explainer, both non-fiction by Randall Munroe.

Elizabeth Rhodes

The one book that stands out to me is The Martian. I don’t go seeking out comedies to read, and this one doesn’t really qualify as one in my view. But there were parts of the narration where Watney made me laugh out loud.

Linda G. Hill

My own…? Seriously. It’s funny enough to make me laugh every time I read it. The other one that immediately comes to mind is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. It runs the whole gamut of emotions. Great novel.

Jay Dee Archer

There was one book that made me laugh out loud in class when I was in elementary school, and that was Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, by Roald Dahl. One scene was absolutely hilarious. But as an adult, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have made me laugh inside. However, the book that made me laugh the most was a non-fiction book called Japanese Made Funny, by Tom Dillon. It’s all about the mistakes foreigners have made speaking Japanese in Japan. I laughed on the train home after buying it. I had to read it.

How About You?

What are some books that make you laugh? Let us know in the comments below.

What Books Do You Want to Read?

Everyone is waiting for the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. It’s a highly anticipated book. There are many others that people want to read.

I’m so far behind in many series that I’m not anticipating new releases yet. However, there are books that have been out for a long time that I want to read quite a bit. Here are some of them:

  • Wool Omnibus, by Hugh Howey
  • Anything by Brandon Sanderson
  • All of the books in the Shannara series that I haven’t read yet.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks
  • The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett
  • The Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence

And more. What I’d like to know is what you really want to read. It can be anything that’s already written or something coming in the future. Let me know in the comments below. Maybe you’ll persuade me to read them, too.

Some Book Channels to Watch

Interested in watching videos about books on YouTube? Well, I have some recommendations. I do this every month, so expect to see one of these videos every month.

This time, I have channels called Connor O’Brien, Cherrie Walker, and TurnThePage. Check out the video and the channels. You can click on the info cards (the i in the top right corner) to go to their channels.

I hope you enjoy them!

Booktube Recommendations

Every month, I’m going to promote three Booktube channels that I find very interesting. Today, I posted my first video on that, and you’ll see me being a bit silly. So, enjoy it!

The channels I recommended are:

They’re all very unique and entertaining channels. I really enjoy watching their videos. Also, they’re all relatively new. Peter Likes Books started shortly before I started doing Booktube videos. SamTheBookDragon is a bit older, and bedtimebookclub is quite new.

So, if you enjoy watching videos on books, these are highly recommended. Are there any you recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

The Best Classic Authors Ever

I have an interest in reading some classic authors. I’ve read Shakespeare, Homer, and a limited amount of 19th century literature, but I’d like to read more.

I tried the 99 Classic Books Challenge on List Challenges, and my score was dismal. I’ve only read six of the books. Isn’t that pathetic? There are a couple more in that list that I own, but haven’t read yet.

I need suggestions. I have some questions for you to answer, so please leave them in the comments below.

  1. Which classic author and book do you recommend from the 20th century?
  2. Which classic author and book do you recommend from the 19th century?
  3. How about the 18th century?
  4. 17th century?
  5. 11th to 16th century?
  6. 1st to 10th century?
  7. 1st century BCE and beyond?

If you don’t have an answer for some of these, don’t worry. Leave it blank. I’m looking forward to your answers. Thanks!

Authors Answer 87 – Non-Canadian and Non-American Authors

It’s Canada Day! And Monday is Independence Day. Fireworks, festivals, good food, and fun in the sun. That’s what we think of for both holidays. But many of us just want to enjoy a book. Most readers of this blog are from the USA or Canada, so we hear about authors from North America all the time. But what about the rest of the world?

320px-Flag_of_Canada.svgQuestion 87 – It’s Canada Day! And American Independence Day is in three days. What are some non-American and non-Canadian authors you would recommend?

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I have to be honest: I’m not the type of person to pay much attention to the details of an author’s life. Mostly I just know the name of the book and the name of the author, so it’s difficult to come up with any right off the top of my head that wouldn’t be totally obvious, like, say, J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman. I’m sure I’ve probably read tons of non-North-American authors’ stuff, but I just don’t have the kind of brain that remembers names and birthplaces and the like. XD That said, Happy Canada Day!

Gregory S. Close

I always recommend Julian May, because she’s one of my favorite authors (Saga of Pliocene Exile).  I think Neil Gaiman is a fantastic writer as well – a great craftsman.  I’m just starting to delve into his books.

H. Anthe Davis

Well, I think most of my non-American reading is in the form of Japanese manga, which might not be what you’re going for, but my absolute favorite manga is Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa.  As for novelists, I am going to run off to Goodreads to see where the people I read actually come from…  Aha!  For recommendation purposes, I would pick Kate Griffin (the urban fantasy pseudonym of Brit Catherine Webb), followed by Garth Nix of Australia.  I also think Karen Traviss (of the UK) has some great original sci-fi that gets overshadowed by her Star Wars and other franchise books.  And of course there’s Erica Dakin, my British partner in (fantasy) crime.

S. R. Carrillo

The best one I’ve read (to my knowledge) would have to be the highly popular Haruki Murakami. If magical realism might be your shindig, Murakami’s gotacha covered.

Paul B. Spence

Well, I’m rather fond of Iain M. Banks and Alastair Reynolds. Anne McCaffrey sort of counts as non-American also.

D. T. Nova

I’d like to be familiar with authors from enough different countries to give a wider variety of answers, but I’m not so I’m going to say Douglas Adams, Philip Pullman, and Neil Gaiman, who are all British.

Jean Davis

Let’s go outside the box with Jo Raven from Cyprus, shall we?

Elizabeth Rhodes

I’ve recently been introduced to the Strugatsky Brothers’ work. (Yes, I know, I’m a chronic late adopter.) Fell in love with the style in Roadside Picnic and felt it ended too soon. And on the other side of the fantasy/sci-fi spectrum, I’ve always been fond of Homer’s epics.

Eric Wood

I’m drawing a complete blank on any authors whose nationality is not American or Canadian. The only two I can think of are my two favorites. One is British Author JK Rowling. I started reading Harry Potter from the time the first book was published. I was immediately hooked. I’m currently reading them with my son and he’s as hooked as I was, though he’s only 9 and I was in university when I first opened them. The second is one book that I’ve read multiple times. I even wrote in it, taking notes as I went so I could go back and really understand it. The Book Thief by Australian author Markus Zusak. His book “I Am the Messenger” is its equal. This book really  opened my eyes to alternative endings.

Jay Dee Archer

I tend to read a lot of British authors. Some of my favourites include science fiction authors Alastair Reynolds (Revelation Space) and Peter F. Hamilton (Night’s Dawn), as well as fantasy authors Terry Pratchett (Discworld) and J. R. R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings). Outside of the UK, I haven’t actually read much. But this is something I plan to change.

How about you?

What are some authors you recommend from outside of the USA and Canada? Let us know in the comments below.