A fun creative writing blog that helps authors by providing amazing writing tips.


Friday, December 27, 2013

8 Writing Trip Ups To Avoid To Create A Better Selling Book

Last Updated 7/2/18

Good writers are always growing.

When we are new to writing, and are in the process of preparing to find a publisher, or

publish our own book, each of us has some unique challenges.

Let’s assume we have done much in the way of the basics. We have taken courses, we

understand how important the premise, the antagonists and the protagonist are, and

we’re proud we’ve got a basic story outline prepared. We feel we have a viable novel,

with interesting characters, and so we are ready to write.

Thus begins the first ten percent of the growth of our novel. Ten Percent? Who said

that? What does it mean? I’ve written 400 pages and you call that ten percent?

It’s true. Our first draft is just ten percent of the job. The real work begins with the

editing. This means the editing that occurs even before we send our manuscript for final

professional editing.

Whether you travel the traditional publishing route or simply self-publish, the same amount

of editing/work is required.

A publisher invests a great deal of money in each book they launch into the market.

They spend thousands of dollars on the interior design/formatting of your book, for both

print and digital versions. Then there is cost of the cover, including artwork,

photography, the specific design, and the person who brings this all together to create a

selling cover. Add to that figure, bookmarks, book trailers, press releases, book fairs and

some basic internet marketing.

What you may not realize is that these are exactly the same things on which you will

have to spend money, when you self publish.

I hope this emphasizes the importance of having a manuscript that is well written, well

edited, and as free from mistakes as possible, before you submit to your publisher, or

before you self publish.

Let’s assume you have that fine premise, those well rounded characters, an exciting or

entertaining plot, and a book that flows well. Where many new authors trip up is assuming that this is

sufficient. It’s not. A publisher will be looking for well-crafted work before they are ready to plunk down big

up-front expenses.

If you are self publishing, and you don’t prepare your book to the same standard as a

publisher expects, you may get initial sales. However, will you get recommendations

and good reviews so that others will be motivated to purchase your book?

What are these things that trip us up? Glad you asked. The ‘uh-oh’ signs of an

inexperienced writer are:

Sloppy punctuation--using too many or too few commas, exclamation points by the score, and a boatload of ellipsis and m-dashes

Too many font changes and an overload of italics

Misspelled words

Poor grammar in the narrative (It is OK to use poor grammar in dialogue if this is

indicative of someone’s character)

• Dialogue that is too formal (unless it is also part of character trait)

• Too much telling and not enough showing

• Use of too many inactive verbs

• A plethora of dialogue tags and the addition of the dreaded ‘Tom Swifties,’ For those

too young to remember Tom Swifties, an example would be: “Hurry up,” Tom said

swiftly, or “I hate you,” Tom said angrily, etc.

The simpler and cleaner your book, the more likely the reader will become involved,

enjoy it, and recommend it to others.

I know that if people buy my book, are happy with the reading of it, and recommend it to

others, my first ten percent, and my labor-intensive ninety percent are absolutely worth


About the Contributing Author

Marilyn Kleiber is the author of Short Tales from a Tall Person, which was published by Sun Dragon Press.


  1. Good post. All useful tips. I'm feel fortunate in hammering all of these out (recognizing them as nailing them as I edit) except for the constant bugaboo of show vs tell, the eternal struggle of which hugely marketable and successful examples of all variations can be found in every library. I don't believe there ever will be a definitive way to address the show/tell quandary - each writer must approach that dragon in whatever way they can to slay it.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I do my best to follow my own advice, but I, too, fall short on the odd occasion. I definitely agree with you on the show/tell challenge. Marilyn K

  2. This is a fascinating and helpful post. I agree entirely with every suggestion here and I appreciate it. I was one of those comma fanatics for such a long time, the commas attached themselves to my body like an entity and absolutely took over my writing. I discovered later I was writing the way I talk, most of the time, and seriously I had to work hard to learn not to use them so often. I still have a bit of a problem with commas in my writing, however I concentrate more on leaving them out now.

    I am one of those show me people, and I love adjectives. Another lesson learnt over the years. Too many adjectives, although I may love them, does not make for a good read. Just as much, when one is paying an editor to edit their work, we are paying for words we do not need, giving the editor more money in their pockets, :>} and they will be red inked anyway.

    Writing my first book took ten years to write as I wanted it perfect before submitting it to an editor. Still, it was red inked to death. My point is this, I did it the hard way and did not listen or read advice from pros about writing properly. I took a short creative writing course in the 1980's, so naturally that was all I needed, (hmmm). I remember thinking, this book is going to be the best seller ever just as it is. Wrong! Once I came down from my high-horse and kicked my pride in the derriere. I downloaded a good editing software package, re-wrote the book and sent it in for another edit. Guess what, it came back with very few red marks and a positive comment: Editor: "Great job, Pat. I love the story line and with a few corrections. marked in red, I believe you are ready to submit." That is my goal in Jan. now and I will be sending out several copies of my manuscript, properly written, formatted, and as pristine as i can make it, to traditional publishers. That being the reason I worked so diligently on it from the beginning. Although I do not want to self publish at all, I believe we should make present our work in the best light we can give it, and not send it anywhere until it is ready. I want readers to love my story and connect with it, and absolutely never regret purchasing it.

    Thanks again for the excellent advice.

    Regards, Patricia Yeager,

    Author: Before The Rooster Crowed (Family fictional Drama)
    The Anglers Girl (Romance)
    Where Were You, God? (Memoir)

    1. Patricia - thank you for your remarks. I absolutely commend you for listening eventually to advice you have received in the past. It is sometimes crushing to find out that not everyone loves the "baby" on whom you have lavished all that care and attention. But how gratifying it is, when you complete your editing and not only enjoy the finished product yourself, but discover that others enjoy it as well.
      I wish for you, myriads of best sellers in your future!

  3. All I think are pretty reasonable and good advice I think (there will come a day when I will follow my own good advice) The only thing I would say is on the "too formal. It very much depends upon the story you are writing. spot on and thanks for the advice.

    1. Thanks Raymond, and I perhaps should have said, "too formal" must be appropriate for the story/character/etc. I know I would not be effective in writing in the style of some of the classic authors, because the formal style in which they wrote does not suit my writing personality. That's all.

  4. Thank you for your wise words to a new 78 year old writer. My blog has morphed into a book. The blog has more than enough of errors just heard. The editor is working through the maze to make the book look and feel like a book than a second grade paper. Your thoughts have helped me understand what the editor is achieving with the book by Argie Hoskins. Wow! I said it. The book by Argie Hoskins who is the author of More Than A Ticket. I am grateful for your advice and will follow The Word with interest.

  5. Any good, half-way decent comments, from a published author to an as yet only aspiring author will be (or should be) welcomed. I have my 'Opus' nearly ready (it's been ready for a couple of years, but I just keep tweaking it). It do think that any proof-readers or critics or publishers all have their own agendas - if you have a SciFi romp then why are you approaching Mills and Boon? With all that, you must trust that your tale is as good as it can get, and you believe that the public is now ready for some excitement (we all hope). :)

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