Hi guys! I know it’s been a while that we’ve been writing regularly here, but we’ve got an actual editorial calendar and a plan now, and we’re back. Valerie and I will be blogging and we’ll be introducing the mods that are around, old and new, throughout the year. We’ll also be looking for guest posters, but I’ll explain more on that in a few days 🙂
In 2011, Valerie Douglas put out a call for moderators. I think I was either first, or one of the first to say ‘I’ll help’. We’ve run this site, and others for almost as long, but we took a sabbatical last year, to think about what we wanted to do. And now….we’re back!
But first…. This year is a fun year for us. Not only are we NINE in May, but Valerie is a stone’s throw from 30 books, unless I miscounted, and that’d be funny cause I’m doing a Combined STEM degree, mostly maths. No, we’re not back in 2011, when this all started, but things are very similar again.
So…to start with, we thought we’d invite you guys to share your goals. Same rules as always, you can use the link in the form that you fill in to make a comment, but any URLS in the comment bodies will be rejected. And if you’re not sure how to make goals, hang around this week – we’re doing a crash course on this, and some other stuff that might help.
Quick tips to setting goals
While I’ll be sharing many more articles on building yearly and five-yearly plans and your vision board for the decade, using free tools, the biggest and most important tip is that any goal you set (whether you call it a goal, a target, a resolution or where I’m going), is to be as specific as possible. Whether it’s “make six figures, five figures, four figures or three”, whether it’s to write a million, half a million or any range of words, whether it’s to publish 1-100 books, put a number on it, then tell *everyone*. Stick it in the sidebar of your blog if you have one. Put it on your Facebook, your Twitter, and check out our post on making an intentions post on Canva, on the 3rd.
And, share it in the comments on the blog. We’ll be here, cheering you on. You’ve got this – and we’ve got you. Happy New Year, guys!
Where the Benevolent Dictator consolidates all the 2018 ‘retrospectives’.
Okay, first, I know it’s fashionable to bash the ‘Zon, I love you guys, but really, get over it. Bashing doesn’t help. Amazon’s primary concern is its customers, NOT its suppliers. Readers not authors. At least they still pay better than traditional publishers.
On the other hand, some books do better on some sites than others. Amazon got burnt one too many times by authors who didn’t label their erotica books correctly – and a few parents got an eyeful when they searched books about Daddy and got daddy porn instead of children’s books. So they’ve been a lot more restrictive. Write erotica or erotic romance – especially the type some sites won’t? Smashwords is the place to go. (However, as much as I love Mark Coker, as Smashwords is where I published my first indie book – and I made good money there for a while – but that site could still use some more work. Compare with D2D.)
Another caution – if you use Amazon be careful with the ‘like’ parties. In fact, to be honest, stop liking anyone you haven’t read. There’s a glut of books out there (Mr. Coker is right on that) – and some of them are absolute dreck. Great covers are no guarantee. I saw a book with a brilliant cover, a terrible and confusing blurb, and an absolute lack of editing.
Some good writers have given up because they can’t get their well-received and well-reviewed book seen.
So, why are you killing your own book sales by promoting authors who may not deserve it? Better yet, how do you know they’ll promote you in return? Quality counts more than quantity. Quantity looks good but doesn’t always help. I used to promote other authors – but only a few returned the favor. Now I have a rule – ask me to like your page after you’ve liked mine. Promote my book and I’ll promote yours.
Audio is your new best friend. Everyone is doing it – Amazon, Draft to Digital,
Smashwords and iBooks. For busy people trying to squeeze in time to experience new authors or books they can listen to one on their commute, on long trips by car or plane, or while cooking or doing housework. One book, with a great narrator, can entertain for hours or days.
For promotion, expand beyond Facebook – but don’t abandon it entirely. Advertise elsewhere, too – like Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. There are inexpensive options to use those sites. New Release – try Bookbub’s new release freebie. Shop around to find other alternatives.
Good news/Bad News Books have always been a refuge during times of economic uncertainty, and indie authors have always offered books at a better price than traditional publishers. Which makes us the more economical choice.
BTW – the new price point of choice may be $3.99 – $4.99 for most standard genre novels like romances, or shorter mysteries.
For those who aren’t familiar with Paper.li it’s essentially a ‘newspaper’ about whatever you want to share and it’s easy to use. Simply go to the site and sign up. There are two versions – free and paid. (More on that later.)
Give it a title but think long and hard before choosing one. Don’t make the common mistake of naming it ‘YourName, Author‘ or ‘RomanticTitle Series‘, because using your author name is a giveaway for ‘buy my book’ promotion and if you go off that series track you have to remember to go back and rename your paper.li. You want to consider it as part of your marketing plan but you don’t want to be obvious about it or no one will read it.
Since I write self-published fantasy, and that’s usually associated with sci-fi, mine references that. And, since no fantasy writer worth their salt shouldn’t also know something about archaeology (to ground their fiction in reality) and people are interested in that science, I reference that, too.
I’m also interested in giving back to other writers and educating them on the common mistakes many writers of fantasy make. Food, for example, was a lot harder to come by, you had to forage for vegetables and fruit, and it took a lot longer to cook. Say you have a character who takes down a bird or a deer. In some fantasy novels, writers roast them on a spit. A bird will take a fair amount of time. A deer is bigger than you think, it takes half a day to roast that way, with frequent turning. As another example of a common mistake, do you know why ancient peoples used chariots? Because most early horses couldn’t carry a person. Centuries of selective breeding (evolution) created an animal that could. Even so, a horse will take a long period of time, even with its longer legs, to get from point A to point B. More so if hitched to a wagon. And they get tired.
So, back to Paper.li. You can give it certain parameters to search for and feature, but some come with it.
In other words, there’s no formula for success as an Indie writer. There will be plenty of people who will tell you different, some will even offer you solutions, software, or fixes, that they promise will make your book great. They will be wrong.
Somerset Maugham said,
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
That is the truth.
There is no magic wand (if there were more people would be using it) – the magic lies in you. In your dreams, in your heart and soul. BUT, there is no substitute for the work, for the actual doing of the writing. As Neil Gaiman says, you sit down in a chair and you write, it’s both as easy and as hard as that. Do it for the love of it, to create characters that speak to you, to make worlds real or magical, or dark and terrifying, but that IS the truest magic – the writing. If you have the vision, you’ll make it happen.
There are many people out there who will say they have the crystal ball for making your book sing. They don’t and won’t. A great editor will help make your prose clearer and offer helpful suggetions. The so-called experts? They’ll tell you to write this way, write that style, write to the market, or write to their formula. They might even have software that will do it for you. And that’s exactly what you’ll wind up with – a machine-generated formulaic novel, boring and uninspired – that will lack your unique voice, your unique characters, your creation. Most of those who write to formula – like Harlequin or Mills and Boon Romances – disappear or are forced to reinvent themselves as writers, with varying levels of success. Romances are popular, but the best ones like Outlander, are unique.
Tell your truth, in your unique way, with your unique voice, and you’ll make magic.
There will be plenty of naysayers, doubt-sowers, and advisors – some of whom will charge a pretty penny with the promise of making your book a bestseller.
Any time someone tells you exactly what they think is wrong and what will fix it, it probably won’t. That’s their story, not yours.
For example, no one, when it was written, would have believed that a story about a reanimated corpse would be popular, but it was. The writer – Mary Shelley. She became the mother of science fiction. The book? Frankenstein.
How about a book about a magical world featuring peoples you almost recognize where a terrible force threatens to enslave them all? The Lord of the Rings series – Tolkien. Only Shakepeare had written anything close, but Tolkien created epic/heroic fantasy.
Or a tale of a angsty teenage girl with an ultra-religious mother and abilities she doesn’t understand. Carrie – Stephen King.
Or a suspense-filled, dystopian thriller about people living in silos. Wool/Hugh Howey.
Or a story about an astronaut stranded on Mars – told primarily from his POV. The Martian by Andy Weir.
Both of those last, by the way, were originally indie/self-published.
In the end, no one can tell you how to write your story. Only you.
Spelling – Even the best spellers make mistakes. Use a software program like Grammarly or WordWeb (both of which have free versions.) Both may catch other errors in word usage – like affect vs. effect – and both do offer a thesaurus so you can find a better word or correct one that’s overused.
One of the first things they may or may not tell you in writing classes or seminars is that in a novel it’s all about action. It’s about doing things. Show don’t tell. People don’t ‘begin’ to do things, they don’t ‘start’ to do things, they DO them. For example – ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to begin nibbling at her hair again’ vs. ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to nibble at her hair again.’ Which sounds better? (Smoke is a horse, by the way…) Don’t have your characters begin or start to do anything unless it’s the first in a series of actions. Do a search for begin and start.
Ditto feel and felt. Which sounds better – When he kissed her it felt like she tingled all over -or- When he kissed her she tingled all over? For #2 and #3, a professional editor will often scribble “SDT”. This is not a disease, it means “Show Don’t Tell”. “The best “show don’t tell advice” came from Anton Chekov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Very or Really. They’re not very happy or really happy, they’re ecstatic or delighted. Use a better, more descriptive word. If nothing comes to mind get a thesaurus.
Search for contractions. For some reason, many writers don’t write in contractions. Especially with ‘had’. He had, she had, rather than he’d or she’d. Be very careful not to do a universal search and replace to correct this or you’ll hate yourself in the morning because once it’s saved you have no other choice but to search the entire document for the awkward mess you made of things. (Always start a new copy when editing, just in case. It’s a lot easier to start over that way.) For example, a universal search and replace for ‘had not’ to ‘hadn’t’ will also change ‘had noticed’ to ‘hadn’ticed’. (This is a personal choice, in a more casual voice like dialogue in fiction, it works, but in more formal writing, it may not.)
‘There was’. Sometimes it’s justified. Look at each sentence to see if you can rephrase it to make the sentence clearer.
Speaking of there – their (possessive), there (in that direction), and they’re (they are).
*aargh* The dreaded ‘that’. That she, that he, that they… In most cases, the use of the word ‘that’ is completely unnecessary, but we use it in speech so it can sound correct when you write it.
Try not to use that when you mean who. “The man that…” should be “the man who… “
Just and only. Always make sure you really need to use them and that they’re next to the word you want to modify. For example – only costs vs. costs only or it just costs or costs just… Do you really need either?
Was. Jim was shaking his head. Jim shook his head. Always watch for those ‘ing’ words. If you see a lot of them in your writing in conjunction with was, you need to change that sentence to a more active voice. Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb.
As if/like. Make sure you know which of them you really mean. Do a search for like, and in each place see if ‘as if’ doesn’t sound better.
Watch for split infinitives. Not all of them are bad – to boldly go where no man has gone before, where boldly splits to and go – is generally accepted. “I decided to not go” sounds awkward.
Of…. is another sneaky little beggar. ‘Inside’ works as well as ‘inside of it’ in most cases.
‘Then’ and ‘and then’ are telling words, don’t use them. For instance: Then he went to sit down. Just say: He sat down. Or…. And then she set a bowl on the table. Just say: She set a bowl on the table. Using then or and then is like a narrator in your book telling us a story, it slows it down. Show, don’t tell.
Do not use really, very, or like. He’s either hot or he’s not. He’s not really hot, or very hot, he’s roasting, burning up, or he’s gorgeous, sexy, etc. She’s not ‘like’ that, she IS that.
Commas. If you have more than two it might be a good idea to look at the sentence and decide if it would work better as two separate sentences. This is DEFINITELY true if you have more than three. For more information on commas and their proper use – http://grammar.about.com/od/grammarfaq/f/QAoxfordcomma.htm
Singular and plural pronouns. When speaking about an individual, the pronoun should be singular, when speaking about a group, it’s plural. Ex. It brought him to their feet. Wrong.
(Although this is primarily a grammar document, it is about writing and this has been seen too often to go unremarked.) Don’t ‘Slug a Nun’, as a well-known writer once said. In other words, when opening a chapter, any chapter, get to the point. Don’t say “Mikey slugged a nun” and then take ten pages, eight of which explain the history of the Catholic Church before you explain WHY Mikey slugged the nun.
Another very common mistake – Her eyes wandered. Please put them back in her head, that’s disgusting. Her gaze might wander, but not her eyes. She might glance at him, their gazes may meet, or lock, etc., or they might stare at each other, but his eyes will never wander over her breasts unless it’s a zombie movie and they’ve gained legs. Some editors might let this go, but you should be able to find a better way to say it.
Watch for sentences that start with the same word or the same type of beginning. He did this, he did that. Change it up so the reader doesn’t get bored.
Too much use of “it” as a subject can make writing weak. Delete the vague pronoun and identify ‘it’ with a solid noun. Not – It felt good to dress up. Try – She enjoyed dressing up.
Do not mix dialogue of one character in the same paragraph as another. Ever. Even if, or especially if, you’re using omniscient point of view. And always identify the person speaking or thinking.
Action and reaction. Sentences need to relay information about the cause before the effect or result. Not – She jumped as the door slammed shut. Try – The door slammed, making her jump.
Eliminate unnecessary words. In the above example – few doors slam open, so it must have slammed shut or closed. So, the door slammed.
Try to avoid prepositional phrases (to her, at him, for her, etc.) that can be implied. Not – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was to her. Try – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was.
Stephen King said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Try to evaluate each adverb (words that end in -ly), especially in conjunction with speaking tags. Replace with stronger words. Not – He leaned close and spoke softly. Try – He leaned close and whispered.
Repeated words: There’s a function in Word that shows words you overuse, but a beta reader or editor can be a better choice. Sometimes it’s justified – a character tic.
How often do you use ‘look’? Try variations like glanced, gazed, stared, their eyes met, saw.
Said, but don’t get too caught up it. Studies have shown that said is a word that readers eyes pass over, registering only who is speaking.
Starting a sentence with But when you could use However.
Starting a sentence with And. Can you rework it? It’s acceptable, but too much or too often is a bad thing.
Redundant actions: stood up. How else would you stand? Sat down – try sat. Nodded his head – just use nodded, if he’s nodding anything else it’s just weird.
Also, consider picking up The Elements of Style. It’s a small, thin book, perfect to keep beside your laptop or desktop computer. It answers some of those pesky grammar questions.
For style suggestions, try Hemingway Editor, a software program that highlights lengthy, complex sentences, common errors, and passive voice. Always be careful taking the advice it or other programs offer – you don’t want to sound too mechanical or lose your authors ‘voice’.
One last little hint. By not doing a read-through sentence by sentence but using search instead, it forces you to look at each sentence individually, in isolation. It makes it much easier to spot errors you might otherwise have missed or to question the wording of the sentence. Try reading it aloud, or use text to voice to read it back, that may help you pick up errors in flow.
First,read. Read a lot. (Stephen King, paraphrased – “if you don’t have time to read, you can’t write.”) Reading will teach you how to write, how to write well, and how to write compelling characters.
Corollary – read the genre you’re writing in, that will teach you the ins and outs of that genre, and it may inspire a story.
Second, are you a pantser or a plotter? If you’ve tried to write several books but haven’t been able to finish (pantsing), try writing an outline (plotting). If writing an outline kills the story for you, you’re a pantser, stop outlining and write the story.
Third, every good writer has dozens of starts and stops behind them. Some were completed. Some died in the writing. None of them were published. They were learning their craft. Learn your craft. If this is your first novel, put it in a drawer. Read in that genre. Come back to that book. It’s okay if you realize it’s crap. You write crap to become a better writer. Really good writers like Stephen King, wrote a lot, and started early. His first book “I was a Teenage Grave Robber” was independently published while still in high school. His first professional short story, “The Glass Floor” was published in a magazine.
Fourth, writers create worlds that might exist, have existed or exist only in the imagination. If you have to ask how to write a particular genre, you need to read more, see more movies, and use your imagination. Other writers write their stories. You have to write your own.
Fifth, write because you love it, because you have to do it, because you care about the story or the reason behind writing that story. If you’re not doing it because you love it, if you’re doing it for fame or money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Most writers will not get rich writing. They might make money, but only a few get rich.
Corollary – if you can quit, if it’s too hard and reviewers are mean, if you’re not driven to write, you’re in the wrong business. Who told you this writing thing was easy? Whoever they were, they lied. If it’s too hard, stop complaining and quit.
Sixth – If you don’t feel it – love, heartache, joy, grief, whatever – your readers won’t. Care – about the characters, the story, and why you needed to write it. Tears in the writer, tears in the reader. Laughter in the writer, laughter in the reader. Fall in love with the character(s).
Seventh – who is/are your main character(s). What’s their history, what motivates them, what do they need, what do they have to overcome? (Think about your favorite novels and the characters in it.) Pantser know their characters, plotters learn them. Until the reader knows those characters and what they care about, they don’t know what the story is about, and they won’t care what happens to the people in it.
Eighth, write more books. The best writers in the world wrote multiple books. Some tried to publish their first ones and received rejection letters of varying types. The good rejection letters told them why it was rejected. Indie writers don’t have that, they have readers. If this is your first book, write at least two more, if not four more. Readers want to follow an author they love. Give them something to follow.
Ninth – If the story isn’t working ask yourself why you’re writing it? If you’re writing it for the money, or because it’s a popular genre, you’re writing for the wrong reasons.
Are you trying to force your characters in a direction the people you created won’t go? Then follow the logic. Every good writer has discovered a story where the characters say “oh, no, I am NOT going there” because it’s not true to or for that character. Always stay true to the characters you’ve created. A good guy doesn’t suddenly turn bad, there has to be a reason. A bad boy character doesn’t suddenly change his stripes in a novel any more than he would in real life.
Tenth, what’s the story you’re trying to tell? Why should readers care? What are you trying to say?
Eleventh, How do you write? There is only one way – Apply seat to chair and fingers to keyboard. Write the story. Don’t listen to the naysayers, the doubters, or your own insecurities (there’s no such thing as a secure writer, the best are insecure because it makes them question their writing). Just write.
Twelfth, show don’t tell. Characters do things. Show them doing, either by describing it, or have them say in dialog what they’re doing and why.
The story is done when the story is done, when the characters have said everything the reader needs to know. Don’t know the ending? Take a step back. Talk to your characters. Ask yourself how you want it to end. Write that. If you can’t, it’s likely that you’re pushing the story in the direction you want it to go, not the direction it wants to go.
More than anything else, though, write the story. Do it because you love it. You’re the only one who can write that story. The story is the only thing that matters.
Is there a guarantee that it will be a best-seller? No. But a book(s) can’t be a best-seller if it’s not written.
I n all honesty I suspect that Scribd found the path of least resistance in their romance/erotica decision. (Witness the petitions to Jeff Bezos/Amazon asking him to change the review policy.) The truth of the matter is likely to be a more harsh reality – a lot of romance/erotica readers were downloading books, finding them to be dreck and so they didn’t finish them, they just deleted them off their e-readers and went onto the next. Scribd, however, still had to pay the writer for the unread book. So, rather than try to evaluate hundreds of thousands of e-books, they just decided not to carry the vast majority of romance/erotica.
Here is the truth. Amazon/Jeff Bezos owes us nothing. If you want tea and sympathy, go to Smashwords. Mark Coker is a genuinely nice person and will offer you a great deal of encouragement. However, Smashwords also pays quarterly, not monthly, so be prepared to wait for the check. Also post to B&N, Kobo and D2D for the most bang for your post. You’ll make a fraction of what you make with Amazon, but there you go. Understand that Amazon is a business – a business that provides a venue for Indie authors to post their books and – possibly – make money at it. Indie authors are a drop in the vast bucket of products Amazon offers. The vast majority of their profits come from the Big Five publishers and all the other products Amazon offers. Be ungrateful for the opportunity, become enough of a pain in the butt and they’ll drop the program like the annoying hot potato it’s become.
Sadly, a large number of Indie authors came into the game thinking ‘oh, yeah, I can write my novel at long last’, it’s easy and I can make money at it. As many of you have now noticed, the easy bit is harder than most thought. Writing a book isn’t necessarily easy, and writing a good book is even harder still. Even worse, some folks are still looking for the magic wand that will write the book for them. Some also turned to Indie writing because they suspected that the Big Five wouldn’t take them (not to mention the fact that the author gets a pittance of what the publisher gets. We need a Taylor Swift for that.) And that’s before you get to the marketing. Then there’s the cover art, the editing, formatting and deciding where to upload it. Too many are taking shortcuts, unfortunately, skipping over the most important, the most expensive, and the hardest parts of the process – editing and cover art. Just take a look at many of the Indie books being offered. (Especially the erotica since the explosion of 50 Shades.)
Think this is harsh? Take a look at Scribd, a subscription service much like Kindle Unlimited. They’re removing a vast number of romance/erotica novels – even good ones. Why? They say that too many readers are downloading so many books they’re putting them out of business.
Regarding reviews… Remember the comment about Scribd and the crappy books? It might be overly simplistic, but there is some degree of truth there. Most of those awful books didn’t get reviews saying they were awful. They were just deleted. For all we complain about the mean people out there, most people really aren’t and it takes time to write a review. Rather than take the time, they just deleted and moved on. Want to get reviews? Understand that unless you write something people want to write a review about – and even if they do – most won’t. It takes time. Try to write something good enough they’ll want to review.
Want to get your reviews removed or to devalue reviews? Forget to ask those people who received ARCs or free copies to add ‘I received this book in exchange for an honest review’ to their review so Amazon won’t pull it. Participate in easily trackable review exchanges or give positive reviews to books you haven’t purchase or read. That’ll do it.
If you think Indie publishing is hard, try traditional. Write query letters to agents/publishers, gather rejections, hope for the moment they ask for a revise and resubmit, or a request for a partial or a full, get your hopes up, get them squashed when they decide not to take your novel because it’s not a reiteration of King or Roberts or Sparks or James, or whoever is the flavor of the moment. (For perspective, where is the writer of Twilight right now?) Then, TADA, you find a publisher who will take you. HURRAY. And then you discover you’ll still have to do the editing as well as a large part of the marketing, just to be a mid-list writer – unless you’re one of the rare few who make it big. Or you can follow the Hugh Howey model and write a unique novel, self-publish it, and let the publishers find you. (By the way, he can now afford a boat. A biggish boat.)
The best things in life aren’t free – they take work. Do you want reviews for your book? Do the work. Make people want to review it, but also understand they they don’t have to.
First, readers love series/sequels. However, the next book in any series should always be a standalone book, that is unless you really want to annoy your readers. And you should only write it because you have more to say, because you like the world in which you wrote it, or because you love the characters so much that you want to spend more time with them. Because if you did, your readers probably will, too.
If you’re going to write a sequel, though, don’t assume that a reader read book one. They may only have seen an intriguing cover or read the blurb for book two or three. I know of one writer who took a lot of backlash because her ‘sequel’ required readers to have read book one – they felt it was a cheat, that book two was just a way to make them buy book one. That’s why every book in the series should stand on its own.
You also have to be careful not to rehash all the info in book one in book two. It should be organic, as part of the story, something that can be shared via dialogue between two characters or as a memory. New readers need to know those shared experiences, so they understand what motivates the characters, why they’re friends or enemies. (Ditto Books Three, Four, and so on.) If you do your job right, then your readers will want to know more, and they’ll read Book One.
When you market Book Two, market it on its own merits. If you set it up correctly, the subtitle and cover will let readers know it’s part of a series. Series can be challenging for just that reason.
If you knew you were going to write a sequel to Book One, or a series, it’s much easier. Just make sure you actually have those books written. Or at least Book Two, with Book Three in-process, if it will be a series. There is nothing worse for a reader than having a writer talk about a sequel or series, but then they don’t deliver. If you didn’t, it gets complicated. For one thing, you need to join the books under a series name. Hopefully, you have an idea what that will be. It also means you’ll need to go back to book one and add that series name to the listing for the book. Ideally, too, the books should have similar covers. Those covers will automatically announce that there is a connection between the books. Without it, it makes it difficult for readers to know it’s a series. That may mean you need to purchase new covers, or contract with your original cover artist to produce a similar one. Similar covers will tell readers that it’s part of a sequel or series, reassuring them that they’ll find more books by their new favorite writer.
“If you don’t have the time to read you don’t have the time (or tools) to write, it’s as simple as that” – Stephen King
“You can’t write well what you don’t read for pleasure. If it doesn’t entertain you, it’s not going to entertain anyone else” – Nora Roberts
I was reading a blog the other day and I was appalled at the errors. The writer didn’t seem to know the difference between ‘steal’ (theft) and ‘steel’ (the metal, or a stiffening of the nerves).
In another case, there was an aspiring writer who posted a daily request for how to write the most basic sentences. He didn’t know the word ‘peer’, as in ‘look over or around’, and that an adult would have to be seated for the child he was writing about to be able to look over the adult’s shoulder.
There have been several times where an aspiring writer is clearly trying to write fan-fiction based on a favorite TV show.
Another writer, using said favorite TV show, didn’t know the difference between a tunic, a toga, or a cloak. He didn’t know how people dressed in ancient Greece, Rome or Egypt, and didn’t know how to describe it.
If I could give one piece of advice to writers it would be the same as those of Mr. King or Ms. Roberts. Read. Read a lot. Read everything and anything. Someone once said of me that if I didn’t have a book to read I’d read cereal boxes or skywriting. I read voraciously. I read biographies, history, and most kinds of fiction. My husband likes to read philosophy, I listen to him discuss the books he loves, and I learn from it.
If you don’t read, you don’t have the basic skills to write. Google what you don’t understand, you’ll learn even more.
Do you want to be a good writer…or a great writer? Then read. Nudge the world a little. Or rock it!