An indie writer and I became friendly online and I anxiously awaited the release of her first book. I planned to review it for her but once I started it I knew I could not. I barely made it halfway through the first read. I desperately wanted to be supportive of her writing but found the manuscript poorly edited and the characters underdeveloped. She knew I was reading her work and I didn’t quite know how to best handle the situation. In hindsight, I probably should have kept my opinion to myself, but instead told her what I thought she could do to improve her story. She has never spoken to me since.
It’s plenty easy to find people who will tell you how good you are but not so easy to find someone to tell you the truth. Since writing is our product and most of us aspire to make a living at it, an honest opinion is the only way a storyteller can improve. Let me be clear that I’m not talking about the story itself but the proficiency of writing the tale.
You might have concluded that I have learned my lesson from the above experience but in an effort to truly support fellow writers, most especially indie writers, I’m going to go out on a limb and do it once again. What I am about to say is not from on-high as a writer but as an avid reader of fiction. When I read, I get lost in another world and will consume the story as if living on the written word and not come up for air until finished. That is if the book is well written and captivating.
I recently started to read two books that I downloaded from Amazon. Although I am traditionally published, I support all authors equally and hoped to offer some positive reviews of the books as requested. Both seemed edited okay but each broke the cardinal rule of good story telling: SHOW DON’T TELL. I gave the authors 20 pages to draw me in and it did not happen. In neither book did I meet the antagonist or find out the conflict of the story. You can chalk it up to preference and maybe that’s all that it comes down to but there are certain fundamentals that I think all writers should aspire to.
As a reader, I want to be drawn into the novel immediately. Please don’t pack the beginning of your book with backstory. You can intersperse the pertinent information as you’re getting on with the real story. Help me understand, in the first few pages, who the protagonist is and what makes him or her different and why I should care about them and what they’re experiencing in relationship to the antagonist.
Have your book professionally edited. Traditional publishing usually includes professional editing and indie authors, in my opinion, should aspire to the same standards. If at some point in my career, I decide to independently publish or my husband does, I promise you, we will get our work edited.
Not everyone will like any one story, even the ones that sell millions of copies so it’s easy to blow off my advice which is your right and prerogative, but don’t. I know people don’t want to be stuck in the editing process forever but writing a great work of fiction does take many steps and I think we fail our audience when we rush it.
Will I offer unsolicited advice on a personal basis again? Probably not. I know in my heart my intent was good and pure but I lost a budding friendship in the process.
I’m still hunting for that newly published novel that blows me away so I can post a review of the story right here on my blog.
Come back next week to read my lighter blog on blowjobs. 😉
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