I have read a lot of indie author books and short stories. While indie author works - like traditionally published works - can vary from amazing to tough to read, there are some errors and mistakes that show up in all but the best of indie author prose. These are known as tics: errors that continuously pop up, but aren’t necessarily seen as errors.
As part of the indie author community, it is up to us to find these tics and point them out. Only by recognizing them can we work to reduce their frequency. So here is a list to get us started, but please feel free to add your own thoughts about indie author tics you have noticed.
Italics. Something that gets overused, even in the best indie work, are italics. Italics can be used for a few things: titles (in certain style guides), portraying thoughts, or adding emphasis to a word or phrase. It is in the last example where indie authors overuse italics. Rely on your readers to add emphasis where necessary, do not riddle your book with italics. Have some faith in your audience.
Ellipses… Ellipses are overused by almost everyone, not just indie authors. However, indie authors have a habit of dropping them in wherever they need a pause; a pause to think, threaten, imply, etc. And it is not that ellipses should never be used, but remember that your reader will be able to insert their own necessary pause in their reading with a dialogue break, a comma, or even a period. In fact, ellipses are almost never necessary to create a pause in dialogue or thinking, save for a few cases. Be on the lookout for this sneaky punctuation.
Commas. This is the tic that I am personally guilty of. Again, you must have faith in your readers. Look to see where you have (over)used commas and consider if you really need them. You will find that you don’t actually need a comma where they might have popped up in your first draft. Check to see if you are guilty of the comma splice, when it would be better to make one sentence into two. And remember, just because you read it with a pause doesn’t mean you should have a comma there.
Put in an excessive, unnecessary amount of detail that covers every single aspect of an extremely small thing. Detail is important. Detail helps a story come to life in mind of a reader, but a lot of indie authors instinctively cover every minute aspect of every object, and it can actually end up ruining the prose for a reader. And, while you are fixing all of your detail tics, be sure to focus on the details that will elevate your work. Don’t just focus on the appearance of an object. Focus on the smell, the texture, the atmosphere around it. Focus on how people interact with it, the effect it has on the things around it, and what people think about. But resist the urge to fill a half-dozen lines with a description for a door, barn, or rock.
Indie author tics aren’t the end of the world, nor do they mean that you are a bad writer. Tics are just things that most of us have to work on. Start with this list and identify some of your author tics. If you have one that isn’t above, share it with us so we can help each other out.
As always, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Happy writing, my friends.