How to write a book? Don’t knock your readers out of the fantasy.
I saw a discussion on a board today about writing, and if it is a big deal to not “knock readers out of a story” with inconsistencies, bad grammar, inexplicable changes in tone, etc. If you want to learn how to write a book, and sell your book, I think it is a big deal…a huge deal.
As a reader, I’m pretty intolerant of things that blow me out of the story. No story is perfect, of course, so things that a reader finds jarring or blows them out of the story have a cumulative effect. A very few (and widely spaced) gaffs can be forgiven. Too many too close together and the reader will give up and put the book down (or turn off their ereader). Everyone has a different point at which they will give up. If they otherwise really love the story, they may ignore a large number of such gaffs. On the other hand, if they are barely interested, they may give up after just one.
My First Novel
I recently published my first novel — Youth In Asia. It is a #Vietnam War novel (novella is more accurate). I had proofed it extensively (to include reviewing it in the various formats Amazon’s digital preview supports). I rather enjoy fiction editing, to include working over my writing, but it was a time consuming, tedious process, and I knew there were still going to be some gaffs when I did finally publish.
And there were three that came to light within a couple days. In one instance a verb tense was wrong, in another the first line of a paragraph did not indent, and in the third (a reader pointed out to me), in one passage “4th” had somehow become “42”.
Major issues? I don’t think so. Significant impact on the story? Nope. But could any one (or all three) give a reader pause and knock them out of the story? Yes. So in my view, they had to be fixed. It took another four hours at my PC to modify the file, upload it, and then proof it yet again through the digital reader.
Of course, none of this means the story is any good, the characters are believable, or that it is even interesting to most readers. What does mean is that I’ve given readers as friction-less opportunity to enter the fantasy I have created, and that is hugely important.
5 Star Reviews: “This degree of compassion and insight is what makes this book not just another Vietnam novel such as `The Things They Carried’, `If I Die in a Combat Zone’, and `Going After Cacciato’ – brilliant as those are. Instead Allen addresses those issues of the Vietnam War we’d rather bury…“
I’m happy to add that as of this writing, I’ve gotten nothing but “5 Star” reviews, to include from some of Amazon’s top reviewers. So that is cool (and I’ll explain how I got top reviewers to review my novel in another post…it was easier than you think, though I had no control over what said about it). I’m sure there will be other lower reviews at some point, but it feels great to be off to such a good start. All the hard work is paying off! 🙂
Huge Howey — indie author of the bestselling Wool — is exactly right when it comes to how to write a book:
“…the biggest barrier to releasing quality material is probably impatience. You have a work that feels pretty good; you’re exhausted; you want to move on; you might be a bit delusional about how good it really is; so you hit publish. Nobody steps in and tells you to make it better, to do another pass, to get a better cover, to write a better blurb, to hire or trade for some editing, to beg or trade for some beta reading. You simply jump the gun.
“What the community of self-published authors needs is readers and reviewers. They can get this by publishing, watching the feedback, and attempting to fix and re-publish their work. If they are smart, they get a loved one or friend to do this before they publish. If they are smarter, they get beta readers. Smartest, they hire an editor.”
There is not much more to say. If you want to be a published writer, then take it very seriously and do the work to get it right. At least to make the story readable.
My short novel is not to everyone’s taste. That is fine. But (so far) the universal feedback is that it is well-written and an easy read. This is exactly as I had intended. As Howey suggests, I did have friends and family read it, I did have beta readers review it, I did hire a professional editor to work on it. Take a look. Tell me what you think of it. You can see the first few pages on Amazon via the ‘Look Inside‘ feature. And you can get it for free via KindleUnlimited.
Please use the buttons at right or below to share with other writers. Thanks! Allen