When it comes to writing a book, there’s an overwhelming amount of advice floating around out there in the cyber world. And it’s tough to recall every last tid-bit of it as you’re going the through daunting task of not only trying to translate your thoughts to paper, but also trying to be an exceptional story teller and fairly decent editor, for added measure. But worry not! I’ve gone through the arduous task of gathering the best and most commonly shared morsels of advice out there and compiled my own checklist. And I’m sharing it with you today!
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Use the five senses in your writing: taste, hear, see, smell, touch
Cut the stuff you wouldn’t want to read or sentences that slow down the story
Use active voice; limit passive
Vary the lengths of your sentences
Eliminate excessive prepositions
Make sure voice is consistent throughout
Don’t use adjectives excessively in concentration
Vary the way you start your sentences
Vary the way you structure your sentences
Use different words—don’t use the same ones over and over again and especially not in the same or consecutive sentences (see thesaurus.com )
Make every word count; remove unnecessary ones and consolidate several with one when possible.
Get into a scene as late as possible and get out as quickly as possible
Make sure comparisons are appropriate for the story, setting and character. For a murder mystery, you might say his memory was as sharp as a knife instead of it was as sharp as the heel on a Jimmy Choo.
Make sure you’re writing in one tense throughout—unless otherwise warranted (1st, 2nd, 3rd)
Remove and replace stuffy words
If it sounds like writing, rewrite it
Pace your story appropriately (fighting scenes should be fast, emotional scenes slow)
Action should precede dialogue. Ex: She slammed the door shut. “I can’t believe you did that,” she said.
Remain in POV by remember to limit what your character knows (only an omnipresent/omniscient narrator would know everything)
Remove filler (information that is unnecessary)
Keep backstory to a minimum
Keep chapters short
Use metaphors, alliteration and similes to liven up your writing
Don’t let things come easily for your characters—let them work hard toward their goal and fill your novel with plenty of hurdles.
Make characters 3-D
Give your character a goal
Give your characters strengths and flaws
Give your antagonist a reason for being the negative character
Conversation should develop the story forward or achieve a purpose
Conversation should reveal information about the character
The characters speak in a unique fashion, using vocabulary appropriate to them
Use “said” as often as possible for dialogue tags
Don’t bog down the dialogue with unnecessary nose-to-nose responses
Remove a single word here or there to make dialogue seem more natural to the way we speak
Limit the use of subordinating clauses
Don’t write long monologues–it’s not the natural way people speak
Allow your characters to speak in tangents
Use action beats instead of dialogue tags when possible
Words to cut
To be verbs (see here for more precise nouns and verbs)
In order to
“I feel,” “s/he felt” or any other variation of someone feeling something. Just state what they felt! (Ex: I felt my shoulders tense, say: My shoulders tensed)
Limit words ending in -ing
Start a new sentence for every thought and a new paragraph for every time you switch to a topic or a character changes dialogue.
Read your writing out loud
Check for misplaced/dangling modifiers
Make sure pronouns agree with antecedents
Make sure subjects and verbs agree
Limit your exclamation points
Put periods inside quotations
Avoid too many commas
This is will remain a living, breathing checklist on my site, meaning it will continue to evolve as I learn more tips and create articles to help you better understand each point. Oh, and I’m sure there are some important points that I’ve missed out on here, so please do me a HUGE favor and leave a comment below if you feel I’ve forgotten something! Your input will benefit so many others.
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