I’ve talked several times about beta readers. They are PRICELESS! But what’s even more fun sometimes, is when I get the opportunity to return the favor. There is so much to learn from reading SOMEONE ELSE’S work.
It’s a lot easier to see errors in other people’s work, and this helps you to find the errors in your own manuscript.
Here’s author Kathleen Bosman to chat up a few things she’s learned from reading other people’s work. Take it away, Kathleen!
Thanks, Jennifer! Here are four things I learned from reading other people’s books:
1. The writing rules are there for a reason. Only break them if your story is so compelling that someone cannot help but read it. And how will you know that until it’s out there anyway?
Unless you’re a bestselling author already, stick to the rules. And use good grammar! Don’t head hop – please stay in one point of view per scene, don’t overuse adjectives, and keep to active, not passive writing. If you don’t know the basic rules of writing a novel, do some research. There are literally hundreds of blogs or websites out there giving the basic rules.
Sometimes a story is gripping and enjoyable but because the author hops from one POV to the next, I cannot continue. I’ve even discarded one of my favourite author’s popular series because she had too many POV’s in her book. Either stick to one or two POV’s.
If you can’t follow basic grammar rules, then do a grammar course. There is nothing worse than a book that is shoddily written. An editor doesn’t mind the odd problem here and there – it’s their job to fix them. The worst is when an author can’t even keep their tenses consistent or writes many sentences that don’t even make sense. Write like English is your first language!
2. Too many “said’s” make the writing clumsy.
You don’t need to say, “he said” or “she said” after every speech. Use an action next to the speech instead which doesn’t jar the reader out of the conversation.
That said, please make sure the reader knows who is talking when. If you are going to use dialogue tags, and I know you do need them sometimes, “said” is actually the best because it doesn’t take the reader out the story. If you have too many “exclaimed, mumbled, hissed, barked, groused,” you’ll get them thinking more about these words than the actual story.
3. Make your characters real and consistent.
If your characters are stupid or unrealistic or change like a chameleon, you’ve lost your readers from the beginning. If need be, get a fellow writer friend to read your book before you send it off to check that they can sympathise with the characters. I read a book recently about a woman who’d just been diagnosed with breast cancer and found out her husband was having an affair. She basically breezed through the whole situation with a smile on her face, quite keen to get the double mastectomy over with. Totally unrealistic!
4. Don’t introduce too many characters into the story in the first scene.
If you have ten people all talking to each other in a scene or seven characters each going through something different in the first chapter, your reader is going to get exhausted from the mental gymnastics. It’s nice to write a book about friends having fun together but keep it to no more than four.
The Album Series
Each book is a fantasy romance about a magic album that matches up couples. Think of “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” meets Hollywood Romantic Comedies.
Looking for Love
When Ella Haviland inherits a magic antique photo album that reveals the future of potential couples, she starts a part-time matchmaking business with the help of her three best friends. It’s always been her dream to help people find love. But finding true love herself isn’t in her plans — even when her best guy friend Ross confesses he’s fallen for her. Friendship and love equals recipe for disaster in her mind.
Ross Mitchell is devastated that Ella doesn’t want more from their relationship. He withdraws … but maybe he should play along when Ella tries to matchmake him with a friend, just to make her jealous. He will do anything to make her notice him.
Through a series of adventures and happenings, Ella discovers that maybe The Album brings more than love and magic into the lives of the people it touches; it sprinkles its magic on hers. But can she find true love herself, or is there too much holding her back?
Get Album #1 free here:
Kathy lives in South Africa, where the summers are hot, the winters cool and bugs thrive. She writes romance in many forms, most of the time with women who feel deeply, men who care strongly and characters who learn lessons along the way. Every so often, she sprinkles a little magic in her stories. When she’s not writing, she makes sure her kids work hard as they do school at home, tries not to get too distracted by dust bunnies and cooks up a storm to keep the tummies full. When she’s not hectically busy, she loves reading romance and fantasy novels, watching movies, and dabbling in different crafty things, depending on her mood.