Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

This post is the thirty-ninth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

If you are going to publish a book, even if it is only an e-book, you will need a cover. If you are going with a traditional publisher, the design of your cover may or may not have your input. If you are going the self-publishing route, the cover design is up to you.

Before we go into the details of cover design, I want to go over two things that will appear on your book cover – the book title and your author name.

Book Title

Choosing the title for your book can be one of the hardest decisions. The title is a sales tool. It allows the reader to know something about your book. Your title needs to paint a picture for your prospective reader. You want the title to be catchy enough to intrigue a reader and short, so it doesn’t fill up the entire front cover.

Now some people know their titles when they begin writing, but others wait to complete their work before deciding on a title. Either way works.

Here are a few tips about selecting a fiction title.

Length – choose a short title – preferably six words or less. Besides not taking up a lot of room on the cover, short titles are easier to remember.

Make it easy to pronounce – Shy away from foreign or made-up words because these don’t give the person looking at your book any idea of what it is about. A title won’t tug at the reader if they can’t pronounce or understand the words.

Make it relevant – Ensure that your book title has something to do with what’s between the covers. Readers don’t like to be tricked. You shouldn’t name your science fiction masterpiece something that sounds like it belongs to an Old Western.

See how popular the title is – Go onto Amazon and type in your title. See how many other books come up with that same title. Yes, I know you can’t necessarily have a title that no one has used before but if tons of books come up with the same title, you may want to consider something a little more unique. And, of course, do not use a title that already belongs to a famous book.

Just remember there are no hard-and-fast rules for selecting a title. For every piece of advice you may get, you will be able to think of a title that goes against it. And while you may love a title, someone else may think it stinks. So in the end, I say to go with what you love. It is after all your book.

Author Names/Pen Names

I host authors every Friday, and I have seen some pretty hard to pronounce names and ones that I imagine are impossible to remember or spell correctly. How do you expect readers to recommend you or search for your books on Amazon when they can’t figure out how to spell – much less pronounce – your name?

Image result for Pen nameThis is where a pseudonym or pen name comes into play. A pen name allows authors to select a catchy, memorable name. It allows them to switch genders or even nationalities, which depending upon the circumstances could mean more book sales.

Reasons for using a pen name

1.) Your real name may also belong to someone already famous or to another author.

2.) Your name may be hard to pronounce, remember, or spell.

3.) You may be known for writing one genre and want to write another. Or perhaps you write non-fiction books and now want to write romance novels.

4.) You pick a pen name to mask your gender. If you are a man writing romance novels, you might want to choose a feminine pen name. Some genres are more dominated by men so using a masculine name or initials might improve your chances of succeeding. (Examples: J.K. Rowlings, J.D. Robb)

5.) You want to hide your moonlighting. Perhaps you don’t want your boss to know you are an author, so he doesn’t begin to think you aren’t working hard at your job.

6.) You want to remain anonymous. Some people want a private life. They don’t want fans tracking them down, or perhaps they don’t want people they know to find out they write erotica or romance novels.

Other Authors with Pen Names

Many famous authors write under a pen name. Probably the most well-known is Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens). Here are a few more…

  • George Orwell (real name Eric Arthur Blair)
  • Stan Lee (real name Stanley Martin Lieber)
  • George Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans)
  • Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Nora Roberts (real name Eleanor Marie Robertson) – has also written under J.D. Robb, Jill March, and Sarah Hardesty

Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, a fantasy author, writes under two pen names: Megan Lindholm for her earlier, contemporary fantasy, and Robin Hobb for her epic, traditional fantasy books.

Dean Koontz has written under several pen names in the beginning of his career, including David Axton, Leigh Nichols, and Brian Coffey.

Picking a pen name

There are tons of ways to pick a name. You can look through a baby naming book. You can shorten your name. (Amelia to Mia) Maybe you like your middle name or a friend’s first name. Try looking at family names for last names.

Make sure the name you pick out is easy to remember and something you can answer to just a readily as your own name.

After you come up with a list of possible names, check Amazon to see if there is already an author by that name. Use Google to search the name and see what links come up. Another place to look up the name is on Facebook. You can then figure out if you have a unique name or one that quite a few other people have.

Now some authors keep their pen names a secret while others proudly claim what other names they write under. And that is totally up to you. There is no shame in using a pen name. In fact, it might just help your book sales.

Now that we have covered your title and author name, next week, I’ll go over cover art and layout.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your Novel

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

Advertisements

Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

This post is the thirty-sixth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Over the past few weeks, I have been discussing revising and editing your novel. You will go through several drafts, and these two tips can be employed at any time to help you refine your writing.

Take a Break

You have spent a good chuck of time writing your novel. And then you begin editing and revising it. It is easy when you have spent this much time on a project to lose your objectivity or get in a rush to be done with it. This is the time when you need to take a break.

Yes, that is right. One of the best tips is to take time off. Whether it is just a few days, a few weeks or even a few months, you need to get your mind off your current project. When you return, you will have a clear mind and will be able to view your novel with “fresh eyes.”

Now it is up to you to decide just how much time you want or need to spend away from your work in progress. Every author has their own preference of how much time they need off and what they want to do during that time.

You might take the time to do some pre-release publicity or you might begin work on another story idea. Some authors switch between working two different stories. They do draft one on one story, then draft one on the other story. Then follow with the other drafts switching back and forth.

I don’t take a break after my first draft, but I like taking a short break between drafts two and three, and then another short break whenever I am getting ready for my final read through.

Read Aloud

Often when we read silently, our mind skips small errors and typos. Reading aloud forces you to notice every single word. It can help you notice run-on sentences, missing words, awkward transitions as well as other grammatical or organizational issues. It also lets you hear the dialogue allowing you to determine if the dialogue sounds realistic.

The key to reading aloud is to make sure you are reading exactly what is on the printed page (or computer screen if you don’t want to print out your text.) You may want to follow along with your finger, pointing at each word. This helps you stay focused and not skip anything. Or you may want to cover up everything but the section you are currently reading so you concentrate on just it and not what is to come.

Another option is to read your work backwards, sentence by sentence. This helps you focus just on the text and not the ideas. It can be especially helping you catch sentence fragments.

Methods to reading aloud

Read aloud to yourself – This is self-explanatory. You can even pretend you are the famous actor/actress doing the audio version of your book.

Read to a friend – This can allow a second pair of ears to hear the prose and allow for additional feedback on what is missing or needs improving.

Have someone else read aloud – Allowing a friend to read to you lets you concentrate only on what is being read. You can note where your friend stumbles or gets lost. You do not necessarily need to follow along as they read but can certainly do so to make notes and corrections as long as you don’t start reading ahead.

An alternative to this would be to have the computer read to you. This works great as the computer will definitely read EVERY word.

For those of you who use Microsoft Word, this feature is already available to you. If you use another software that doesn’t have a speech feature, you can find many web-based services that can help you get your computer, smart phone, tablet or e-reader to read your work out loud for you. (Search ‘text to speech’ or ‘text reader.’)

For MSWord – At the very top of the screen is your Quick Access bar (circled in the below image). Click on the down arrow (Drop Down Menu) on the right. Select More Commands.

On the left side is a list of features/tools you can add to your Quick Access Bar. Go down to Speak and click the button to add it to your bar. (If you don’t see it under “Popular Commands,” then select “All Commands” from the drop-down menu above the left column.) Click OK.

To listen to your text, highlight the text to be read and then click the Speak icon (now located on your Quick Access Bar). It is that simple.

No matter which reading aloud method you choose to use, reading your novel aloud will be beneficial as will taking a break from your editing.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

This post is the thirty-fifth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Over the past several posts, I have written about the many different drafts your novel will go through and some of the different editing techniques that you can use to reduce wordiness or strengthen your novel.

And when I have done a majority of my changes and am on what I am hoping is my final draft, I find I need something to keep me on track and remind me of all the areas that I need to focus on.

I am unsure where I got this revision outline. I believe it was condensed down and adjusted one from an online writing class I took years ago. But it serves its purpose and ensures I do a complete job of editing on my final draft.

Even though the notes say to do only one of these at a time, I typically do several at once working on each chapter separately.

Revision Outline

Do only ONE step at a time. If you find another area that needs work – mark it and then continue with the current fine-tuning project. Work in block sections (defined by chapters). Complete each “block” before going on.

Structure – develop a clear, compelling plot.

a.)    Look for scenes that are passive/dialogue with no tension.

b.)    Scenes that don’t build or are anti-climactic.

NOTES: Each scene has a beginning, middle and end – there must be a climax/tension spot for each scene – make sure dialogue scenes have tension and are not just “passing time.”

Texture – Sharpen descriptive passages to make characters, setting, and action more vivid – SHOW, DON’T TELL

a.)    Look for too much/too little description

b.)    Clichés

c.)    Too many adjectives/adverbs

d.)   Information dumps

e.)    Background or setting info in the wrong place

Dialogue – Elicit character personality through conversation

a.)    Look at taglines (placement, too many, too few, too much extra information)

b.)    No information dump

c.)    Bland or melodramatic lines

NOTES: Read dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds natural/realistic.

Editing – Tighten pace and continuity

a.)    Look for repetition through implication

b.)    Remove slow passages

NOTES: Cut, cut, cut! Don’t repeat what the reader already knows or what is implied elsewhere. Be ruthless! Tighten up the copy without fear of shortening the novel.

Blending – search and destroy any weakness.

a.)    Look for soft spots – unclear character motivations, actions that seem contrived.

b.)    Fix by expanding or adding a scene so the novel flows.

Hopefully this outline helps you with your revision but feel free to adapt it to what does fit your style of editing and revising.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

This post is the thirty-fourth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Due to the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I have taken the month of April off for my writing series. In case you need a refresher, I last covered Beta Readers, Proofreaders and Editors. In that post, I said I would discuss grammar checking programs in a future post, so here it is.

But first, before I delve into programs, let me say that grammar is very important. Your manuscript can easily be rejected by agents and publishers if it comes to them riddled with errors. And for those of us who self-publish, you can expect plenty of negative reviews if you publish a book full of grammar mistakes. Yes, you can hire someone to fix your grammar mistakes or use grammar software but I believe every author needs to know the basics of grammar or at least know enough to look up the rule if you are unsure.

You may not recall all the grammar rules that were drilled into you when you were in school, but there countless books that can help, or you can turn to the internet.

Books to keep nearby:

Dictionary

Thesaurus

Flip-Dictionary or Reverse Dictionary – These books are for when you know what something is but not what it is called.

Style and Usage Guide – I have seen all sorts of recommendations for The New York Manual of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style. But I always have had Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style on hand since college.

You also may want to include any reference books that pertain to your genre such as forensics if you are writing a police drama or a book on poisons if you are writing a mystery.

Internet resources:

Grammar and PunctuationGrammarbook.com

SpellingDictionary.com or Merriam-Webster

Word ChoiceThesaurus.com or Reverse Dictionary

ResearchEncyclopedia.com or Wikipedia.com (the latter one may not be too reliable as it can be edited by anyone, but it can be a good starting point in your research)

Also for research, check out Writerswrite.com

Writing helpWriter’s Digest

If you need additional help, a proofreader can check your grammar, but, nowadays, as software improves, the need for someone to proofread for spelling and grammar errors diminishes. I’m not saying a program can take the place of an expert but some of these programs do a remarkable good job and they blow away the checkers that come with word processing software.

Grammar Checking Software

There are several options out there, and none of them will catch every error. You will need to review any suggestions made to see if they are correct for whatever you are writing.

Since 2012, I have been using the program WhiteSmoke which is a cloud-based program. Grammerly and Ginger are two other popular programs.

Here is a quick look at these three.

WhiteSmoke (website

  • The offer a mobile version that is separate from the cloud-based version.
  • Works with any browser.
  • Offers three version – essential, premium and business.
  • Prices range from $79 to $215 depending on version.
  • Offers a translator and a plagiarism checker on all three versions.

Grammarly (website

  • It offers a free version but will only give writing suggestions on the paid version.
  • Paid version checks for more errors than free version.
  • More Expensive than WhiteSmoke and Ginger at $139.95 for a year subscription
  • It includes a Plagiarism checker on premium version.
  • No free trial of premium version

Ginger Software (website

  • Works on multiple platforms
  • Free version only analyzes a limited number of words per check and not the whole text.
  • No plagiarism tool
  • Offers two paid versions – basic and premium – The basic version is $61.20 per year.
  • It includes dictionary and translation tools which Grammarly doesn’t.
  • The software will actually read your sentences or the words it suggests be replaced.
  • I found it hard to find anything on the site other than the free version. I figure after you download it, they might “suggest” the upgrade.

Any of these grammar checking programs will help your writing and are definitely worth the investment.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

This post is the thirty-third in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

In the process of editing your novel, you may want to turn it others to help you polish your story. Today I am going to discuss beta readers, proofreaders, and copy editors.

Beta Reader

Related imageWhat is a beta reader?

A beta reader is someone who reads a work of fiction with a critical eye before it is released to the public. They may catch spelling, grammar, characterization, and continuity errors. Unlike editors, these people are usually unpaid and often see your work in a rough state.

The term beta reader comes from the software industry where “beta” testers try out software before a major release to the public in order to identify problems.

Why use a beta reader?

Many authors like to use beta readers to improve the quality of their work before submitting it for professional editing and critique. Beta readers may question why a character does or does not do something. They may catch errors such as a change of location (the fight takes place in a bar but is later told to have taken place at the school), the way a character is dressed (a blue shirt all of a sudden is red) or which characters are in the room at the time (Charles may have left for work but then appears in a scene at home).

The fact is that as authors, we are so close to our own manuscripts that we cannot see them objectively. Things that are clear in our mind, may not come across the same way to others reading it. We may leave out vital steps in an explanation and not realize it since we know what we mean. Beta readers allow you to fine tune and polish your work before presenting it to the world.

How to find a beta reader?

There are websites that provide directories of beta readers broken down by genre. Or you can post on writing forums that you are looking for a beta reader or even post on your own blog.

Of course, you can also find a beta reader in your family or from your fan base but be warned their comments may not totally be objective.

Finding a good beta reader – one who reads your genre and is of your target market in terms of age, gender and interest – can be a lot of work but worth it. You need someone who will tell you the truth without worrying about hurting your feelings. Writers typically make good beta readers as they understand the writing/creative process.

To use a beta reader, you need a “thick skin” to be able to hear negative feedback, absorb it, learn from it and apply changes derived from it.

Proofreader

Image result for proofreaderA proofreader is someone who looks over your manuscript for grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. A proofreader should see your manuscript AFTER all the editing and after beta readers have made their suggestions (and you have made all your changes). Basically, they should see your manuscript when it is ready for publication. Their job is NOT to make revisions but to make corrections.

In the world of publishing paper books, a proofreader was one of the last to review the book. They would be looking at the final copy as it would print. If there were too many end-of-line hyphens in a row or a blank section break at the top of a page, they would correct those and other esthetic issues in addition to checking grammar and spelling.

Nowadays, as software improves, the need for someone to proofread for spelling and grammar errors diminishes and you may want to use grammar software such as Grammerly or WhiteSmoke. These are comprehensive grammar checking programs but of course no software can completely replace having someone proof your work. (I will discuss these programs in more detail in a future post.)

Many proofreaders charge by the hour while others charge by the word. Copy editors also usually offer proofreading as part of their services.

Copy Editor

Related imageWhile proofreading is done at the end, an editor may work over long periods of time with a writer until the manuscript is perfected. It is a much more involved process that can take months. And while some may argue editing also refers to finding typos and grammar errors, editing involves one major factor that proofreading does not: content.

A copy editor reads your work and makes corrections so it follows the conventions of good writing. They can find flaws in your story or help you flesh out a sub-plot.  They refine word choices and make sure the manuscript’s syntax is smooth. The copy editor may suggest reorganizing, recommend changes to chapter titles and call out lapses in logic or sequential slip-ups. They will ensure continuity through chapters and ensure dialog is believable.

If employing both, use an editor first and then the proofreader afterwards.  Editors may charge by the hour, by the page or even by the word.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

This post is the thirty-second in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

As you work on tightening your writing, you need to remove unnecessary word and delete or change words that you might use too often. Often you don’t even realize you are using these words.

Unnecessary words

I will have to say the word I use often that is not necessary is the word “that.” Now there is nothing wrong with this word, but often it can be cut without any loss of meaning to the sentence.

Example from my book Destiny

He only hoped they were right and that slipping the scepter back into the High Council archives would be as easy as Coy thought. – deleted

She began with one the Histories that mentioned King Rupert.  – left in

Another author once commented that he often mentioned his characters taking breaths. “I took a breath and plunged into the forest.” As he noted, breathing should be a given and was only interesting when the character stopped doing it.

Words Used Too Often

Sometimes what you need to do to tighten your writing is to look at your word choices. I found in one my novels that in my first draft, my characters “nod” a lot.

Here are few other words that other authors have said they feel they use too much.

Stare

Just

But

Some

Felt

Gasp

Shrug

Quite

Truly

Definitely

Extremely

Additionally, you can usually delete “really,” “pretty,” and “very” as these are unnecessary modifiers.

This brings me to adverbs which I touched about last week. These are often redundant, or you can replace many adverbs and verbs with a single stronger verb.

Example: Coy closed the door angrily.

Rewrite: Coy slammed the door shut.

I typically search for about 40 different words that I think are unnecessary or that I feel I might use too often, which could even include the names of my characters. The easiest way to do this is to use the “Find” feature on your Word Processing program. On one of my novels, I ended up cutting about 2000 words just by doing this.

Cutting out excess words is just one step in editing your novel. Rest assured as you cut out words and tighten your prose, you are improving your story.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

This post is the thirty-first in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I wrote about the different drafts of your novel. And somewhere in there, you are going to evaluate the words you selected. You may want to consider replacing some of the verbs with stronger ones. And because there are many similar words, you will want to make sure you are using the “correct” word.

Stronger Words

Image result for strong arm clipartIf you aren’t sure about what I mean by stronger words, here is a simple example.

Sample sentence

Ben got a bag of chips from the shelf.

Stronger word choice:

Ben grabbed a bag of chips from the shelf.

Yes, both sentences are very similar. But the key is that in the second example you learn how Ben got the bag. The word “grab” means to “seize something quickly.” When the word “grabbed” is used, you know that not only did Ben get a bag of chips, but you understand how he did it.

So when picking stronger words, you are trying to choose words that give the reader more information. Instead of talking loudly, you shout. Instead of hitting hard, you wallop and instead of smile smugly, you smirk.

Take a look at this example:

Seething with anger, Sarah took the book from him. She walked out the door, closing it loudly as she left.

Stronger word choices:

Sarah snatched the book out of his hand. She stomped out the door, slamming it behind her.

The second example gives a clearer picture of what happened. You know by her actions that Sarah is either angry or annoyed.

In the second half of the first example, instead of picking a strong verb, an adverb was used. As a writer, using the occasional adverb is fine but in reality, you should aim to use strong verbs (as in the second example.) The use of a lot of adverbs shows lazy writing.

Quick grammar refresher: An adverb modifies a verb, adjective or other adverbs. They answer the question where, when, how and to what extent. You don’t have to eliminate all adverbs but if an adverb can easily be eliminated without change the meaning of the passage, then it should be removed.

Of course, though sometimes a stronger verb will work better, there are times when a simple word is fine. Characters can walk. They don’t always have to stomp, dash, hurry, shuffle, scurry or whatever.

You want to pick the best word for the scene. This doesn’t mean you need a big, fancy or unusual word. It means picking the right word to say the right thing in just the right way. It doesn’t mean rushing to a thesaurus to sprinkle your book with synonyms when a simpler word will do.

As you revise your draft, examine your word choices. You might ask yourself, “Is this really what I mean?” or “Is there a better word to convey this so my readers will understand what is happening?”  Finding words that capture your meaning and convey it to your readers is challenging. But you can tighten up your writing by making sure you are picking strong words.

Homonyms

The English language is filled with homonyms – words that are spelled and pronounced the same way but mean different things (example #1) or can be words that are spelled differently and mean different things but are pronounced the same (example #2). It is this second example that you have to watch out for in your writing. And you cannot count on grammar checking programs or even proofreaders to catch these mistakes every time.

Example #1

Image result for homonyms

Example #2

Image result for homonyms

Here are some examples using the correct word and then followed by the often-misused word and the definitions of the two.

Harold’s face twitched with a nervous tic.

tic – a periodic spasm

tick – a small bloodsucking arachnid or perhaps the sharp, recurring click (as of a clock)

The wording piqued my interest.

Pique – aroused or excited

Peaked – to be at the maximum (interest has peaked and will probably soon decline)

Two vases of flowers stood on either side of the altar.

Altar -the structure in a place of worship

Alter – to change something

She wore a two carat diamond.

Carat – unite of weight for jewels

Caret – a small wedged-shaped mark (^) used by editors to indicate where text should be inserted

She grabbed a box of stationery.

Stationery – writing materials

Stationary – not moving

Donna always sticks to her principles.

Principle – code of conduct

Principal – (noun) the leader of a school or main sum of money owed on a loan  OR (adjective) describes something that is prominent or important (our principal concern)

His office was little more than a cubicle.

Cubicle – a small partitioned space

Cubical – shaped like a cube with six equal square sides

My husband believed in giving his staff free rein.

Rein – to guide (or in this case to give complete freedom)

Reign – to rule as a sovereign power

Rain – water falling to earth or a continuous descent or inflicting of anything (a rain of blows)

The car has dual air bags.

Dual – two

Duel – a contest between two people

The new curtains complemented the room nicely.

Complemented – went well with, enhanced

Complimented – to give a praise

Registration fees may be waived for low income families.

Waived – voluntarily forgo something

Waved – flapping up and down

The police arrived at the grisly scene.

Grisly – gruesome, ghastly

Grizzly – having hair that is gray

She felt as if she had been put through the wringer.

Wringer- a devise for wringing something out, squeezing it dry

Ringer – a person or thing that makes a ringing noise

His lawsuit claimed there had been a breach of contract.

Breach – violation

Breech – bottom or back end of something (a breech birth)

There are MANY other words – too many to list here – that often get mixed up. When in doubt, use the dictionary to double check that you are using the correct word.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond