Improve Your Book: Ten Suggestions

I certainly cannot help you with a book that you have already written and published. However, I can assist you with the redraft of your new book, or the book you are about to write. Below are some quick tips that can help you improve your book right now.

First, I do not know what age group you are writing for, or what genre you write in. Nevertheless, I am certain that these suggestions will apply to every author.

Imagine that there are thousands of readers waiting on your book. In order to give them the best possible product, you ask them, “What would prefer, long paragraphs or short paragraphs?” How many of those readers would respond, “Oh, I really enjoy long paragraphs!”

Suggestion One: Cut your paragraphs down to seven lines. 

Your reader will move their eyes down the page and feel like the book is going along at a quick pace. And while you are at it…

Suggestion Two: Keep your chapter’s four pages or less.

Question another thousand readers. “Would you prefer long chapters or short chapters?” I’ll bet my ridiculously small royalty check that they would prefer short chapters. In fact, your fans will give you comments like, “I really like your book, especially the short chapters. I hate books that have really long chapters.”

Suggestion Three: Get rid of your back-stories.

I’ve read so many books that start off with a great first line and entertaining first paragraph, then the author shifts gears and discusses back-story, which is like slamming the breaks on the highway. Of course, there are times when back-story is necessary, but keep it to a minimum and try not to place the back-story in a high-energy scene.

Suggestion Four: Get rid of your character descriptions.

I can feel your gasp from here. Just keep your descriptions to a minimum. I wrote an entire novel without describing the main character and most of the sub-characters. My thought process was, “This story is moving along so fast, I don’t want to slow down to let the reader know my character has short black hair and brown eyes.” It is more important what your character is doing and how they are feeling, rather than what they look like.

Suggestion Five: Increase power sentences.

I call a gripping one-liner…power sentence. It is a line that adds to the entertainment of the story. Unfortunately, I do not know which lines in your new book should be power sentences. My advice to recognize them is anytime you write something and think, “Wow that was a great line.” In that case, the line should stand on its own as a power sentence.

Suggestion Six: Read your book aloud.

If you stutter, then so will your reader. If you move along from page to page with your heart racing as each word sounds like perfection in your ears, then you are good to go.

Suggestion Seven: Check your point-of-views.

If anywhere in your book you have a point-of-view from one character, then switch the point-of-view to another character, it will confuse the reader. The easiest fix is to put a page break or chapter ending between point-of-view changes. Sometimes, it can be just a little tweak in how you said something.

Suggestion Eight: Add more of the five senses.

This also helps with your descriptions. The more your character sees, hears, tastes, smells, and feels, the more you are showing the story, rather than telling it. Go through each page and see if you can add the five senses to increase the entertainment of the story.

Suggestion Nine: Get rid of the fluff.

Every chapter, paragraph, sentence, and word should be important to the story. More and more bestselling authors are adding fluff, or unnecessary content to page fill. This usually happens around page 280, when the author is coming to the end, but needs to stretch the story to 370 pages. If the story is coming to the end, just finish it. If you feel like the story should have more pages, then go back over it and add the five senses.

Suggestion Ten: Content editing.

If back in 1992 when I decided to write for a living, an experienced author would have gone over my work and gave me advice, it would not have taken so long for me to make some money in this business. Remember that there is a big difference between content editing and grammar editing. With content editing, someone is going over everything that I mentioned in this blog and much more.

Some examples are subject matters, themes, focus, dialogue, clarity, cliché phrases, flashbacks, deleting every time you said, “very,” research accuracy and consistency, flow, repeated words/phrases/ideas, and much more.

Bonus Suggestion: Font Sizes

If you are a self-motivating author, (self-published author) then you have control over the font sizes in your books. Here is the scale that should be used for all chapter books:

Grades First – Third: 15 or 16 font.

Grades Fourth – Seventh: 14 font.

Grades Eighth, High School, and Adult: 13 font.

The font size is crucial for readers at a particular level for a better read. Also, the days of 11 and 12 font sizes are over. (Unless you are Stephen King or Ken Follet who have a thousand pages and need to use a smaller font.) As for you, never go lower than 13.

In the long-term, the very best way to improve your novel is to write another one…

Ron Knight  

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  1. I agree with all of them. Yes, yes , yes and YES!

  2. This was very good and useful information, as I have already written and published my fdebut novel and am working on my second one. I will put this in my favorites and refer back to it as I’m writing. Thank you so much.