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Advice for Authors

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Advice for Authors

Writing a novel is an art form; it is not something that has to conform to any rigid set of rules. It is your book, so you set the rules.

One of the most common mistakes we see in manuscripts is inconsistency. The spelling of Steven becomes Stephen midway through the story, or one of characters goes from being 38 years old in 1995 to celebrating his fiftieth birthday in 2010. Errors in consistency are surprisingly easy to make.

You need to ensure that the story flows properly; there’s little point in explaining something on page 75 if the reader needs to know it to make sense of what happens in the first chapter.

Make sure you have checked any geographical or historical facts that you might mention. Similarly, know your context - a book set in the 1960s needs to refer to pre-decimal money, not the currency we now use; Frenchmen think and talk in terms of kilometres rather than miles; Australians drive on the left of the road, and so forth.

It’s not advisable to go through a thesaurus and use unusual and outlandish words that the general reader will neither recognise nor understand. Similarly, padding out sentences with unnecessary adjectives and phrases adds to the amount of pages but adds nothing to the readers’ understanding of the story or their enjoyment of the tale.

Make sure that you don’t copy somebody else’s work. Lifting passages of narrative from somebody else’s book is plagiarism, it’s theft. Likewise, with pictures, you can’t use them if they’re not yours and if you found them on the internet this doesn’t give you the right to use them in your book – you must obtain the necessary rights to use them. Characters, too, can be subject to copyright; you can’t publish a new Harry Potter book even if the storyline is entirely your own.

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