Writing a novel is hard work. Authors might spend well over a year writing, revising, and editing until the words are perfect. Often times, we authors want to jump the gun and press submit before the novel should have been published. Many authors can’t afford an editor and rely on friends and beta-readers to find errors. I’m not going to say this is wrong, but I am going to let you in on the most common errors I find in indie novels. I’m a rampant reader. I grab free novels from various newsletters. Most of the time I am let down by the quality of the final product. Often the stories are brilliant, but I’m left wondering, “Did the author decide to stop in the middle of edits?” Perhaps indies need help.
Number one thing to do. After you believe you have finished all your edits, and most especially if you can’t afford an editor, listen to your novel aloud. Word has a feature where it will speak selected text. Using this function will help you find sentences with missing or wrong words. You won’t believe how many indie novels I have read that are just simply missing words. This is so easy to fix.
Number two. Commas matter. Two independent clauses should be joined by , and, a semicolon, or made into two individual sentences. (Please, if you don’t know what an independent clause is, you must pick up a writer’s reference and educate yourself.) I often trip over sentences when I can’t tell the logical separation between two thoughts. Follow my examples.
I went to the store, and I biked home.
I went to the store; I biked home.
I went to the store. I biked home.
Another comma error I see. Commas are missing before participle phrases (the –ing phrase). Some of these commas are so crucial for clarification!
I went to the store, skipping all the way.
I saw my aunt skipping up the street. (The comma is not needed here because the aunt is the object skipping up the street. But what if you put the comma in?)
I saw my aunt, skipping up the street. (This would mean that the subject of the sentence, I, is skipping up the street. To further clear this up, the phrase can be moved to the front of the sentence.)
Skipping up the street, I saw my aunt.
But I would prefer this for clarification.
While skipping up the street, I saw my aunt.
Number three. Another issue I see with participle phrases is the time warp. I will refer you to this reference.
Number four. Those quote marks and apostrophes must face the correct direction! What do I mean? Some marks are straight and some are what are called smart or curly. Often when authors are copying and pasting parts of their documents from different programs, the marks end up being a mix of straight and curly. Use search and find function to replace all your quote marks and apostrophes from straight to curly. But after that, you’ll have to go through your document and make sure they are facing the right direction.
Go get ‘em. (wrong)
Go get ’em. (right)
Clare said, “I’m going to repeat her words so you understand. ‘Go get ’em.’” (right)
Number five. Once everything is a go with your manuscript and you have formatted your mobi or ePub, you must scroll through every page on your eReader and look for errors. Look for spaces before punctuation. Look for different paragraph indents. Even look for paragraphs that break in the middle. All these mistakes are easy to see if you scroll page by page. Make sure your final product is pretty and looks professional!
All right. With all this said, it makes sense, as a writer, to pick up a grammar book. I started with a simple writer’s reference, and now I’m digging my way through Chicago’s Manual of Style, a must for every author.
If you fix these simple things listed above, even if you aren’t great with grammar, readers will enjoy your novel without tripping over the bumps.
Do you have any other suggestions for indie authors?