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10 Tips To Be A Better Writer (#6-10)

Taylor Normann, Contributor

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  •  Finally! We’re at the writing stage! It has been a long road to get to this point and still longer to go before you say you’ve written a full novel. This step should be a breeze or if not at least easier with the help of your handy outline. There’s nothing else I can say but write. Keep going, power through and if you can get in a place away from the internet. You should keep your outline, character sheets, and world building sheets nearby but the time for the internet is over. Do.
    Not. Stop. you can clean up everything in step 7 but the important thing now is to write
    something down so you’ll have a thing in which to edit and enhance later. Chapter length doesn’t matter, it can be as short as 2 pages or long as 30 pages, more or less, it’s up to you. While you were outlining you should have found natural breaks in which to divide chapters, like maybe the characters are going to sleep or a jump in time needs to happen, or a dramatic or secret revealing point just occurred, cliff hanger maybe? These are good points end chapters. If you are worried about total work count for your novel here is a good measure from https://goinswriter.com/tips-writing-book/

    • 10,000 words = a pamphlet or business white paper. Read time = 30-60 minutes.
    • 20,000 words = short eBook or manifesto. The Communist Manifesto is an example of this, at about 18,000 words. Read time = 1-2 hours.
    • 40,000–60,000 words = standard nonfiction book / novella. The Great Gatsby is an example of this. Read time = three to four hours.
    • 60,000–80,000 words = long nonfiction book / standard-length novel. Most Malcolm Gladwell books fit in this range. Read time = four to six hours.
    • 80,000 words–100,000 words = very long nonfiction book / long novel. The Four-Hour Work Week falls in this range.
    • 100,000+ words = epic-length novel / academic book / biography. Read time = six to eight hours. The Steve Jobs biography would fit this category.

 

  • Okay, you’ve written your manuscript and want to send it off to an editor. Sadly, there is one step in the way of that. . . . .the self-edit. This is important if you don’t want to look like a novice because many writers make simple mistakes that they can fix themselves. A professional editor isn’t needed for spelling mistakes, save them for the big stuff.
    • But before self-editing can take place you need a break. You’ve spent weeks, months, basically a long time working on your masterpiece, almost to the point of hatred. So take a break from it. Do not even peek at it for at least a week or better 6 weeks, that’s what Stephen King swears by.
    • After the break don’t just read it in your head, reading out loud will show glaring mistakes in grammar or if something just sounds off. Have Siri or some other automated voice read it to you or enlist the help of a friend.
    • Check up on the use of “,” and “;” and any other similar items you’re having trouble remembering which to use in what instance. Like “then” “than”, “their” “there” “they’re”, “who” “whom”, etc. Freshen up your knowledge on grammar.
    • When writing people have words they’re fond of such as too much “Suddenly” before something happens. Be sure to check that some words are not coming up so frequently as to lose their punch or become draining. For example, in “The Red Badge of Courage” the author referred to his protagonist as “the youth” enough times to make me gouge my eyes out.
    • If you do plan on hiring a professional editor, you’ll need to conform to an industry standard that makes it easier on the editors and beta-readers that will be consuming you’re work these are lovingly used from https://thewritelife.com/self-editing-basics/
      1. Send your manuscript as a Word document (.doc or .docx).
      2. Use double-spaced line spacing. If you’ve already written your book with different line spacing, select all of your text in Word, click Format > Paragraph, then select “Double” in the drop down box under “Line spacing.”
      3. Use a single space following periods.
      4. Use black, 12-point, Times New Roman as the font.
      5. Don’t hit tab to indent paragraphs. In Word, select all of your text, then set indentation using Format > Paragraph. Under
      6. “Indentation” and by “Left,” type .5. Under “Special,” choose “First line” from the drop down menu. [Note: Nonfiction authors may opt for no indention, but if they do so they must use full paragraph breaks between every paragraph.]
      7. The first paragraph of any chapter, after a subheader, or following a bulleted or numbered list shouldn’t be indented.
      8. Use page breaks between chapters. In Word, place the cursor at the end of a chapter, then click “Insert > Break > Page Break” in Word’s menu.
    • Final step in self-editing. Don’t overdo it. You may start seeing a problem where there is none, trust that you’ve gotten most of the kinks out in the outlining phase and then got most of the rest out when you self-edited. Now you may send it off to a professional to handle everything else.

 

  • Now you’ve at last completed the laborious task of self-editing and you think it’s ready to be sent to an editor. Wrong! Now is the time for beta readers! Think of beta readers as a focus group or test audience of a movie or product. Betas often offer their time free of charge so it’s good to go to them first before forking money over to an editor. They offer indispensable wisdom to make the book more marketable and of a higher quality. Here’s what to look for in a beta reader and what to ask for.
    1. Identify the ideal reader for your novel. I mean like age range, gender, and other factors.
    2. Find betas that enjoy the genre your book has been written in. The beta won’t be enthusiastic to read a sci-fi novel if they love historical fiction.
    3. Learn about your betas, why do they read, what are their favorite movies, books, t.v. shows, and other entertainment.
    4. Betas work hard, they’re not merely reading a novel, they’re analyzing, critiquing, giving constructive criticisms, essentially they’re writing a book report for your book of their own free will. So swallow all pride and accept what they’re giving you, they spent a long time thinking of how to improve your work.
    5. Include a time frame for criticism, if you need it by a certain date, let them know but please be reasonable. A few months or at least 2.
    6. Simplify their work, if you have things you’re specifically asking them to critique, tell them. Include a list of what you want them to pay attention to in your work like, characterization, plot and character arcs, pacing, the quality of your prose, and any errors or inconsistencies your betas may have noticed. Include that these are optional, more of like a guideline for what you want help with and allow them to give it to you in the methods they prefer.
    7. Send it to them in the manner they prefer, some prefer a physical copy while others want an online PDF.
    8. Remember to cast the net wide, of 30 people only 10 or less may respond and agree to help.
    9. The easiest way to get a group of betas is to offer to do the same! Make a few contacts and offer to beta read their work and put in the time and effort of a great beta before asking them to do the same. Not every beta will have work they want beta read but it will help sweeten the deal and be beneficial to both parties and you’ll practice looking over works with a critical eye. And be sure to be sincerely offering! If they say yes, include it into your schedule and give honest feedback.
    10. That being said do not take every change a beta offers, unless it’s something you wholeheartedly agree with or if more than 50% of your beta readers made the same comment.
    11. Show gratitude by sending thank you letters, beta reading a manuscript of theirs, promote something they already published, or if your beta is a non-writer send them a few copies of the finished project signed by you, the author.

 

  • Next Step! Sending off to an editor. Be sure to do thorough research and find the editor that works best with you and your book. For instance, if your book is a fantasy novel it wouldn’t do to send it off to an editor that works mainly in science-fiction. Know what you want from your editors, because each editor will do it differently. Some will look at the big picture of a book, structural issues like plot holes, wandering timelines, character inconsistencies, excessive exposition, lagging pace, these are content editors. Copy editors will fact check, focus on punctuality, and grammar, verb tense, and the readability of your novel. A couple of editors might have a creative knack and offer helpful rewrites. After you’ve selected a few be sure to also check their other clients and the type of work they do to get a better feel for the editor. Next email the editor and ask if they’re accepting new clients, the average reply time in 1-3 days. If they are ask for a sample edit, the sample edit should be free or a small fee of maybe $25. Be sure the edit is returned within the deadline you’ve both agreed upon, gives reasons for why certain changes were made, and offers helpful insights, it would be nice if they were invested in your work as well. The price range for editing is .75 – 2 cents per word for proofreading, 2 – 4 cents per word for copy editing and/or line editing, and upwards of 2 – 6 cents per word for a good, qualified content editor. Keep in mind asking if the cost includes revisions or if you’ll need to pay again. At the end of the editing and your manuscript returns to you covered in red-marks, relax, you’re not being judged they’re only trying to help and make the story better. If it isn’t coming back with loads of marks after your first sending get a new editor.

 

  • Final Step, well more as tip, a bonus if you will. Understand that this will not make or break and is only just generally really helpful. For writers it is a good idea to get a blog, give talks at schools and libraries, have social media. Basically get word out about your work, think of it as advertising for potential readers. This will also be helpful when dealing with editors as they’ll likely Google you and it’ll help your cause to have something pop up with your name on it. A blog and a sizable social media presence on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter will show you’re more than a nameless nobody, you do have some guaranteed readers that make marketing and going through the full effort of getting you published worth the effort.
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