Guest Blogger – Heather Weidner – 13 Things That Drive Editors and Readers Crazy (And Not in a Good Way)

13 Things That Drive Editors and Readers Crazy (And Not in a Good Way) by Heather Weidner

Thank you so much for letting me visit the blog. I’m Heather Weidner, and I write the Delanie Fitzgerald mysteries, Secret Lives and Private Eyes, The Tulip Shirt Murders, and Glitter, Glam, and Contraband. The latest one in the series features my sassy private investigator who is hired to find out who is stealing from the talent at a local drag show. Delanie gets more than she bargains for and a few makeup tips in the process. She also uses her skills to track down missing reptiles and uncover hidden valuables from a 100-year-old crime with a Poe connection.

I’ve been doing a lot of self-editing lately. It’s funny how you can see problems in other peoples’ stories, but they’re not always apparent in your own. I appreciate feedback from editors, beta readers, and critique group members that help me catch some of the mistakes as I polish my WIPs. These pet peeves can be a turn off for readers.

1. Editors always warn writers about “showing” not “telling.” They’re right. Readers prefer to see and interpret narrative and dialogue and not to get a play-by-play report like a newscast or a police report.
2. Backstory is good and helpful in small doses. Sprinkle it in throughout the work. Don’t do paragraph after paragraph of data dumps about a character’s past. That’s too much information, and the reader gets bogged down.
3. Sometimes, it’s necessary to have different points of view, and skilled authors do this very well. (Thriller/suspense writers are really good at this.) Typically in mysteries, the story is told from one point of view. When you hop around from different characters, it confuses the reader and breaks the flow of the story. And beginning writers who write in first person (I/me), often switch to another character or show something that happens that the protagonist isn’t privy too. That doesn’t work with first person.
4. Introduce your characters and mix in what they look like. I’ve found that some writers tend to do a dump of several paragraphs of description every time there is a new character. Your writing reads like a police report or a list of facts when you do this.
5. Not every piece of dialogue needs a tag or attribute (e.g. “he said,” “she said). One of my editors calls this “talking head syndrome.” If you’ve made it clear in the paragraph who is speaking, you don’t need the tag.
6. While not every piece of dialogue needs a tag/attribute, make sure that you don’t go for pages and not identify any of the speakers. If there are only two people, the reader assumes that it’s a back and forth, but if you have multiples, you need to give the reader clues. The reader wants to know who is speaking.
7. Read your dialogue out loud. Delete all the chitchat that doesn’t move your story forward. It’s hard. I’m southern, and I like to say please and thank you a lot. The mundane needs to go.
8. People do not talk in complete or formal sentences. It’s okay to have phrases and slang in dialogue. That’s the way people communicate. (I had a person in my critique group once who wanted all the sentences to be complete and proper. This doesn’t always work for the speaking parts.)
9. Writers often want to make sure that the reader understands what’s mentioned in dialogue by adding details about the characters, but sometimes this leads to you stating the obvious. Example: If two sisters were talking, and you bring up another character in dialogue that they both know from childhood, you don’t have to put in all the details to explain who the person is. You can sprinkle in facts in the conversation. The characters should know that Bob is their uncle.
10. When you are at the editing/revising stage of your project, go back and look at the closing sentence of each chapter. Make sure they are compelling enough to keep the reader reading. Beginning writers like to wrap up things neatly at the end of the chapter. You want your reader to read past her bedtime. Don’t give the reader a convenient place to put a bookmark.
11. Know what your crutch words are. These are the words and phrases that you use over and over, and often you don’t realize it. I make a list, and then when I’m editing, I go through in search and destroy mode to get rid of them. “Just,” “only,” and “that” are mine.
12. Make sure that you take every advantage as a writer to build tension. Don’t hurry through scenes that are important. Go back and edit these to build excitement for the reader.
13. Reread your draft. If there are parts where you are bored, your reader is going to be too. Break out the editing pen and make updates to keep the action moving forward. Delete the mundane and the ordinary.

Author Biography

Glitter, Glam, and Contraband is Heather Weidner’s third novel in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and Deadly Southern Charm. Her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan University and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.

Synopsis of Glitter, Glam, and Contraband

Private investigator, Delanie Fitzgerald, and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, are back for more sleuthing in Glitter, Glam and Contraband. In this fast-paced mystery, the Falcon Investigations team is hired to find out who is stealing from the talent at a local drag show. Delanie gets more than she bargains for and a few makeup tips in the process. Meanwhile, a mysterious sound in the ceiling of her office vexes Delanie. She uses her sleuthing skills to track down the source and uncover a creepy contraband operation.

Glitter, Glam, and Contraband features a strong female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations like helping sleezy strip club owner, Chaz Smith on his quest to become Richmond’s next mayor, tracking down missing reptiles, and uncovering hidden valuables from a 100-year-old crime with a Poe connection.

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