A few tips from me –
Acceptance – Be receptive to critiquing, proofreading, and editing. If you are going to be a writer, this is key. You need to develop a thicker skin, and you need to step away from your baby and consider it “work.” I ask for critiques to practice being humble.
Extraneous words – Be cautious of extraneous words. Words like “just,” “that,” “also,” “really.”
Dialog – Lately I’ve seen a lot of writers embedding quoted material (dialog) into large paragraphs of text and putting more than one speaker in a single paragraph. Break out your dialog and make it clear it’s a conversation. This also adds white space to a page.
Huge blocks of continuous text – It’s hard on a reader. We don’t like it. So stop it.
Punctuation – Misuse of colons, semicolons, parentheses, ellipses, commas, and oh my goodness quotation marks. Learn a few punctuation rules before you go stomping all over them.
Too many adjectives – One or two really good, awesome, fabulous, great adjectives – at most – is sufficient. Use your vocabulary.
Clichés – Think outside the box. Get creative! Do not give me as high as a kite. Or big fish in a small pond. Or bull in a china shop.
Similar names – You have a bunch of characters. One is named Kathy, another Kathryn, another Kat. All Ks or similar “K” sounds. Don’t do this.
Impossible to pronounce without wincing – If you give me names even a Welshman can’t pronounce, it annoys me (and lots of others).
Overuse of pronouns – Using HE and SHE and making reference to more than one HE or more than one SHE in a paragraph. The reader comes away saying, “Huh? He who? She who?”
From Melanie Saxton, Editor
I’ve noticed that emerging writers often apologize for their unedited work, explaining they aren’t grammar experts. This always surprises me. After all, there is no rule requiring that authors be English majors. Rather, authors come from all walks of life and their job is to create. No one else in the world could envision and conceive that same book. This makes the mission clear: Never apologize. Just write.
The editor has a different role. We are the manicurists. I tell authors not to worry about anything but capturing their work on paper. This may involve many rewrites, but once they are through it’s time for some buffing and polishing. The jagged little edges include misspellings, typos, grammatical errors, usage and style, tense, subject-verb agreement, hyphenation, mislabeling, awkward transitions and consistency. Therefore, manuscript manicures aren’t just a luxury. They are a necessity. An extra set of trained eyes can make all the difference between a good story and a bestselling novel.
Confident writing involves passion, not perfection, and it’s easier to flow knowing the manicurist awaits, file in hand. Just go for it and don’t worry about a jagged nail. After all, you have staff for that and we are just an email away!
*Melanie Saxton is a writer and contributing editor for six magazines. She edits books for emerging authors and also blogs from her website about new books from a variety of genres. She is employed as a certified special education teacher at a middle school on the outskirts of Houston. Blessed to be raising a lovely and brilliant 15-year-old daughter, she also has a house full of rescued pets. In her spare time, which is precious, she works on her own novels with the aim of publishing in 2012.
From Wendy Reis, Owner of Wendy Reis Editing
Each POV shift should be a new chapter, regardless of length. That is the approach which is gaining in popularity and it does make it easier for the reader to keep things straight. One character could be used as the star of the show, the primary point of view, with others playing supporting roles and revealing things and angles the Star may not be aware of. The reader
then has the heady I’ve-got-a-secret sense of privileged information.
It is a good idea to do an in-depth outline of the characters before you write so you know what is in character and what isn’t and you don’t need to pay some kill joy like me to point it out for $20 per hour. Passing those outlines along to your editor would be a beneficial gesture.
*Wendy has been asked to proofread and edit things since she was in grade 6. She eventually succumbed to the obvious calling to make this her full time pursuit in 2006. She now addresses the problems of fractured or incorrect English in everything from novels and websites or advertising copy to reports, speeches and presentations and correspondence.
Additional resource – Jeff Goins, Writer, Five Weak Words that Make Your Writing Less Effective.
Not every editor’s style is right for every writer. Here are some more editors you might find helpful – Victoria Ipri, Darlene Oakley, Rachelle Gardner, C. S. Lakin, K. M. Weiland, Marlene Adelstein, A Victoria Mixon.
What editing tips do you have for writers? What rules do you try to adhere to?
Photobucket photo by bluinkalchemist