John Hudspith: The E-book rEvolution – do it a favour!

Posted: January 13, 2012 in Friday Guest
‘utter crap’
‘rip off’
‘can’t write’
‘a load of old ~@:LO##!*’
‘doesn’t make sense’

(samples taken from online comments left by displeased readers)

Not only have the floodgates burst, they’ve buckled, twisted, torn free of their foundations, and pulled up the contents of the sewers. At least that’s what some readers crying dismay from the forums seem to think.

Eager writers want their books out there, and there’s nothing wrong in that, problem is, readers want reasonable quality, and quality is often lacking in the self-pubbing department.

Without doubt, there are gems to be found on the packed electric shelves – obvious care taken with presentation and form resulting in a sparkling jewel, an engaging story. Perhaps the owners of these gems are well established in the art of the craft. Perhaps some have employed an editor to pick away at the fluff and mould a decent blurb and pitch; and an experienced designer to create an engaging cover; and beta readers have made it better. Simply, the author has put considerable effort into crafting his baby. But these gems are few, and the overwhelming expulsion of sludge tumbling through the E-doors is not being easily tolerated.

So where does the craft go from here? Writing evolves, its forms and conventions reacting to ever-changing reader needs and perceptions, and so the e-flood has at least one spectacular thing in its favour…writing will evolve quicker than it ever has.

Improvements in writer ability, and therefore writing quality, will speed up tremendously, so I’d like to add to the ripple by revealing the three most common self-pubbing bloopers along with some proven fixes.

Over-writing

No not insurance, I mean depositing fluff. This is the biggy, the main man, and to make matters worse, to most it is invisible. Over-writing is responsible for a massive 80% of editorial pounces. De-fluffing isn’t as easy as swiping with a lint brush, but employing a simple technique can work wonders. Here’s how: Take one paragraph at a time, get into the narrative voice, read it out loud, and consider every single word for deletion. Every one! Ask yourself if reader would notice the deletion? Ask yourself if the story would be spoiled if that one word or sentence was taken away. It is amazing how much can be trimmed, leaving the STORY to work for itself. Cutting the fluff allows the STORY to run with clarity, and hearing it read out loud helps to identify the fluff. It works, and with practice, one just gets better and better at picking it away.

Dubious dialogue

Ditto the above. Once again imagine the scene playing out on the screen in your mind, get in character, and read it out loud. Does it sound realistic, believable? Does a word need italicising for improved inflection? Can punctuation be used to better effect? Can improved word choice aid delivery? Does word choice convey the expected character mood? Reading aloud, and playing the part really does help.

Unconvincing mood and tone

For your story to be conveyed satisfactorily, for reader to believe it and enjoy it, individual character mood (resultant of story events) must conform to reader’s inbuilt preconceptions of human reactions, otherwise the resulting perceived tone will be off-key. For a woman to chuckle in the scene after her husband got sliced in two by an axe murderer either says something wonderfully insane about the character, or something woefully lacking in the writer. For the pov narrative to wax lyrical about the rosy fingers of dawn when there’s a murder going down means the `writer` needs to shut up. To have the shy boy suddenly become brassy, but only for a page or two, or a character NOT reacting to a story event, simply won’t do. Fix this by standing back and watching the scene. Examine the event/s portrayed. Examine each character’s action and reaction, followed by their mood. And not only their current mood, but the after effects. If a character loses a relative, or a pet, or even a job, then that character may take some time before the mood changes. Character mood needs careful moulding and tracking through actions, best word choice, narrative voice, and dialogue before it can become believable.

So that’s it. If you’re thinking of self-pubbing, put some thought into the cover and hire the services of an experienced cover designer. Remember, you’re not just hiring their software expertise but their opinions and ideas, and achieving a decent cover is not an expensive outlay for such a decent return.

And do consider hiring an editor to help your prose shine. A good editor will not only correct grammar and punctuation, he will hoover up your fluff and bring ideas for improvement in plot, characterisation, and tone. There are many ‘editors’ touting their services on the net, so be sure to get a free sample edit of your first chapter before parting with your cash.

But if you are your own editor, read it out loud, pick away the fluff, take care with speech and mood; tackle those most common bloopers, and do the E-book rEvolution a favour.

***

In the northernmost spire of his black-brick chateau, John Hudspith edits novels by day and scrawls scary stories by night. Kimi’s Secret won a highly coveted youwriteon book of the year award and has had huge acclaim in every room in John’s home. John may look handsomely ancient but he’s really only 30. Five years to write a first novel takes it out of one’s mojo – that and the time-travel. But Kimi is alive now, waiting to suck you in and thrust you onwards. John is now working on the sequel and hopes to see daylight before next Christmas.
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Comments
  1. Thanks for this, Sue xx

  2. Batty Jane says:

    Wise words from the sage. Heed them.

  3. Tricia Gilbey says:

    Off to pick away…

  4. Dan Holloway says:

    Excellent stuff, JV!

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