As an editor, it's my job to help improve others' writing. Having taught college writing, I make sure to always point out what's good in clients' work as well as what needs improvement. Here are a few common errors that I see.
1. Queries that read like synopses- I see this one a lot. Most often, they're long and rambling and try to describe too many secondary characters.
2. Not writing about yourself in your query- This is a close second to the most common mistake that I see. You as the writer are important. You existed before the story did and agents or editors want to know about you. This doesn't mean you should make it super personal, but relevant details about you should be included.
3. Impossible character names- It's ok to be unique with your name choices, but your reader should be able to pronounce it. How else will they tell everyone how much they loved it?
4. Historical settings that are vague, not historic- This story takes place somewhere in the eighteenth century, where they wore long dresses. Cringe. Your setting, historic or not, should be important and for more than just wardrobe choices. Historical fiction settings are necessary for the story to take place in. Without the setting, the story couldn't happen- at least not in the same way. That's a major trademark of historical fiction. Therefore, it's important that there be an actual historical setting that is precise and necessary to the story.
5. Describing your characters physically- especially too much, too soon. Have you ever empathized with a person because they had blue eyes? Probably not. Just because the person is on the page doesn't mean that the rules of connectivity are completely different. If appearance isn't important to the story, it's probably not important to the reader either.
6. Chapters that end with no sense of urgency- If there's no forward momentum, then readers may be less inclined to continue reading.
7. Not introducing the crux of the story soon enough- What is the central question that this book will answer? This should be addressed early on to create interest. It may be about plot or character or both. The important thing is that there's a question and that the reader knows what it is.
8. Titles that are unappealing- No sense of suspense or question in the title will not attract a reader's attention. Titles are the names by which books introduce themselves to the world. Make sure the world wants to get to know that book. If you need title assistance and are an indie author, I offer this service to help you find the perfect fit for your story. Why do I not offer this to traditionally published authors? Because agents or editors may change your title.
9. Not saying upfront what the genre of the book is- This is true for query letters as well as for marketing. If the reader has to guess halfway through the query or blub what the genre is then there's a problem.
10. Synopses that aren't interesting enough- Writing a synopsis can seem impossibly difficult. How do you squeeze an entire book into a page or two? This is a learned skill. It's important, though, that you make your synopsis interesting. Keep up the pace, the intrigue and write in present tense. This moves the synopsis along and, with a little luck, will get the agent or editor craving the whole book.
Do any of these resonate with you? Are there any particular areas that you'd like to learn more about in writing? I'm open to post suggestions.
For all of your editing needs, visit Extra Ink Edits.
My best to you all,