Monthly Archives: May 2007

Don’t Fall into the 8 Common Writing Traps or You Can Kiss Your Best Seller Goodbye

Even the most compelling writing and subject can fail if you let the small irritations get in the way of that connection with your reader. These include:

1. Poor organization. Sometimes, people can’t follow an author’s line of reasoning or organization. The writer hasn’t created a beginning, middle, and end that anyone can understand. As a writer, you are taking your readers on a journey, so don’t lose them.

2. Passive voice. When an author lacks confidence in what she is saying or in her expertise, there is a tendency to write in passive voice: “The boat was overturned” versus “I overturned the boat.” Passive voice is a legitimate writing tool, but authors employ it to avoid their own power. Used this way, it undermines the strength of the material.

3. Limited vocabulary. A book is a two-dimensional medium, so it is up to the writer to deliver the words to paint a picture that becomes three-dimensional in the mind’s eye. This is true even for a nonfiction book. If the words are trite or uninteresting, the book becomes forgettable.

4. Poor sentence structure and grammar, misspellings, incorrect abbreviations and capitalization. If you make mistakes here, the reader may assume your ideas are in error too.

5. Writing that isn’t tight. You may find that you ramble when you write a first draft, so then you go back and take out the extra words and shorten sentences. For example: “I’ve often thought that we should consider what we want out of life so we won’t make so many mistakes.” Translation: “Consider what you want from life to avoid mistakes.”

6. Trite phrases. For example: “As I’ve always said….”. We don’t need to know what you’ve always said. Just tell us what you want us to know.

7. Over-emotionalism. The more clearly you can tell a story straight out and let the reader become emotional, the more effective the story will be to make your point. That doesn’t mean you can’t use words to make a story poignant and meaningful; it just means you don’t tell the reader how to feel about the events. Tell how you feel only. A sign of this is when a writer uses exclamation points throughout his or her book. If you use more than one exclamation point per chapter, you’ve probably used too many. Another amateur mistake is words with all capital letters, the written equivalent of shouting. It is much more effective to talk softly.

8. Quoting or referring to other people’s opinions (even experts) throughout. Use quotes sparingly, and refer to other people’s books, seminars, opinions, and more, only a few times in the entire book. This is your book, and although your thoughts are a result of so many other people’s input, you need to give your reader a reason to read your book instead of a compilation of other people’s thoughts.

Some writers enjoy the help of software and others don’t. One that seems to be well received by many is StyleWriter. You can purchase it for about $150 at http://www.writersstore.com.

Most of us need to write, rewrite and rewrite and polish over and over to rid our writing of the common eight. Keep going – you’re well on your way to that best seller.

Finding the Audience for Your Book

The first job of the author is to know who she is writing for. Although she may begin the writing process for herself, she is just writing a journal unless her first order of business is to connect with an audience.

While you may write a book that anyone might enjoy reading, there is probably a most likely reader—male or female, thirty-something or older, lay person or professional, and so forth. It is critical for the author to know who is most likely to want and benefit from his or her book and then write that book in a way that is most accessible and interesting for her targeted audience.

The wider the appeal, the bigger the potential audience for the book.

A book can appeal to a large audience based on three factors: subject, approach, and the author. A book on money, diets, or sex is of interest to a wide adult audience—most people will buy books on these subjects at one time or another.

There is as much controversy about writing a book in a way that will appeal to the audience as there is about product placements in movies. Should a writer write what he or she has to say and not be concerned with the audience? Most of our brilliant new ideas are controversial and not very popular at first. This is a decision only you, as the writer, can make.

But if large volume sales are your goal, you can’t ignore what the audience wants. If you think a particular company, association, or group would be a good candidate for large volume purchases, showcase material that might make them take notice.

A rookie mistake of new authors is to tell people what they should do instead of enticing them in with stories they can relate to and accept. If you are the expert, then you do want to share your knowledge. But berating your readers so they feel bad about their actions isn’t the way to high book sales.