I want to talk to you now about the finer points between an amateur writer compared to a professional.

I’ll use a term that describes the difference between the two. I call it “smoothing.” Smoothing can make a novel enjoyable to read compared to one that is not. The storyline can be completely the same, but one that has not been smoothed makes the reader stumble through what you have written, compared to one that is read enjoyably.

Just what is smoothing? Smoothing is the process of going through your manuscript and adding (or sometimes subtracting) essential words that smooth the way each sentence is read.

I sometimes help new writers smooth their manuscripts (when I have the extra time to do so). It can be very time-consuming and somewhat stressful, because no writer, new or old, wants to be shown that their manuscripts are not as good as they thought.

Again, let me stress that many of these manuscripts had superb plot lines and were told in a very interesting way, but they were rough around the edges, so to speak. Unfortunately, they are the sentences and paragraphs that make up the structure of the story.

Sometimes it isn’t so much that they are rough, as that the author-to-be doesn’t really have an understanding of the English language. When I say they don’t have an understanding of the English language, I don’t mean pronoun versus noun, etc. I mean that they used inappropriate words to try to convey their meaning.

Oftentimes it’s because they seem to have a hang-up on certain words, and no matter how they try, they continue to use these words in an incorrect manner.

One of my students was a superb storyteller, and one of the things that she wanted to do was publish a novel. She succeeded in publishing three novels before she unfortunately passed away from cancer. I have no doubts that if this student had lived, she would have been a household name.

The word that she consistently had problems with was “passed.” Invariably when she wanted to say that something had passed one of her characters on the road or some other place, she always used the word “past” instead. No matter how hard she tried, at least in her first novel, that word just would not leave her alone. She, of course, corrected the manuscript before publishing, and on her second novel there were fewer instances of the little word that was obnoxious to her.

By the third novel she had conquered it and was well on her way to being a supreme storyteller. And a very professional writer. I will miss her. But such is life, and death.

To emphasize the point of smoothing your manuscript, look at various poems. If you go to different poets and read what they have written, you will find that some are easy to read. They flow in your mind. Others write with a kind of rambling structure that may get the point across that they’re trying to make, but most often are not the poems that stick in your mind, for they require too much thinking on your part.

And so it is with a novel. If your reader has to constantly stop and think about what you’re trying to say, they will soon lose interest, and when a reader loses interest in what you have written, you have failed in your duty as an author!

Always try to keep in mind that most readers read as not only a form of relaxation, but also as a way to distance themselves, if only momentarily, from the rigors and stresses of their everyday lives.

If you are familiar with the TV program that ran for a number of years by the name of “Star Trek, The Next Generation,” you remember that the starships had a recreational area called a “Holodeck.” Well, we don’t as yet have such a magnificent computer generated recreational area in our homes. Although, we do have access to the next best thing. We just have to put the details together in our minds.

And, if you haven’t already figured it out, it’s called a novel!


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