Quick Editing Tips

First off, if you are self-publishing do not leave an extra space between paragraphs. Indent for paragraphs. Take a look at a book on your shelf and see how it looks inside.

Read books in the genre you are writing in.

Start your book with something exciting happening to your main character(s).

Make sure the reader can tell right away who the main character is. Don't wait for several pages to introduce him or her.

Don't begin with pages of back story, the back story can be added in appropriate places along the way.

Eliminate most exclamation points. Don't ever put one in the narrative. And if the dialogue is exclamatory enough, you don't need the exclamation point.

In most cases, stick to "said" and "asked" for dialogue tags--better yet, use action and description as a dialogue tag. Example: "Get out of my way." Pete shoved the big man in the aisle.

Use the word all right--not alright.

All pronouns refer back to the last person or thing mentioned.

For a quote inside a quote, use a single quote mark. Example: "My dad told me 'Get out', and I did."

Eliminate the word "that" when you can. It, like "just" are often over used. Often that isn't necessary. There are synonyms for "just".

Take a look at see what other words you overuse--like "so." Do a word search to replace some of your "favorites" with other favorites.

Use descriptive actions words rather than adverbs. Look in your thesaurus for other words for walk, run, look etc. Find the word that best describes you character's action.

Weave your dialogue, action and narrative together. Show us what's going on.

Never have a character tell another character something he/she already knows.

Don't use parenthesis in a novel. If something needs to be explained--explain it in the narrative.

Be sure to self-edit. When you think it's as good as you can make it. Hire an editor.



John M. Wills said…
Excellent post, Marilyn. I will post on my blog with attribution, of course.
Thanks, John. I'm trying to help some new authors. I do a lot of contest judging and see these problems.
Thonie Hevron said…
Well said, Marilyn. I also noticed a lot of these errors while recently judging contest entries. You made a thorough list. I'm going to share with my critique group as well as print and post it on my bulletin board.
Judythe Guarneera said…
Your list was really satisfying. I agreed with everything you said. Now, I just need to make sure I follow the list when I'm actually writing.
I agree with you! I give my clients guidelines, including most of these.
Believe me folks, I do make mistakes. I try to catch them, my critique groups catches some, and than I always get someone else to edit. (And things to do still sneak through.)

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