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New Author Mistakes by R. C. Matthews

We are welcoming author R. C. Matthews today to discuss about typical 'New Author' mistakes. 

R. C. Matthews on the web:

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Typical "new author" mistakes!

Apparently there is a mile long list of mistakes that newbie authors (like myself) make all the time. I really wish I had known these before I started writing - but you don't know what you don't know. Not that I didn't try to educate myself on how to write the best romance novel ever. Believe me, I read at least fifty articles on how to create conflict, how to plot a story, how to create compelling characters, etc. However, there are a lot more articles out there focusing on what you should do instead of what you shouldn't do. It wasn't until I went through my first round of edits with a professional editor that I learned these four simple rules:

(1) New authors tend to overuse their characters' names. Your story will flow better if you default to "he" and "she" as much as possible during the story. Every time the reader's eye comes to a character's name, the reader pauses and can be jolted out of the story. I was amazed at what a difference this simple fix had on the flow of my book.

(2) New authors tend to overuse exclamation marks! I am guilty of this in the worst way. Even when I make a conscious effort not to use them...I still overuse them. Similar to the concept discussed above in item (1), a reader's eye pauses when it comes to an ! but moves right on by a "." - which seems odd but is soooooo true. You want the reader to fly right through the story. Again, you'd be surprise how much of a difference it makes on the book when you use ! sparingly.

(3) New authors tend to use dialog tags too often. It isn't necessary to use "he said" or "she said" every single time there is dialog in a book. Get creative with the character's expressions or body movements to make it apparent who is speaking. For example.

    "What the heck?" Jordan said, staring at me with wide eyes. "Why did you do that?"

can be replaced with

    "What the heck?" Jordan stared at me with wide eyes. "Why did you do that?"

To locate these trouble spots, I now do a "find" function in Word for "said" or "asked" after the first draft of the manuscript is complete to see if any of my dialog tags can be deleted.

(4) New authors overuse adverbs. So now I do a "find" function in Word for "ly" and watch the page light up in yellow highlights. Wow. What an eye opener that is. I don't realize how often I use adverbs ending in ly while I'm writing the manuscript. But when the page lights up yellow, I know I have a problem and I start slashing them out.

 Try these simple tips on your manuscript and see if they make a difference!!!!!!


R. C. Matthews latest release DATE NIGHT- a cross between Contemporary, NA and Chicklit!

Ever since Jordan Billette’s father, Jeremy, died unexpectedly when she was eight years old, Jordan and her paternal grandmother (‘Grannie’) have shared a special bond by creating a tribute to Jeremy: a scrapbook that documents the important milestone of Jordan’s life from her first report card with letter grades, to her first kiss, to graduating from college. 

Upon graduating from college, only one significant milestone remains; her wedding day. When Grannie is diagnosed with aggressive cancer, she makes one dying wish to Jordan. Grannie wants to watch Jordan walk down the aisle. Not engaged? Not even dating? No problem. Grannie has a plan. She signs Jordan up for a dating service—dinner dates twice per week will surely turn up a soul mate! 

JT Murphy has been best friends with Jordan’s older brother Jared since they were in diapers. Grannie wisely insists Jordan meet her dates at the restaurant where JT waits tables because she needs protection from unworthy jerks. JT is more than happy to help; Jordan is like a sister to him. So why does her smile light up his evening whenever he sees her and why is he noticing that she has curves in all the right places? As the wedding draws near…JT wonders if it’s his heart that needs protecting…from the pain of potentially losing Jordan forever.


Buy Links:

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47 comments:

  1. Oh, exclamation marks! Totally guilty of that one :) And thank heavens for the find feature in Word--it's saved me so many times, and not just from adverbs!

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    1. I was so proud of myself when I wrote my second book and consciously made an effort to use ! sparingly. And then one of the first comments I got back from Nas Dean was "I'm deleting a bunch of exclamation marks." What?!!!!!!! It cracked me up. Arrrggghhh!

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    2. Exclamation marks are for emails, twitter and comments! And yes, for dialogues but not in general writing/narrative.

      And your writing just flows magically so it was a pleasure to work on your books!

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  2. When I do a revision, I'm always amazed at how many times I use a character name in the same scene. Over 'n over n' over ... it's nuts. :)

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    1. Isn't that funny? You would think it would be more natural to write "he" or "she". Especially since we don't use people's first names often in daily speech. But I'm guilty of it too. When I used the names often in the first book, I thought I was being clever by "changing it up" because he and she got boring.

      But I tell you what, when the editor changed them all back to "he" and "she" the story flowed beautifully. It was amazing.

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  3. Hi Kelly and RC .. so obvious when we think about it .. and in fact should probably be done by all of us writing blog posts too .. I'm 'horrifed' at the things I type up either in the post or in comments .. but life just rolls along - so we need tools to help us ..

    I do use the Find tool quite often around my blogging world .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Another thing I use the "Find" tool for is words that I tend to overuse. For example, I kept using the word "smirk" over and over and over again in Date Night. I have no idea why. And the bummer of it is that each book seems to have a certain word - which changes with each book - that I can't get out of my head for some reason and keep repeating. Ugh! Strange writer problem, I guess.

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  4. Those are great points! I use so many !!! in my blog and comments but I've learned to nearly eliminate us in my writing :)

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    1. I could go on and on about the things I've been learning as a new writer. There are so many wonderful articles you can find on Google. These were the four I found had the greatest impact on the flow of my books...and are really a no brainer.

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  5. I really dislike dialogue tags. Yes, you need them sometimes, but I think if you can do without them, you should.

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    1. I agree completely but as a new writer I found myself putting a dialog tag on everything...as if I was afraid the reader wouldn't be able to figure out who was talking. Then I read an article that said excessive use of dialog tags is actually offensive to a reader's intelligence. Hmmmm....I'd never thought of it that way. But it made sense.

      I have to admit I still have a lot of dialog tags in my first drafts and I clear them out in the editing process. For some reason my brain wants to put the dialog tags in there when I'm writing.

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  6. All great tips. I learned all of these eventually, but I still find myself using my character's names too much. When I read through my manuscript though I'm able to catch them and change them to he/she said. :)

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    1. I had an publisher that provided a three page "checklist" of commonly made mistakes. It was incredibly helpful going through the list.

      I was so green, I didn't even know that common practice was to use a single space between sentences. I grew up using a typewriter first and was taught to use double space after a sentence in 8th grade typing class. :-) My poor first editor!!!!

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  7. But!! But!! I like my exclamation marks!!!!!! ;)
    Great tips.

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    1. LOL...me too. Nas Dean is still deleting a bunch of them in my third book. Old habits die really hard!

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    1. Thank you! I'm curious now and have to go find out what an armchair squid is.

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  9. Those are great tips, RC! Thanks so much. :)

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  10. Thank you, R. C. I would add another three mistakes: telling rather than showing, starting the story at the wrong point in time, and info dumps. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Ooohhh...those are really good ones. Starting the story at the wrong point in time is a killer. I learned a really hard lesson with that one and had to delete the first 6,000 words (2 whole chapters...ugh!) of my first book because I started too early. Which brings me to your third point - because the first two chapters were background / info dump. :-)

      I couldn't completely part with those chapters because I had poured my hear and soul into them. And the info was GOOD STUFF! So I put the deleted chapter on my author website - just like they include deleted scenes in movies.This way the readers can decide if they want to invest their time in reading more background.

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  11. I am so guilty of the ly but more aware of it now. thanks for the great tips :)

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    1. I didn't realize how often I used ly words until I did the search function and my entire page was yellow. I can't seem to stop myself from using them in the first draft and I inevitably have to go back and delete a bunch when editing. Oh well.

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  12. I'm not a ‘writer’ in the true sense of the word, but I do blog, so these tips will come in handy. Thanks for sharing them.

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    1. Bloggers are definitely writers! I was introduced to the whole world of blogging after I wrote my first book and I confess I had no clue what bloggers were. My bad - I know.

      There is a real art to blogging. I can't tell you how many wonderful books I have discovered through book bloggers!

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  13. I can't say I've ever noticed any of these 'mistakes' in debut novels but now that they have been pointed out I'll be sure to take notice.

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    1. Hopefully you didn't notice them because the awesome editor found them and fixed them before the debut book was published. I made every single one of these in my first manuscript and I was lucky enough to have a publisher who could see past these simple fixes and loved the underlying story line of Little White Lies.

      I can't say enough about having a good editor read and edit a manuscript. Nas Dean is awesome!

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    2. Thank you R C, I also enjoyed working with you!

      Looking forward to more books from you!

      Wishing you mega sales.
      All the best!

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  15. Those are great tips! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by Sherry and reading them!

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  17. Somebody did a super job of the cover. It's entice and appealing. Hope you sell millions of copies, Kelly.

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    1. The cover was done by Melody Simmons of eBookindiecovers. I really love her work. She did the cover for the sequel, Fair Game, as well and it turned out fabulous.

      What a dream if it sold millions...then I could afford to write full-time. But I'm guessing the chances are probably similar to winning Power Ball or Mega Millions. I'm thinking I better just keep plugging along.

      But if you check out the book and love it, please do spread the word. :-)

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  18. Great tips! I still have to remind myself not to overuse characters' names. I think I do that because I'm terrible with names, so I have to keep reminding myself. LOL!

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    1. LOL! In my first book I had to keep a list of character names because there were so many people in the story that I couldn't keep them all straight.

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  19. I don't use exclamation points, so I have that going for me. I had been to workshop after workshop where it had been beaten into me that I should always use "said" when I included a dialogue tag. I then got a publishing deal and the feedback was that I should change up the dialogue tags and use things like exclaimed, etc. That was a wake-up call to me that not all rules are set in stone!

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    1. How can you not use exclamation marks?!

      It's funny because I use them all the time in my own writing but when I read them, I get annoyed if there are too many. I'm a total hypocrite! :-)

      Personally I do use dialog tags other than said and asked, but sparingly. I find that when I use tags other than said or asked, my writing enters the "tell" instead of "show" realm which is not good.

      Thanks goodness not all rules are set in stone! I'd be in big trouble.

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  20. Nice suggestions. I remember learning through each of those, and I will add whenever you come across a "ly" you're telling rather than showing something, and if you can find a way to use one of the five senses to communicate the idea, you're doing your prose and reader a huge favor. It makes for a more immersive experience.

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    1. I agree. It takes practice, I think, to reflect on a way to "show" rather than "tell". The more I work that brain muscle, the easier it gets.

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  21. What an excellent post! Such good advice- I wish I had seen it before I started writing. I was a big fan of adverbs and dialogue tags- but have tried making progress in both areas. :) I know I still have more work to do! Wishing R.C. Matthews the best of luck.

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  22. I'm glad you found this useful. There are some really great articles on Google about the use of adverbs and adjectives in writing. I keep making progress too! Thanks for stopping by.

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  23. I make all those mistakes LOL. Especially the exclamation marks.

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    1. I still do too in my first drafts. But at least now I know about them and can fix them. I just read a book this weekend by another author and it drove me nuts how often the characters names were used. I found myself mentally replacing the name with "he" or "she".

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  24. Great post!
    It definitely took me a while to stop doing #1 (wait, that kinda sounds funny...).

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    1. LOL...I still do #1 a lot! And one of Jordan's dates has her pull his finger before excusing himself to do #2. Eeeewwww! She has some hilarious dates.

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  25. Great tips! I really like the premise of Jordan and JT's story, too!

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