DrinkingFountainCloseUpIMG_0075 copy 2I’ve written, edited and critiqued hundreds of thousands of words first as a journalist, then as community newspaper editor and now as an author and paid facilitator of creative writing circles.

Most recently I’ve taken on writing and videoing book reviews of the work of new, self-published authors.

I’ve written a lot of book reviews, but in this category – new, self-published authors, I’ve so far done sixteen. The average star rating is 2.8, a bit better than I didn’t like it, but not quite as good as I like it.

A couple of these authors were brilliant, but most, though they have potential, are hampered by lack of craft. If they continue writing and reading I know they’ll improve. Writing is like most things – the more you do it the better you get.

New authors most often make the same mistakes, both in story structure and in writing and this has been the case with the majority of ones I’ve reviewed.

I seldom give writing advice, I mean who needs more, but if you’re a new author or an aspiring one here are some simple tips that will get your story off to a good start and some suggestions about how to improve the writing of it.

This is not to say I don’t still make these mistakes. They’re easy to see in other people’s work, but more difficult in your own – isn’t that always the case.

Before you write a single word ask yourself:

– what does your main character want?

– why do they want it?

– what is stopping them from getting it?

Now you can begin writing – by answering these three questions.

These are the basis of every story – Goal, Motivation and Conflict. If you establish these elements right at the beginning, and keep referring to them as you write your novel, your characters and the plot will stay focused.

Remember, the reader wants to know what this story is about so present this information in your first paragraph or at least get it in the first chapter.

Write as simple as you can, which is actually very difficult. Above everything else tell the story as story always trumps writing. I’d suggest you tell it straightforward in simple chronological order. If you want an example of simple, straightforward storytelling read The Lowlands by Jhumpra Lahiri. It’s powerfully simple and unfolds naturally in chronological order. It got short listed for the Man Booker Prize and won her several other accolades.

Here are six things that will label your writing as amateur and should be avoided:

  1. Using too many adverbs. If you have to describe how your dialogue is being delivered it’s weak and should be rewritten.
  2. Over explaining. Action should be explained simply or, in many cases left up to the reader’s imagination. Here again use a strong verb rather than a weak one supported by adverbs
  3. Attaching action to dialogue. It’s dialogue – full stop – then a new sentence for the action.
  4. Using speaker attributions other than “said”.
  5. Too much description. Only minimal character description is necessary and it shouldn’t be dumped, but subtly inserted and only when motivated, ideally as part of some action.
  6. Being over indulgent with your prose. We love our words but if they don’t develop character or advance the plot cut them.

So you’ve adhered to these suggestions and you’ve finished your book. Congratulations. Now it’s time to get it out there, right?

Wrong.

Most of the novels I’m giving two stars to have been rushed into publication. I know you’re excited, but remember – it’s never as good as you think it is, and it can always be better. Yes, always.

Here’s what I do:

– I revise a manuscript a minimum three times or until I feel it’s finished.

– Then I put it away for at least three months or however long it takes to get it out of my system.

– While I’m waiting to be purged, I work on something completely different.

– Once I’ve put some distance between my ego and the book, I’m ready. I take out the manuscript and send it to as many beta readers for comment as I can. If you don’t have a stable of readers who are free from conflict of interest, join a writing group online or otherwise and workshop the novel.

Once you’ve decided it’s time for the final rewrite gather all the comments and criticisms together and once again apply my six suggestions.

If you follow this method I guarantee your final version will be different and better than it was when you deemed it complete.

Keep writing and remember what Nietcszhe said:

The doer alone learneth

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Video book reviews of self-published authors now at

Not Your Family, Not Your Friend Video Book Reviews: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH45n8K4BVmT248LBTpfARQ

My new novels, FOREST – Love, Loss, Legend and The BIG PICTURE – A Camera, A Young Woman, An Uncompromising Ethic are available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU and as e-books at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/raglin

Read Reviews https://readersfavorite.com:book-review:39014

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to my Eco-Fi series ECO-WARRIORS, that includes Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients http://www.devinedestinies.com/?route=product%2Fauthor&author_id=92

More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS. Go to: http://www.redbubble.com/people/rodraglin

View my flickr photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/78791029@N04/

Or, My YouTube channel if you prefer photo videos accompanied by classical music

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsQVBxJZ7eXkvZmxCm2wRYA

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