1. Do a search for the word JUST. In 98% of the instances, the word should be deleted altogether. In another 1%, another word would be a better fit, such as MERELY, ONLY, SIMPLY, etc. In the last 1%, the word JUST actually makes sense. I have seen the word JUST in some books up to a dozen times on a single page and that is ridiculous.
you use the terms Mom and Dad in dialogue, or if a character is
referencing their mother or father, please capitalize them. I realize
that sounds elementary but it took me 30 minutes to correct that problem
3. The word BECAUSE is overused in most books. Most of the time the two thoughts need to be in two separate sentences.
4. I THINK, I KNOW, and I KNOW are overused as well. It is common sense
that the person thinks or knows something and it makes the writing seem
convoluted with unnecessary words.
5. Please make sure that
within your dialogue, there is a comma between a statement and a
character's name. For example: "I don't care what you say, Darlene." You
would be surprised how many seasoned writers still do not know that.
6. Also, please do not write: "You are crazy," she laughed. A character
cannot laugh out words, giggle out words, smirk out words, or chuckle
out words. It should be two separate things. "You are crazy." She
7. Speaking of laughing, please do not fill up an
entire page with back and forth dialogue that ends with HE LAUGHED, I
LAUGHED, HE LAUGHED AGAIN, and I LAUGHED SOME MORE. Once you establish
the tone of the conversation, being repetitive only irritates the
8. If you are going to use a proper name, the name of a
store, the name of a historical figure, the name of a song or album, or
the name of liquor, PLEASE take two seconds out to Google it and make
sure that you are spelling it correctly. I am amazed at how many writers
will toss things in a book and not even confirm the spelling.
9. The word SAID is used way too much with the back and forth of I SAID,
HE SAID, SHE SAID, etc. Instead of using that, include some descriptive
movement. Even if you use descriptive movement, delete the SAID. For
example, instead of "You never understand me," she said, sitting down on
the sofa, you can write "You never understand me." She sat down on the
10. Make sure that increase your vocabulary instead of
using the same catch phrases over and over again. In Word, you can
easily highlight a word and click on synonyms to find an alternate
11. Do not have all of your characters sound
exactly alike. Pretend like you are in a room with several people and
realize that they would not all be sitting there sounding exactly alike.
12. One of the most time-consuming issues is the misuse of
tenses by a writer. I have seen writers go from past tense to present
tense in the same sentence. Pick a tense that you are comfortable
writing and stick to it.
13. When a character references a
particular event or conversation, make sure that they would be privy to
knowing the information. For example, Tom cannot describe what his wife
and mother were discussing in the kitchen while he was outside taking
out the trash.
14. Keep a separate character file, if you need
to, that references all of the personal information or traits of each
character. Make sure that they drive the same car in Chapter 5 that they
were driving in Chapter 2 and that they have the same color eyes and
hair throughout the book.
15. Make sure that the spelling of
character names remains consistent. I have seen one character with his
name spelled four different ways in the same manuscript.
Most importantly, take pride in your work and read it over, word for
word (out loud if it helps) before you send it to an editor, an agent, a
publisher, or heaven forbid, self-publish it.
I hope that
this helps. The amount of time spent by editors cleaning up these BASIC
mistakes is unbelievable. As the industry continues to change, both
publishers and readers will become more selective on what they select to
spend their time on. Why should someone dedicate their time to read or
to fix a book if the writer did not care enough about their own work to
spend extra time on it to make sure it was right? Do not place yourself
out of the game before you even get started.