As a writer, you probably know that every new author makes mistakes – but did you know that we often all make the same ones? In this edition of ‘Expert Tips’, we asked editor Zoe Markham what the most common manuscript mistakes she sees are, so you can save yourself a bit of time (and money) when it comes to editing and publishing your book.
I see no end of final drafts inadvertently featuring eight day weeks, children who go to school six days in a row, and moons that stay full for a fortnight. Keeping a detailed timeline by your side and constantly updating it as you write will result in a huge win when you don’t have to backtrack to try to crowbar events into place.
POV slips are easy to make when you spend a lot of time in various characters’ heads, and are a common casualty when substantial changes are made to the structure of an MS. They are confusing and disconcerting for readers in either case. Beta readers can be invaluable here, and will spot the slips where you don’t.
3. SFF Worldbuilding
When writing within your own SFF world, inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation and capitalisation can easily creep in. Keep a master list of all your places, names and races to hand as you write, and add any common words to your writing software’s dictionary as you go. This way, unique misspellings will still be flagged, and you stand a much better chance of spotting any errors.
There are so many exceptions to the rules when it comes to hyphens that almost everyone gets it wrong at some point. Get it wrong consistently, and you’ve got a good chance of getting away with it. Check your MS for hyphenated words, and then check to see that you don’t have the same word unhyphenated elsewhere. In general, if there’s no ambiguity without the hyphen, you don’t need it, but if you hyphenate ‘re-read’ and then use ‘reread’ several pages later, it’ll glare.
5. UK/US English
Whatever your UK/US English preference, stick to it like glue throughout. I see US writers lovingly adopting ‘judgement’ and die-hard British writers ‘traveling’ here there and everywhere. The vast majority of readers are fine with either decision, but mixing and matching is unsettling. Make sure your writing software is set to the location you prefer, so that any errors will be flagged accordingly.
Zoe Markham edits for several publishers, as well as working with many independent authors. She holds an honours degree in English language and literature, and a full postgraduate teaching certification at senior level. She’s also an author signed with Carina UK and Grimbold Books, and has a solid understanding of the end-to-end writing process from both sides of the desk. Find out more at Markham Correct
More in our Expert Tips series: