I’m not talking about grammatical errors, although there were a couple – ‘that’ that should have been ‘who’, the odd ‘was’ that should have been ‘were’ (always a difficult one that, makes me stop and think every time I use the word, but in this case it was a definite plural not one of those conditional clauses that make you scratch your head and think was/were? As in my opening paragraph – I think I’ve got it right, but could be wrong.)
No the writing was pretty much fine, very good, in fact. But the book was plagued with bad formatting, missing first line indents, back to front speech marks, and speech marks that did not need to be there. Now some people say typos don’t really matter and I will admit it is quite likely that sometimes even the editor will miss one or two, even miss the odd homonym, homophone or synonym. But this book had far too many it slapped of sloppiness.
I know Indie authors can’t afford to pay professional editors for their services. It is hard enough to make money from your book let alone make enough to pay for something to be edited, especially if it your first. So what do you do?
First step is to make sure you know WHAT you are doing. I know it is a trial reading all those articles about ‘how to write’ but there are some basic rules that a writer should know. I won’t list them all here because that is not why I am writing this, but one simple thing everyone should know is how to type dialogue.
It is easy if your characters are only speaking one or two sentences at a time. Speech marks at the beginning and end of the speech, new line when starting a new character’s speech. But if one character is speaking in paragraphs do not put speech marks at the end of each paragraph. Put them at the beginning of every new paragraph and then a closing one at the end of the whole speech. That way the reader knows the same person is speaking all the way through.
It is up to the author when/if or where they put ‘he said’. Once a thread of conversation has begun, especially if only between two people, it should be clear who is speaking. If there are more than two people it might be necessary to say who is speaking to make it clear to the reader.
It doesn’t matter whether you use single or double speech marks so long as the use is consistent throughout the work. For many years industry standard has been to use single speech marks but I’m sure that schools still teach children to use double. Either that or the host of Indie authors publishing today were taught way back, as most seem to use double. What IS important is that they are facing the right way. If you inadvertently put a space between the speech mark and the first letter of the speech the mark will appear as a closing mark like ” this. I even edited something for someone whose computer didn’t seem to understand forward facing speech marks and even when I tried to type them it put them in the wrong way round. Obviously something got imbedded in the file that I could not get rid of. I had to copy the right marks from another file and then paste them in the correct place throughout the text.
So what point am I trying to make here? ALWAYS check your work before putting it live. Not the day after you have finished it. Leave it a week, then check. Let your brain forget what you thought you typed so that it sees what you actually typed. Try to find a friend who reads slowly. It is so easy to skim read something but so many things are missed when you do that. That way you might produce a book that you can be proud of, not only with the story but with the way it looks.
Right, better get off and read through the mss I’ve just finished before it goes live and I find it full of mistakes!