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Authors Need To Look Critically At These 5 Things Before Hitting Publish

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As an author, it can be incredibly hard to judge your own works. I mean, you’re totally biased from the start. You thought of the idea, wrote it, and spent countless hours editing it to perfection – or so you think. Yet if you aren’t judging your stories with a critical eye, how can you tell if it’s the perfect masterpiece you think?

My advice to all authors out there is to take a step back and look at their work with fresh eyes before hitting publish. Let it sit for a while, or do whatever you think you need to do. Then, I suggest you judge your book based on the following items as though you didn’t write it. Look at it through the eyes of a critical reader instead of a soft-shelled author (yes, soft-shelled… I’m guilty of it as well!)

1. Characters

Are your characters believable? Are they three dimensional? If you hadn’t written them yourself, would you be able to find yourself looking at them as though they were real people, friends or foes even? Are they either likeable or disposable, depending on what form they’ve taken in your story? Are they consistent in looks, likes, etc. throughout the story, save for where you have described them undergoing a change?

2. Plot

Is your plot solid, consistent, and always moving forward? Are there too many lulls in the storyline, or even (gasp!) plot holes? Did you neatly tie up all of the loose ends, or will your readers finish the book and wonder what the heck happened? Even if there is a sequel, too many plot holes can frustrate a reader instead of keeping them excited about the next edition. There is a very fine line you have to walk in order to get it right, which is why you should judge your work critically.

3. Scene

For as many scenes as your book uses, you should take a look at how realistic each one is. Can you see it clearly in your mind through the description only? Does it consistently stay the same, unless the book dictates a change? For example, if it’s an area of trees that are water oaks in one scene, are they water oaks in the next scene or have you accidentally changed them to pines? If a house is blue in the introduction, does it stay blue or has it suddenly transitioned to red (without being painted, of course)?

4. Dialogue

Do your characters use colorful, descriptive dialogue? Are their accents, sayings, special words, and other forms of speech consistent throughout the book? For example, does a character with a southern accent maintain it throughout the book, or does it suddenly switch to a Boston accent at some point? You laugh, but I’ve actually accidentally altered my characters accents in one book – and was very glad I caught it before hitting publish. It wasn’t into a Boston accent, but the same basic premise applies. Also, are you using dialogue to help push the story forward and reveal more in-depth information about each of your characters and/or your plot? Dialogue is an invaluable tool, so don’t be afraid to use it to the fullest of your capabilities.

5. General Readability

This one is simple. Is your book easy to read from front to back? Does the story flow naturally and steadily towards the end? Are there enormous lulls in the story, where nothing of consequence happens, or are any lulls short and necessary to the story?

If you can take a step back from your own story and judge it based on these five simple things, you can feel more confident about pressing ‘publish.’ All it takes is learning how to look at your own story with a fresh set of eyes, as though you never wrote it in the first place. This allows you to judge it much easier than if you were to look at it as what it is – something you wrote.

If you’d like more useful information for authors, be sure to check out our post, 20 Ordinary Ways & Places To Find Inspiration.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: 3 Character Development Musts | Pen Possessed

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