Friday, November 22, 2013

Use of Contemporary Slang in Historical Novels

Recently I've read several historical fiction novels, some set during WWII, others in more distant times. One unfortunate similarity shared by too many of these books is the use of contemporary slang in historical text and dialog. Its use is jarringly out of place and shatters the mood of time, events and place the author is attempting to create.

Such phrases as "connect the dots" - "the ball's in his court" - "wake up call" - "moved the goal post" are recent additions to our collection of casual expressions. In addition to showing up in books, they are often and inappropriately used by TV news anchors and interviewees when discussing grave national and international matters. War and talk of war are not games or sports.

I'm pretty sure George Washington never said, "Hey, Dudes, let's haul ass across the Delaware River."   

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Getting Rid of Trite Phrases

Most of the books I've read recently have two phrases I'd like to remove from the English language. One is "...somehow managed..." as in "He somehow managed to get out of the cave." This provides no image for the reader. Compare with "He crawled out of the cave." The reader can visualize a male person on hands and knees making slow progress through a tight space. A simple example but more effective.

The other phrase is "...seen better days..." Whether it's clothes, cars, shoes, houses, or a multitude of other objects that wear, fade, scuff, fall down, or deteriorate, they all end up bearing this generic description. Choose a specific characteristic or two and show what's wrong. "Not only did the fence require a fresh coat of paint, a half-dozen missing rails needed to be replaced."

When you complete a manuscript, use Find/Replace to delete and rewrite these phrases.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Producing a Polished Manuscript

I've read a number of books on my Kindle recently, ranging from free books to best sellers. I've been annoyed to outright riled about the quantity of errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar in too many books. When I have to stop and interrupt the flow of a story to untangle a sentence or figure out a wonky-looking word, I lose momentum and interest. Enough distractions and I move on to another book.

The responsibility of presenting the reader with a well-polished, pleasant reading experience lies with the writer. This is especially true for self-publishing. From my reading experiences, I suspect many writers whip off a story, publish it online, and expect the reader to love it as much as they do. That's not going to happen if the reader has to grapple to make sense of it.

I've begun writing a review for each book I read - the person thinking about buying that book has a right to know if it's sloppily churned out. And hopefully, it will send a message to the writer that readers demand their best efforts.

I have a lot of sympathy for beginning writers.  After all, that's what I am. But I'm committed to turning out the best story I can which, aside from plot and characters, includes reading it endlessly, looking for errors, rewriting and editing appropriately. Don't be too hasty to get your book out there for sale - some extra tweaking might make a big difference in your reviews and sales.