As writers we are in fact human and flawed, as much as that seems impossible from time to time it is in fact part of life. For this reason we must accept that there are a lot of problems which are made in manuscripts, which are avoidable with careful correction.
Let’s talk about 15 items which will leave your manuscript full of holes and lead to low sales. Consumers, even your average readers, will recognize quality. Much like a plumber would not leave a pipe leaking, a manuscript must also be free of holes. Sometimes however, as a writer it is hard to see the holes within your own manuscript. This checklist of items will assist in finding those issues.
Issue 1: Lack of Development of Point of View: So you are telling a story, how are you, the writer connected? Are you some distant third party observer who has never met anyone? Are you reading newspaper articles and trying to piece together a story without imagining you are the protagonist and thinking about all of the emotions of the situation? To say the least a piece in which there is a very distant point of view, the audience will not become engaged.
Whether the story is being told from the first or the second point of view it needs to be closely connected to the reader. How are they becoming a part of the story? What elements have you not used to bring them into the space, and the time? Is it clear immediately to the reader what you are trying to accomplish by telling this story?
Issue 2: Inadequate Character Feelings: So we have a character but what are they feeling? Are they between a rock and a hard place financially, dying of a disease, stuck in the middle of unrequited love? All of these situations have very specific emotions which go along with them; the job of the author is to make the reader believe that the experience which is being recalled is one which the author has personally experienced.
What is meant by personally is that the level of character emotions and thoughts are believable. What we mean by believable is accurate to a person who has been in that situation. Not fabricated and forced on top of an uncomfortable book template, if you don’t know what the appropriate thoughts and feels are for a person in a situation, interview someone who has been in the position of the character. Find out what his or her personal experience has been.
Issue 3: An Opening Line Which Lacks Force: The first line of a book is the most priceless. If the moment that the reader picks up the book and reads the first line of the book, he is not drawn into another world, or intrigued then the book will be set aside. In a world of constant distractions and immediate means of entertainment as close as your iPhone, the only way to keep the attention of your audience is to ensure that the words you use are engaging, memorable, and active.
Remember as a writer you are not only a content producer, but you are a word smith. What is the difference? A content producer merely writes content, the quality is not discussed. However, a wordsmith is able to take any phrase and turn a clever and enticing line. Be a wordsmith not a content producer, if success is in your cards!
Issue 4: Unclear Goals of the Character: One of the largest issues with writing is a lack of clear goals on the part of the character. When the story begins to develop it needs to be clear right out of the box to the reader what the mission is that the character is trying to achieve. Without this piece of information it is like leading the reader down a winding path with no point of conclusion.
Issue 5: No Episodic Writing: Every scene in a book should move the plot forward. The scene should not just tell you something about the character, but must in fact be written with purpose and with significance. For this reason as you are planning out your scenes make certain that you think about all of the elements of the plot whether the manuscript is fiction or nonfiction.
Each detail must move the plot forward and carry the reader down the path towards full unveiling and the plot twists. Again here think like a suspense writer and carry the reader down the path of the story.
Issue 6: Grammar and Punctuation Issues: Believe it or not there are many manuscripts which make their way all the way to the printing presses still riddled with issues in grammar and punctuation. This means that the editing process has not been completed, and the most astute readers will notice this right out of the box as they are thumbing through the pages. Again as the book is a finely crafted piece of art it must be treated as such. A manuscript full of issues looks unprepared, unrefined, and also leaves a ding in the credibility of the author.
Issue 7: Long Narrative Rants by Characters: Ok we get it, your main character does not like fill in the blank, pollution, terrorism, abortion, or the color of the walls. However, the place for characters to express long diatribes and soap boxes of information is not inside the text of the book. The reader really does not care about the political views of the character if they are not relevant to the story. Unless the book is politically based or it is important to the story these elements have no place here.
Issue 8: Lack of Tension: Many authors largest mistake is not giving an adequate level of tension between characters and leaving a lot of development off the table. This means that the reader has no way to buy into the plot line that the writer is executing without the proper level of conflict. Without the reader buy in, most likely the book will be folded, closed, and set to the side.
Issue 9: Lackluster Writing: So people come to books to have an experience and to escape the everyday and mundane existence which plagues us. For this reason the quality of writing, style, verse, prose, and every line should be high above the content which is being read in the daily paper. The content must transport, lift and inspire. Many writers forget this in their style and instead continue with the same writing they might utilize while writing a memo or something of that sort. Readers do not buy content for lackluster content so as writers we must remember our fundamental role as guides on a journey which we are leading.
Issue 10: Riddled with Clichés: What is a cliché exactly? It is a tired notion that has become a part of a piece of literature. It can be a person; it can be an example, a theme, or a setting. Clichés are not isolated only to people. It could be the image of the damsel in distress who is unable to do anything on her own or it could be the 50s greaser.
Readers are looking for new people, new places, and new devices to take them there. Considering so many ideas are merely repeated over and over the way to keep things fresh and interesting as a writer is to make certain that you are using new ways to express ideas and new ways to express people.
Issue 11: Impatience with a Critic: Remember when people are reading your work before it is submitted for publishing that they may be critical of certain elements. A friend who reads your work may not give you an honest opinion of your work and may offer you an inflated idea of the quality. Make certain that before your manuscript is submitted for publishing that it is completely edited, not just for content but for style, clichés and any other lurking issues.
Issue 12: Egos: Writers out there, this kind of fits into the previous issue that I’ve just discussed but let’s be honest, as writers we all have a bit of an ego, and would like to believe that excellent content can be produced on the first version without revision and editing. However, we must remember that we are perfectly able to improve our work. And sometimes it takes an outside perspective to know how and where to improve.
Little details are sometimes glossed over in a manuscript review when we are looking at it ourselves. Again it is best to have a manuscript undergo at least 3 revisions before it is uploaded to kindle as final content. When unfinished or flawed copy is presented to readers the brand of the writer is ultimately what is cheapened.
Issue 13: Curse of Knowing: This is a disease which writer’s suffer from which means that they have a hard time expressing what it is they are trying to say. Considering the writer knows the entire plot, all of the characters and everything that he wants to transfer to the paper it is easy to see how some of the transfer of knowledge could be missing. Essentially as writers it is very important for us to remember that people cannot read our minds and will not know what it is we are trying to say, that is unless we write it.
Issue 14: Talking Down to Readers: For a writer it is very important for him to remember that his readers are his flock. Therefore, a writer should write like a teacher to impart information and to share knowledge. The worst thing possible that a writer can do to isolate the audience is to decide that he needs to speak from a pulpit and talk down to the readers.
Issue 15: Just Like Everyone Else: Make certain that your manuscript is not the same as everyone else’s, make it unique. Find out what books and other works are already on the market that are similar to yours. Research to make sure that you are not copying intentionally the same plot line, setting or the same character models over and over again, this way your work will be unique and more likely to sell.
In summation make certain that you avoid these pitfalls and know what works and what doesn’t work. Your manuscript should undergo at least 2–3 revisions before it is uploaded and the more critical the eye looking at your work the better. This will help you avoid mistakes that will leave you dead in the water and wondering what happened.