For nearly every client – especially those for whom I am doing a beta-read or full edit – I write an Editorial Letter. In that Editorial Letter, I note (among other things):
Repeated Bad Habits
Recurrent Punctuation Snafus
For those of you about to send your manuscript to an editor, here are a few things to check and/or avoid:
Overuse of pronouns
If you have more than one SHE and more than one HE in a scene, chapter, whatever, and all you use is he/she throughout. I’m confused. Your readers will be confused too.
List of Chapters
You have a list of chapters at the beginning of the book, say 30 chapters. But the book has 31 chapters. Oops.
If you are going to list chapters at the beginning of your novel, check and double check that the chapters in the Contents agree with the number of chapters in the novel.
If you name your chapters, make sure they translate from Contents to text.
Michael or Mike?
Throughout the book you call a dude “Michael.” Then in one chapter you use “Mike.”
I’m thinking, “Who’s Mike?”
Or you spell a character’s name Karen and then later you call her Karin.
A mark used to indicate that something has been omitted from a text.
Why are so many writers using these … on every dang page?
Or in one place you have…. and then you have ……. and then in another place you have …and then in another place…
If you must use the dot-dot-dot, then make them the same throughout the manuscript. Type them with a space before/space after or no space before/no space after. And the same number of dot-dot-dots.
Consistency. That’s the ticket!
Moving on …
This is one of those things my Mother would chide me about. Continue ON is redundant. Or lift UP. Or drop DOWN. Or jump OVER.
Learn to use commas
And then you can break the rules – if you want to.
Good resources –
Diane Hacker, Rules for Writers
Strunk & White, The Elements of Style
He sat in a dark, red velvet, plush, antique chair with a heavy, green, cable-knit sweater around his shoulders with a well-worn, old, leather-bound book on his lap.
Okay, this is an exaggeration. But still. Some of y’all are using way too many adjectives.
I’m reminded of Anton Chekhov: Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
Show, don’t tell.
Stayed tuned for more Quick Editorial Tips. A special Thank You to editor Shawn MacKenzie for her beta-read on this blog post.
Photos from pb_homepage, BryBuy8, and lenakhalid – Photobucket.
Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.
Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, literary, historical, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and University of New Mexico, and was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.