Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What is the Inciting Incident?

What is the Inciting Incident?
Imagine this:
  • Your name is Rusty Sabich.
  • You’re the prosecutor for Kindle County.
  • There’s been a death.
  • It’s someone you know – a recent but past lover (yes, you’re married) has been found raped and murdered.
                  Your world is not in chaos yet –until. . .
  • Analysis shows that it’s your semen that was found in her.
                  Is your world now upside down? You bet. 
                  (Especially because you didn't do it)

That’s called an ‘inciting incident.’
Sometimes it’s called an “exciting incident.” Before it, there is relative peace and equilibrium in the lives of the protagonists. The inciting incident changes that. Dramatically (literally). It’s the reason for the story in the first place. The rest of the story is the protagonist solving the problem, regaining the lost equilibrium.

Repeat: The inciting incident is the reason for the story in the first place.  

Take Hamlet: What is the inciting innocent?  It's when, upon the death of Hamlet’s father, his mother immediately moves to marry his father’s brother. Hamlet goes mad. His world is upside down. The rest of the play is Hamlet trying to turn his world right side up.

Take Joe Turner. Remember him – the Robert Redford character in 3 Days of the Condor? He goes to work one day, in a downtown Brownstone, at his usual job as a CIA reader. Fine. He has his life. He has his love interest. He has his great job where he reads things -- looking for ideas that might help the CIA. 

What can go wrong? (You're kidding right. We're still waiting for the inciting incident)

He goes out the back door and comes back with sandwiches for everyone in the office. But they are all dead. Massacred. His life is turned upside down. Who can he trust? (It’s the CIA after all.)  Are they really after him? What does he know that endangers him? The rest of the story is Joe Turner battling the CIA (in ingenious ways) to right the turmoil in his life. (If you haven’t read it or seen it, you’ve missed a terrific story.)

Does the inciting innocent have to be violent?  No.

If you build it, they will come.” Yikes! It turns the Iowa corn farmer into a tizzy.  What’s next? As he tries to make his dream real, the story builds and builds and builds. Neighbors reject him. His family thinks he's crazy. His farm is going into foreclosure.  But it was premised on the inciting incident --this one simple sentence, If you build it, they will come.

Oh, and the great book Grapes of Wrath. Here the inciting incident is the dust bowl during the depression. It turns the Joad family’s world upside down, forcing all of them into one car to make it to California (their own field of dreams.)

Or The Godfather. The normal equilibrium of the Corleone family is gambling, prostitution, and murder. Hard for them to have an inciting incident, yes?  But there is one – when the Godfather himself is gunned down in the street. That sets the book and the movie in motion, and the rest of the story is the family trying to save him and right their world.

Are there rules for the inciting incident? Here’s 3:
  1. It should come fairely early in your story, along with the development of the genre, first scene, and characters. 
  2. It has to be of sufficient interest to the reader – actually hook him or her. 
  3. It has to provide enough energy to sustain the story.
Homework: As we read our books and watch our films and TV shows, look for the inciting incident. Identify where it is placed in the story. Does it interest us? Do we care? Why do we care? Does it provide enough energy to sustain the story?

Now we are examining other stories to see what works, and what doesn’t. It’s just one way we become better writers.

Monday, June 1, 2015

What is Backstory?

What is backstory?

Let’s face it, you have issues. Or you had them. Or you’re still working them out. You know which ones—the unresolved conflicts from childhood, from a bad marriage, wounds from something you saw as a child or an adult. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that as an author, you can use them. 

The reason some novels aren’t as compelling as some other novels is because the characters’ don’t have their own issues. They only do things and say things. They fall in love. They fight crime. Or they fight the law. They have great sex. Or weird sex. They quit their job. They fight with their husbands or wives or parents or friends.

And our readers don’t feel them. They aren’t real.

Your characters must have issues. Something haunts them. Or they have a fatal flaw. Otherwise they are not all that interesting. They are, as is said in the business, like cardboard characters.

What is backstory?  Backstory is everything that happened before your story starts. It’s the subtext to your story and what your characters do, and in a lot of cases, it explains your whole story.

In other words, your story doesn’t begin at the beginning. It begins before the beginning.

Your backstory doesn’t have to be said.
Text is what you say. Subtext is what you don’t say, but which is there nonetheless.

Take Batman, for example. We know that his backstory is the reason he does what he does, the reason he is the dark knight, the reason he is morose and even depressed; Bruce Wayne is the person he is because, as a boy, he saw his parents gunned down by a small-time criminal. Right then, before Joker, before all the other villains, Batman begins. 

These murders are the subtext to each episode whether on film or comic books. In some episodes the murders aren’t even mentioned. They don’t need to be. Even if we don’t know the backstory at all, at some level we know that something is wrong with him. Perhaps wonderfully wrong. We might not know exactly what it is or why, but without a past like that, there would be no person like that. Batman has big issues.

Or take the suburb novel In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien. It’s a tame title to what is definitely not a tame story. It takes place in Minnesota. But John and Kathy Wade’s backstory is clear: Vietnam. No, not the Vietnam we think we know. The backstory of John Wade in Vietnam doesn’t just move the story forward; it launches. The war we’ve all heard about, and maybe are tired of hearing about, is a stunning backdrop to a wholly different and utterly compelling story.
What happens when the CIAgets inside your mine?

In my novel, OperationFantasy Plan, Peter Gaines is kicked out of the CIA after 17 years and he doesn’t know why. He can go forward now, and see Yellowstone, Rushmore, all the places he’s never seen in the country which is his own, but which he hasn’t seen because he’s been operational in so many other countries

But something haunts Peter Gaines. Something he did in Thailand. Years ago. He realizes that he can’t go forward with his new life yet. First he has to go back and undo something he’s done.
That’s the backstory. The rest is the story going forward, and what unravels for him personally as well as internationally as he tries to right this single terrible wrong.

How do we build a backstory?
Begin by considering your own issues, your own backstory. What makes you tick? What makes you different? What makes you write? What draws you to what you read? What are your quirky personal habits? Your quirky sexual habits? What causes you to be lazy? Or to work hard? What don’t others know about you but nevertheless makes you who you are? 

Then Interview your characters:
What is their home background? Geographical location, parents’ history, interactions with parents, family problems such as alcoholism, molestation, inability to be affectionate, playing around. Or were the families of your characters perfect, hardworking, honest, unafraid, thrifty and brave. Probably not. What flaws do they have? Make a list--one, two, three. What is their economic background? Has family fortune gone up and down? Down and up? Just down? What political views do they hold?  What religious views? What is their formal and informal education? What do they read? Or, perhaps don’t read. That’s important too.

What are your characters afraid of?  Something as simple as spiders? Or maybe snakes, like Indiana Jones. Or are they afraid of success? Or failure? Or marriage? Or divorce? Or death? Or the law? Or maybe God?

 "The truth will sock you in the guy."
"The Truth will sock you in the gut."
What values do your characters hold? What do they hold dearest to themselves? What do they consider right and wrong? What line won’t they cross? What are they looking for in a friend or a lover? What kind of person are they attracted to?

What is the most significant event in your characters’ lives? Start by asking yourself what the most significant even in your life is. Loss of a parent? Some other physical or emotion event? A time at war? A time when you came home from war? The finding of a loving partner? A marriage? Or loss of a loving partner? The loss of a job. An especially humiliating event?
Remember too, that while others may not know us well, our own personal backstories are always with us. They are present to us, but hidden from others. To write real characters we have to be our own psychologist as well as the psychologist of our characters.

Don’t make your characters’ issues too familiar. Struggles with alcoholism, for example. We’ve read that story enough times. If your main character is an alcoholic, he’s going to have to be really different in some other way.

Often we build our characters backward.
We start with a person and a setting, and see how they react to some event. We let them surprise us. Often they do. Then we go back and try to explain to ourselves why they acted that way.  And as we go forward with the story, the character we thought we knew may surprise us again, or may change, become violent, or more loving. Then go back and build the reasons he or she has done what they’ve done.

The backstories of our characters don’t have to be overt at all. They don’t ever have to be fully spelled out.  But we have to know what they are because we have to understand them. If we write well, our readers will feel the presence of the backstories even if we haven’t spelled it out for them.
This is the story of
what really happened to Madeleine

It is sometimes said that our characters are really pieces of their authors. Perhaps that’s true. But if it is true, and if our story is fiction and yet with authentically human troubles and faults, our readers will find their own backstories inside our stories. Then our readers won’t just be looking down at the page. They will be drawn into the story itself, even hooked, because we’re reminding them of who they are, as well as showing them who our characters are. 

Peter Gilboy 

Friday, May 8, 2015

How to Write Great Dialogue through Subtext

How to write great dialogue through subtext

The son finally returns home. He's been away at war.
He opens the door. His father is at the breakfast table.

      Father: I thought you were dead.
          Son: I was in a POW camp.
      Father: Why didn't you escape?

Just three lines from the film Maria’s Lovers and we know the heart of this father-son relationship—that the son is never good enough.

Did the words say that? No.

But it’s clear anyway.

That’s subtext. That’s what makes a good dialogue even better.

·       A good story is never about what the story is about. Or let me say that differently: A good story is never about what it’s about on the surface.

In this film, Maria’s Lovers, a lesser writer might have used flashbacks to show the father was disappointed in the son for not measuring up—at a ballgame, when getting grades back, etc.  

But subtext said it better. In this case it laid their relationship bare in just three lines. Now the writer can get on with the plot—what’s going to happen in the story.

·       Subtext is like an iceberg. The reader sees only the “top” of what is said, but is made aware of the hidden mass below which isn’t said.
   John: I’m sending you something.
  Stella: Does it smell nice?
   John: No, but it’s sparkly.
  Stella: Does it come with a receipt? 

That’s from The Italian Job. Stella didn’t say—I know you’re a thief. You probably stole it? I don’t trust you. I’m exasperated with the work you do.  But we get the meaning anyway.

·       Subtext hints while straight-text tells. And because it hints, it engages the reader because the reader knows that something is hidden. The reader is let in on the secret. Have you heard this one?

“Not tonight, honey. I’m tired.”

Here are three famous lines that reach far beyond the words themselves.

“What if this is as good as it gets?”

“Go ahead, make my day.”

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

In the last line Vito Corleone is really saying that he’s in control and that he get what he wants. The reader feels the tension. His or her mind races forward to all sorts of possibilities. Bribe the guy? Maim him? Yikes, kill him? 

No, it’s worse. It’s going to be a dead horse in the guy’s bed. But the writer made us wait for it. And we knew it was going to be big. The subtext added tension. It added depth to the story and the character.

What happens when the CIA gets inside your mind?
·       People don’t say what they mean.

In some cases the subtext might not reveal its true meaning right away, but it will as the plot develops. Take, for example, a husband who is growing softer and fatter by the day. He’s gained 40 pounds. At dinner he asks for another helping of turkey and potatoes.

Wife: “Are you sure you want more?”

Lots of possible subtexts here: Maybe she’s unwilling to confront him for the sake of the marriage. Maybe she’s physically afraid of him. Maybe she’s really saying that she wants her attractive lover back. We’ll have to read further.

·       Subtext can also be through action, or inaction.

If a boy pulls a girls hair, does it mean he doesn’t like her?

If at a party, a man glances at a woman’s cleavage and then approaches her, what is he really saying?

·       Often the subtext depends on the context:

If Francis Underwood, the character in House of Cards, tells you, “Don’t worry, you can count on me,” it means something very different than if your mother says it.

And this:
-          Phil watched as the blond pulled up in a minivan.
-          Phil watched as the blond pulled up in a red BMW
-          Phil watched as the blond pulled up on a motorcycle.

There’s only one difference between the above sentences. And in each sentences we assume something different about the blond. That’s also subtext.

·       Subtext is understood

Does Vito Corleone ever say that he loves his family? That he’s looking out for them? That he’ll do anything for them?

No. It’s already in the subtext of each scene. For him to say actually “I’ll do anything for you,” would be redundant and even absurd. The audience might actually out loud. Besides, “I’ll do anything for you” or “I love you” would add nothing to the story or to what we already know about the character.

·       The plot is what happens in the story.

·       The subtext is what’s really happening.

 Mary: "Do you love me?"
             John opens the refrigerator door. 
 John: "Of course."

·       Subtext shows conflict and reveals character without saying it.

        Son: “Why can’t I go to college?”
    Father: “You think what I do isn’t good enough?”

        Wife: Where are we going on our vacation?
Husband: We went someplace last year.

Girlfriend: “Did you kiss Betty?”
Boyfriend: “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Employer: You catch up on your work?
Employee: I’m getting there?
Employer: I hope so.

Girlfriend: “You gonna take me to the prom?”
Boyfriend: “Why is that so important?”

    Father: “How are your grades?”
                      Daughter: “Grades aren’t everything

 Nobody in the above instances answered the question. They said something else. And in saying that “something else” they revealed more about themselves than if they had answered directly.

·       Subtext is subtle. It points to a meaning without saying it.

          Art student: “Pretty cool oil painting I did, isn’t it?”
          Art teacher: “I really like the way you use red.”

The well-known writing teacher Robert McKee has said: “If your characters say what they mean, then your story is in deep sh**.”

·                 Subtext deepens our characters.

·                 Subtext deepens our stories.

The truth will sock youin the gut
But we already know subtext. We use it every day.
Yet when we sit down to write, it may escape us.

So, how do we learn to write in subtext? Simply listen carefully to what real people say. Maybe hang out at Starbucks, get a vente cappuccino or whatever and find a comfortable chair and eavesdrop on conversations. Or eavesdrop at the checkout stand. Or in your kitchen. Best of all, we should listen to how we ourselves speak.

Okay, but how do we write it!
Write down (or think about) what the character really means: “You really gonna to marry that slob?

Then say it like people really say it: “Are you sure about him?”

Here’s a familiar dialogue:

                                             What is said                      The Subtext
Guy: “Want to come up for a drink?”    “Let’s have sex.”

Girl: “Long day. I’m really tired.”           “I’m not sure.”

Guy: “You sure?”                       “I don’t care. I’m horny.”

Girl: “Maybe another time.”                  “Don’t push it.”

                                        I'll end with this one:
   Husband: Was it good for you too?
       Wife:  I’m speechless.
                     That's subtext.


"Yes, I know Madeleine's missing. But I can explain that. I can explain everything



Saturday, May 2, 2015

6 Tips to a Great First Sentence

6 Tips to a Great First Sentence

“In retrospect I shouldn’t have freed the tiger.”

Jodi Picoult’s first line here, in Lone Wolf
has many of the traits of a great first sentence.

It is a surprise

It provides an image

It is humorous

It’s simple

It creates a mood

It teases

It may even encapsulate 

the entire story

A truth that will sock you
in the gut
We all know that an opening line is important. It won't make the story great, but it will immediately introduce your reader to a problem, or a question, or a sticky thought that your reader can’t shake.

It quickly moves the reader inside your story.

Take a look at the first line of the work you’re presently writing. Which of the above traits does it have? Count them out.

It would be great of a computer could spit out a great line for us. But what computer could spit out this first line? 

“Lolita, light of my fire, fire of my loins.”

Yes, it’s Vladimir Nabakov’s, Lolita. It’s a sensual tease. It makes us want more. Computers can’t reach into us like that. Count how many of the above traits can be found there. I count six.

We can’t force a good first line. If it doesn’t come—wait.

Wait with enough creative tension and it’ll come; perhaps you’ll be in the bathtub or on a long walk; maybe in the midst of furious writing or a furious writer’s block.

First lines sometimes simply appear like that.

A good first line may come to you as your writing the beginning part of your story, or the middle, or the even the end. We can’t always control when. Of course we can force a line out. But I’ll bet that a spontaneously derived line that surprises even the author will also surprise his or her readers.

What happens when the CIA
gets inside your mind?
 In some cases the first line might even come before any other word in the story has been written.  It may be a thought the author had, a sudden muse, some internal questioning that resulted in a single line that has the power to propel a story forward; perhaps even a story the author hadn’t planned at all.

Maybe that’s what happened to Alice Walker in the 
first line of her well-known novel, The Color Purple.

“You better not tell nobody but God.”

Here’s a first line that has stuck in my mind for years and I can’t even remember the name of the book or its author:

It was raining when they rolled me out of the back seat
of my Chrysler and into the alley; not a heavy rain, more like a light mist.

Surprising. Simple. Visual. Funny. The reader is immediately inside the story and ready for it to take off.

One of my favorite authors, Thomas H. Cook, 
has great first sentences to begin his dark novels.

“The circle of life is often a noose.” 
The Dancer in the Dust.

“My father had a favorite line.”
 The Chatham School Affair

“The question was never whether she would
live or die, for that had been decided long ago.” 
The Quest for Anna Klein

“This is the darkest story I ever heard.” 
Breakheart Hill

“When you remember those times,
they return to you in a series of photographs.
 Red Leaves.

“He’d seen shadows of his own.” 
The Evidence of Blood.

“There is no older story than the return of the native, and
I’d always believed that had Adam returned to Eden
 to walk in middle age the ruined garden once again,
he might have felt an old nostalgia for his fall.” 
Into the Web

Yes, I know Madeleine's missing. But I can explain that. I can explain everything.

See the First Chapter!

There’s no magic bullet that will make that right title appear. But we can prepare the way.  Take a look at the first lines of novels you’ve enjoyed or haven’t enjoyed. Or use the book section of Amazon has a great feature called “Look Inside.” With it, you can go inside almost any novel and read the first pages. I recommend looking through first lines of novels at random.

See what works? See what doesn’t? See why and why not?

I’m a proponent of not forcing first lines. In fact, I’m a proponent of not forcing fiction writing at all; that is, not grinding it out. When we do that, we become calculative rather than creative.

We are not in charge of our creativity. We cannot press a button. We cannot make it do what we want, when we want. Creativity seems to have its own way. We simply have to make room in our day–at least a small and regular space–where inspiration may arrive, the imagination go free, and originality may begin to squeak through to us.

It's a ‘space’ where we let something happen.

That’s not being ‘clever.’ It’s being original. Meaning something that originates with us, with you or me.

Great first lines grow from that ‘space.’ As do all fine novels.

See the First Chapter of Madeleine's Kiss

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

5 Mistakes Indie Authors Make

5 Mistakes Indie Authors Make

There is no reason an Indie novel cannot be as spectacular as a great, traditionally-published novel. 

No reason at all. But typically Indie novels are not so spectacular. Why not?

I’ve been published by both a major publisher and an Indie publisher. How they work is very different – not just in the publishing, but also in the preparation for the publishing. This article is about the important things that we Indie authors typically aren’t doing that major authors are doing.

Briefly, my story:
My experience selling my first book to a publisher is not typical. I contacted an agent on a Tuesday, she called back me on Wednesday, told me we could sign a contract on Thursday, and that she’d have the novel sold to a major publishing house by Monday. (And she did.)

Was I a great writer or just lucky? Probably the latter. But I got a publisher and a darn nice advance. I was a happy guy.

Will sock you in the gut.
I also had the chance to work with one of the best editors in the country. When I say “editor,” I don’t mean someone who puts the commas in the right places and reminds me that “i” goes before “e” except after “c.”  No, this was a story editor—someone who understands the concept of story telling; knows which things make a story work and which things don’t. In general the story editor improves the story. In this case it was my story.

I’ll back up a bit and add that before I signed with a publishing house I had a chance to interview two editors with different houses who wanted the story. Part of each interview went like this:

Publishing House ‘A’
Me: How can you help make my novel better?
Editor: Peter, you are the writer. You’re the artist. We don’t want to interfere.

Publishing House ‘B’
Me: How can you help make my novel better? 
Editor: Well, the first half of your story is stronger than the second. The potential is there, but we have to work on it.

Then the editor at Publishing house ‘B’ went on to make some suggestions that I immediately found helpful. Light bulbs were going off. I signed with that publisher, even though the advance was less. Why? Obviously I wanted to make the novel as good as possible. This guy could help.

Before I spoke to him I had no idea that my story needed work. I thought it was great. And I had an agent, didn’t I? And now someone was buying my novel, weren’t they? So what’s the problem?

Consider this: There are two kinds of things we don’t know.

-        There are things that we know we don’t know – for example, I know that I don’t know how to operate the space shuttle. That’s something I know I don’t know. Call it a “known unknown.”

          Thene there are things that we don’t know that we don’t know – for example…well, I can’t give an example. Since I don’t know that I don’t know something, how can I give you an example of what that something is?  Call it an “unknown unknown.”  Kapish?   

Yes, I know Madeleine is missing.
But I can explain that.I can explain everything.

See the Chapter !
Obviously every novel writer does the best that he or she can. But it’s not enough. There are things about writing a novel that we don’t know that we don’t know. Yes, our friends have told us that our story is fine, or even great. Mom said the same thing. Sister Sue liked it too. If we have beta readers (Google it), they’ve made their suggestions.

But we need to go outside the circle. In short – we need help.

Lesson #1: A good story editor can be of immense help to us. Find one. (Note: Story editors are not equal. That’s why I emphasize the word “good” above.) 

The advantage of a major publishing house is that they have accomplished story editors right there to work with authors. That’s what they get paid to do, and if they don’t do it well, and the books don’t sell, they are gone. The publishing house has invested in their author. They want to make money. They really want the story to be good.

A mistake many Indie authors make is to not use a good story editor. A good story editor can make the difference between an average story becoming a good one, or a good one becoming really good or even great.

If you’re taking writing classes or seminars (and I hope you are), ask the instructor who they’ve used for a story editor, or who they recommend. You have to start somewhere.

Maybe you are thinking, “But I don’t need a story editor.” Then please see above about not knowing what we don’t know.

In my case, I worked hard with my story editor. He had a fresh eye on my story and was very experienced. I learned to expand my writing ability because of him. He made my book much better.

For example, at one point he said, “Peter, if you lose pages 9 through 11, only one person in the world will miss them.” He meant me, of course. I looked at the pages. They were well written, even clever, and flowed nicely. I liked those pages. I was proud of them. But I could now see that they weren’t necessary. They didn’t advance the story or develop its characters. Result: The pages were gone.

I could give a ton more examples. In some instances my editor made suggestions that I simply didn’t agree with. I fought him on it. And often I won. But now as I look back with more experience in writing, I see that in almost every instance he was right.

Lesson #2: Listen to your story editor.

I’m not saying change everything according to your editor’s wishes. Just listen carefully. Unless your
What happens when the CIA
gets inside your mind 
last name is Steinbeck or Hemingway, you still have a lot to learn. Just like I do. Use the story editor’s suggestions as a way of examining your story from top to bottom and more deeply so that you can grow in your writing ability.

You can be sure that John Grisham, Lee Child, and Toni Morrison are listening to their story editors. You should too.

Lesson #3: Don’t fall in love with your words.

You’ll hear this from every good writing teacher. It’s good advice so I’m saying it again. Get out the red marker. On every page ask: Do I need this? Can this scene go in a different direction? What opportunities am I missing here to make the character deeper, the scene more compelling, the action more interesting; in short, how can I make my story better?

My editor and I worked on the story for a year. (Yes, a year!) We went back and forth and the story got better, stronger, more interesting. Better written. Then it took another 6 months for it to come out.

That’s a year and a half! Of course I was chomping at the bit, eager to get my story into print. It’s a great story! I’ll be famous and rich! Get that baby out there now for the world to see!

If I had been going Indie then, and without a good story editor, I likely would have brought my story out too soon. It wouldn’t have been as good. Trust me. I’ll say it again – It wouldn’t have been as good.

Lesson #4: Don’t bring your novel out too soon.

Even if you don’t get a story editor (which I think is a mistake), sit on your story for a while. Go on to other things, whether it’s your next book or your day job. Take a month or a six month break from your story. Try not to be antsy. Then come back fresh and look at it anew. Be critical – by which I mean, look closely at each line as well as the overall story.  See how it advances. Can you strengthen a scene? Would this character really talk like that? Do you have enough backstory on this character to explain his or her actions? 

Lesson 5: If you don’t make significant changes after sitting on your novel for a time, then you’re not trying hard enough.

There’s a saying among poets: They never finish a poem. They finally abandon it.
It should be the same with us. Our stories can get better and better and better. And yes, even better. They can probably get better forever. So if after I spend months away from my story I still can’t see ways to make it stronger, maybe it’s because I don’t yet understand story telling well enough. 

Yes, the problem may be me. And it’s time for me to get busy learning.

I’m going to add one thing. While I’ve been addressing story editors here, don’t forget the important line editors, or copy editors. These are the people who check spelling, correct grammar, find not be your own copy editor. I’ll say that again: You should not be your own copy editor. You are too close. Too familiar. And no, your best friend might not be right either.
misplaced tenses, and correct a hundred thousand other little things that may already be in your story. You need this done right. You should

One complaint I see over and over by Amazon reviewers is: “Didn’t anyone edit this?”  The answer is that a number of people probably did edit it. But not an accomplished editor.

You can be sure that if someone doesn’t catch your inadvertent mistakes, your readers will. Probably every one of your readers will. Nothing distracts a reader more from a story than an error in print. It will jerk the reader away from your story. Now he or she is thinking about you, and how you didn’t do your job.

So, get a good copy editor. That doesn’t necessarily mean use the copy editor at the Indie publisher. They may charge $300 to $500 or so, but there may be better ones out there for more or less money, and there probably are.

"A shocking suspense novel"
To wrap up, I’ll repeat that there is no reason an Indie novel cannot be as spectacular as a great, traditionally-published one. No reason at all. But typically Indie novels are not so spectacular.
Yours can be, though. However, making it really good will probably be harder than you first thought; will take more time than you first thought; and you’ll need more advice than you first thought.

I also want to suggest that you’ll probably be a better writer this time next year than you are now. Why? Because you are growing in your writing abilities. Hopefully we’re all still growing, usually by baby steps. But at least we’re growing; and we need to keep those baby steps up.

 Now go do it.  And if you like, let me know how it’s going.

Happy writing and best wishes     --- Peter.

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