GUEST BLOGGER: Author and Editor Dr. Melissa Caudle
Most of you know who follow this blog also know that I am not only an author, but I am also one of the senior editors with Absolute Author Publishing House. As a result, I see first-time authors make many of the same mistakes that drive readers and editors crazy. I am going to list a couple of my pet peeves below in the hope when I edit your manuscript, you will have corrected them before you send it to me or any other editor.
1. Spell and Grammar Check – Sometimes I think because you hired an editor you don’t spell check or grammar check your documents before you send it. If you did, there wouldn’t be so many that I find. Yes, an editor does check for those things, but so much more. If we have to spend our time getting rid of misspelled words and punctuation that could have been caught by spellcheck or a free program called Grammarly, the time we spend on other items is less. As an author, take pride in what you do and send the best version possible to your editor. Please spell check your document.
2. The use of the word “OWN.” As good as the word “Own” has become for Oprah, nine times out of ten that word is misused in a novel manuscript. Here are a couple of examples.
Example 1: I went to my own bedroom to get my purse.
The use of the word own is not necessary. The identifier before it, “My” takes care of that situation for you. The sentence is more clear without the word “Own” in it.
I went to my bedroom to get my purse. Now that sentence is clear.
Example 2: I have to make up my own mind as to whether I want to go on a date with him.
Again, it is your mind that you are making up and the word my in from of own is all you need.
I have to make up my mind as to whether I want to go on a date with him.
3. My next pet peeve really drives me crazy – bolding everything to make a point, then using an exclamation point. Whew!
This one is bad because when you write, your words should stand on their merit. Please notice I did not write, “Stand on their own merit
!” Wow, that last sentence has three of my pet peeves in it. First, I didn’t need to write own, I didn’t need to bold the word merit, and I didn’t have to use an exclamation point. It is badly written in all kinds of ways. I forgot who said it, but there is a famous author who wrote that if you use three exclamation marks in your novel, that is three too many. Personally, I think if you use two throughout an entire novel, that is a lot, but I can take that. The reason is that your writing style and dialogue between your characters carry the momentum of the sentence, not the bold words and exclamation points. If you feel you need them, rewrite your sentence until it is clear and bold without it. Look at this sentence below.
“George really made me mad; I was foaming like a rabid dog!!”
Wow, the above sentence is written so poorly I am embarrassed to have written it. Thank goodness it was for an example. First, I don’t need to bold really and I don’t need to end the sentence with two exclamation points. However, I read this structuring all the time from authors who are trying to make the point that a character was extremely angry. Then, why not write what you mean with clarity? Take a look at this one below for the clarity.
“When George said I resembled a fat pig, I felt my face turn red, clenched my jaw and felt as if I was about to foam from the mouth like a rabid dog. He’s lucky I didn’t pour hot fondue over his face.”
By the way I reconstructed the sentence, I accomplished several things. First, it is much stronger as it now shows and not tell s that George mad me mad. Without using the word mad, I let my reader know that I was because my face turned red, I clenched my jaw and felt as if I was about to foam from the mouth like a rabid dog. As a reader, they can tell that character is mad. I didn’t have bold a thing and I surely didn’t need to end my statement with an exclamation point.
4. This pet peeve might be an oversight of not understanding the rules when writing novels, but do not italicize words to make a point. When you italicize words there are rules for that. If you wrote a character’s inner thought, that gets italicized and please do not put quotation marks around those. I see this mistake hundreds of times. Learn the rules of when to italicize a word, for instance, a foreign word like, vamos.
Writer’s also will italicize or bold words, again to make a point, but that method backfires as it confuses the readers.
My challenge to you is for you to search your document for the word “Own” and remove it and see how your sentence reads. Then do a find for every exclamation mark you used and get rid of them. If you really are trying to make a hard point, if the sentence doesn’t read that way, rewrite the sentence until it is strong. Lastly, look up the rules for italicization in novel writing and learn them.