Four Common Manuscript Mistakes

Manuscript editingSo, you’ve finished the first draft of your novel, and you’re looking forward to getting it published. It’s the greatest that you can make it… or is it?

Before you send your manuscript to agents or to your self-publishing company, take a step back one last time. Is it really as good as you can make it? By now, of course, you should have proofread for common misspellings and grammatical errors. All looks good: or does it?

Some self-publishing companies will charge you every alteration you want to make. WordPlay Publishing Limited doesn’t, but even then there will only be one round of changes you can make. Once that’s done your work might be published, warts and all. Wouldn’t it be better to be spot on with your work before you send it away?

Here are four of the most common changes I’ve found authors wanting to make to their novel at the last hurdle. Getting these right early on in the process will save you time, effort, and bring your work to market in the best condition possible as early as possible.

  1. Is your point of view consistent?

So many times, on third or fourth reading, an author will notice what a reader or editor would on first sight: half way through your work, you change from third-person to first person, or to third-person omnipresent. This isn’t too hard to fix, but does necessitate a complete read through and potentially a large scale rewrite. Getting it right early will stop you from having to do this.

  1. Do your characters talk to the reader?

Your reader should be able to feel your character, even putting themselves in your character’s shoes. They want this almost out-of-body experience – it’s one of the most common yet seldom discussed reasons to read – and will be disappointed if they don’t get it. Make sure your characters are fully rounded. Know everything there is to know about them, how they speak and how they will react in different circumstances, and you’ll be able to achieve this. Going back and making it happen will take work – a lot of it. It is probably the hardest problem to fix with a manuscript.

  1. Is your dialogue adding to the story?

Of course, dialogue needs to be correctly punctuated, but it also needs to add to the story. Make sure it interspersed with action, and gives information to the reader. Finally, does it sound natural?

  1. How is your verb usage?

Do your verbs work, and are they tense consistent? Used correctly, your ‘doing words’ will add to tension, emotion, and action: they’ll help the reader to move through the book and become involved in your story. Be wary of tense confusion, and the overuse of adverbs, too.

Of course, the earlier all this editing work is done, the better. Some writers take their work to a writing group and get feedback, while others slave away for hours doing it themselves. Both approaches work.

If you want an impartial and professional early look, then you might want to consider using an early stage critique of your work. WordPlay Publishing will soon offer this service, with a two page critique of the first three chapters and a synopsis helping to point authors in the right direction as early as possible. If you’d like details about this service, then email Michael at WordPlay Publishing at wordplaypublishing@mail.com.

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5 Ways to Pick the Perfect Title

How to choose a titlePicking a title can be the hardest part of writing that novel or story. Some writers hang a story off the title itself, but more often than not a working title will be found and then the final title selected when the work is complete. I’ve met plenty of writers who are still not convinced by their title even after publication. And if the writer isn’t, the potential buyer won’t be.

The title must say something about the content, what the reader can expect, and even the genre itself.

Take the book The Devil Wears Prada. What a fantastic title. The ‘devil’ speaks not only of the boss, but also the industry and what the junior must become to be successful. The ‘wears’ tells the reader that the story is going to be about clothing, while the ‘Prada’ describes the piece as about high class fashion. The title wraps around the tongue and plays havoc with the imagination. It has several possible connotations. Superb. But how do you get to such a level of completeness when titling your story?

Use description

Think about single words that might describe your story: nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Write them all down, jumble them up and coin different phrases with them. See what works best. You may even find something alliterative that rolls off the tongue: The Devil Dresses in Dolce, perhaps?

Nikki Dee used this to great effect in her first novel about the disappearance of a young girl with underlying themes of giving up and retreating confidence of ever coming out on top: her chosen title, Losing Hope, speaks volumes about the book.

Copy great ideas

Look at current bestsellers in your genre. Notice how the title says something about the story, and how those titles have been constructed. Now think about your story, think about the overarching theme and write down words that track that theme. What might work on the cover of your novel?

Look in the shadows

Your novel may have underlying themes and subplots that you’ll be able to use in your title. JK Rowling fans are used to seeing such obscure titles. The Prisoner of Azkaban, for example, tells of a theme that grows throughout the book. Does your work have something similar?

Look at your pivot point

Read through your novel, and identify its turning point, or perhaps concentrate on its conclusion. Write what you know about this on a piece of paper, and then choose a couple of key words from your description that will do the job you want your title to do.

Cheat

Go to Google, and type in the search term ‘title generator’. Have fun!

5 things to do if you want to improve your writing

confident writerOn the whole, we writers are usually pretty confident about the stuff we produce. But every now and then all of us have a wobble about our ability. Can I really write? Is this story good enough to read? Does my novel convey the meaning I want it to?

These are natural questions, but the lack of confidence can do one of two things: it either makes you put your pen down, having convinced yourself that your writing is worthless, or it forces you to find ways to improve your writing and make certain that it’s the best it can be at all times.

In truth, every writer needs to continually hone his or her skills and make sure they are continually performing at the top of their game. Here are five things to do to improve your writing.

  1. Write regularly

Every kid is taught that practice makes perfect. Whether it’s multiplication tables, a musical instrument, or playing keep-up with a football, the act of regular repetition improves ability.

So if you want to reach the pinnacle of your potential, then you need to make time to write and do so regularly. You might even decide to try a few writing exercises, perhaps for twenty minutes every morning or while you’re eating that lunchtime snack. Here are a couple of other things you could do to build regularity into your writing routine:

  • Produce a weekly blog post
  • Use a prompt to produce a passage of work (maybe a word, phrase, or picture)
  • Work on a particular weakness; perhaps verb use, descriptive prose, character, etc
  1. Don’t rush things

It’s often been said that there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting. So remember to take your time when you’re writing that first draft, and then be prepared to take time to edit. Each time you do, you’ll discover more about your ability. You’ll see where your word use could be improved, your sentences enhanced, and spot those regular typos and spelling mistakes (and once you know such things, you make these mistakes less often). Many writers find the following a great way to tackle writing:

  • Write a first draft, head to page with not too much thought for quality
  • Put it down and walk away, returning an hour or so later (or longer if its suits your personal timetable)
  • Edit, and be harsh in your editing

That breathing space and the extra time spent on your work will make all the difference to it. Try it, you’ll see!

  1. Read more

By reading the novels or works of successful authors in your genre you’ll have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. But don’t stop there. Every now and then you should pick up something different to read, perhaps something out of your comfort zone. By doing so you’ll become more adept at different styles and voices, writing in different points of view, and so on.

And by doing that you’ll learn new techniques and widen your audience, too.

  1. Join a writers’ group and seek feedback

By interacting with other writers, you’ll begin to discover tips and tricks to improve your writing. You’ll be able to talk over storylines, passages, and what works and what doesn’t. This could be face-to-face. Be brave: don’t be scared to seek criticism of your work. But be careful that the critique is of value.

Of course, you could always seek a wider audience and put your work on the worldwide web; perhaps on your blog or an author community site. WordPress is a great way to create your website and get into blogging. Ask your audience what they like and what you could improve upon.

  1. Take the time to learn

You might consider doing a writing course – there are plenty of great ones available. Perhaps subscribe to a writing magazine, buy books about writing, or read blogs about writing like the one you’re reading now. Whatever you learn, however you learn it, now is the time to return to step one.

Keep Write On

Whether you’re the most confident of writers or the coyest, there will always be room for improvement. By writing more, taking your time to do so, and then getting feedback and acting upon it, you’ll become comfortable with your pen. And when that happens, you’ll find that your audience adores you.

Keep Write On Call To Action

Why You’ll Never Find the Right Time to Write

make time to writeI keep getting asked if I’ve finished my second novel yet. I’m ten chapters from the end, and have been for a long while. Part of the reason for my not finishing is that I know exactly what happens: in my mind it’s already written. I’m also busy with writing for others – in the last two years I estimate that I’ve written approximately 2 million words, including two ghost written novels and three ghost written business books. But, without a doubt, my prevarication to finish my own work comes from the fact that there just doesn’t seem to be a good time to do so.

Here are five reasons why they’ll never be a great time to write:

Writing takes mental energy

Writing is mentally draining: it takes thought to do well, whether fiction or non-fiction. Other stuff is easier to do: housework, cleaning the car, interacting on Facebook, watching a movie, and even reading. It’s hard work even thinking about writing, never mind getting down and doing it.

Writing requires space

Getting that pen on paper, or fingers working on a keyboard, takes space. You need physical space, of course, but also the brain space. Having the television on in the background doesn’t usually bother me, yet two people speaking in the same room does: it breaks my concentration level. And that is the other sort of space you need – your mind needs to be unclogged.

Writing gets in the way of personal matters

There is always something that needs doing which is more important than writing. You need to pay that bill, or make that phone call. A pint with the lads is long overdue, and your house insurance needs sorting out. Before you know it, the day you’d planned to sit down and write is gone.

Writing is personal, and time isn’t

Writing is necessarily an event that you’ll be doing in solitude. Even if your partner or children are in the same room, having your face stuck in front of a computer screen is isolating. You’ll feel cut off, and more importantly so will the ones you love: they’ll feel neglected, and that will make you feel bad. So you forego the writing in favour of companionship.

Writing might be important, but it’s not urgent

Hardly anyone will think your writing is important. But you know that a finished novel could be your stepping to a new career, perhaps even fame and fortune. Maybe you write regularly already, for example on your blog. Wouldn’t be great to let your followers know you’ve completed that novel? But there is always something more important, isn’t there?

Find a way to make the time to write

What I’m driving at is you will never find the right time to write. But if you don’t you’ll find yourself despondent and disappointed in years the months to come. Come on, give things some thought. Make time to write. There are twenty four hours in a day. Are you really telling me you can’t find 30 minutes to devote to that novel?

And having advised you this, then I had better practice what I preach: hadn’t I?

Get blogging to improve your writing

blogging by writersOne of the ‘must-haves’ of writers these days seems to be a website. Not only will you be able to tell prospective readers about yourself and your writing, but you’ll be able to demonstrate it, too, by blogging.

It’s easy to fall out of the habit of writing blog posts – you get too busy, or feel guilty that you’re not writing ‘serious stuff’ like the next chapter of your novel. Sometimes it seems that the investment of time and effort is wasted, but you really shouldn’t feel that way. Here are a whole handful of ways that producing copy for your blog will improve you as a writer.

  • Blogging is habit forming

If you’re like most writers, then you’ll write ‘when the inspiration strikes’. By having a regular blog post to fill, you’ll find that you get into the habit of writing. That will naturally lead to inspiration striking more often, and, strangely enough, when you want it to.

  • You get published immediately

If you’re writing a short story, article, or novel then there will be a lead in time between the writing and the publishing. Sometimes you can wait months before seeing your work in print. Blogging gives you an instant result, and that allows your readers to give you immediate feedback. You can link your blog post to other social media and spread your readership, too. If you receive no feedback, or negative comments, that’s a great pointer to thye need to alter substance or style

  • Blogging is a motivator

Simply knowing that people are reading your words, and waiting to, will give you a greater impetus to write. You won’t want to disappoint your readers, and it’s gratifying to know that your words are being read. By treating your regular blogs as mini deadlines, you won’t have the luxury of staring at a blank screen or finding some distraction – think about your readers, and you think about what to write.

  • Blogging improves your writing

Don’t listen to those doomsayers who believe blogging to be less than an art form. By simply performing the act or writing you will be doing the one thing that is sure to improve your writing ability – practice. You’ll learn to craft sentences, paragraphs, and arguments in a way that will beg your readers to want more. Plus you’ll get to try different writing formats; short sentences, bullet points, lists, and conclusions.

And that bring me to a conclusion. Writing blog posts is quick, but by no means easy. You need to work to get it right, but you can rely on your readers to let you know when you have. As a test bed for longer works, there may be no better option.

3 Ways to Make Your Reader Believe in Your Protagonist

character in the shadowsYou’ve got a great story bubbling away inside. Those quiet moments are spent thinking about plot and subplot, setting, and, of course, character. And it’s here where you begin to stumble. Whatever you do, however you position your protagonist, you just can’t seem to make him or her believable. There always seems to be that little something that is a little wooden, plastic, even.

Real characters are those with whom your reader feels empathy. Nobody is perfect, so to create that empathy my advice is to flaunt the imperfection of your protagonist. Here are five ways to do this:

  1. Give your character some frailty or vulnerability. No matter how tough your character is, there is always something which dismays him or her, or makes then a little scared or apprehensive. That’s a basic human nature. It’s the elephant being scared of a mouse factor. If you show this vulnerability earlier, then the reader will underestimate the character’s real strength. And that means you have your whole novel to prove the reader wrong.
  2. Make sure your protagonist has a real strong quality: maybe more than one. It could be mental capacity, stamina, or the ability to work things out.

Combining the first and second tip, think about how Conan Doyle and how he constructed Sherlock Holmes. The vulnerability came from the way Holmes would fall into an often cocaine induced stupor when inactive, the strength from his deductive ability.

  1. Give your protagonist something to beat. Not the antagonist, his or her arch rival, but something deeper, more meaningful. Perhaps he was abused as a child, or maybe she can’t have children. Whatever it is, tie it into his or her strength: it’s like the heads and tails of a coin – one can’t exist without the other.

How to Use Keywords for Book Promotion

Kindle and PaperbackEbooks and Tree Books: The Choice is Yours

More authors are turning to eBooks as a publishing medium rather than ‘tree’ books. It certainly has merits as a publishing channel. It’s cheap, fast, ecologically efficient, and relatively easy to use – from both the authors’ and readers’ perspectives. Kindle, of course, is the largest eReader in use today, and its sister company, Createspace, is probably the world’s largest self-publishing platform. Both subsidiaries of Amazon, the world’s largest book seller, WordPlay is happy to use them as the publishing conduit for authors using WordPlay Publishing’s assisted self-publishing program.

Traditionally-published or self-published: marketing is your responsibility

But once you’ve had your book published, how does it find readers? This is down to you, the author. And don’t think that being traditionally published removes this obligation from you. Increasingly the publisher is leaving marketing and publicity to the individual author.

There are, of course, many ways today to get the word about your book out there. The bad news is that they all take time and effort – well, no one ever said anything worth doing was going to be easy. The good news is that marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. Over the coming weeks we’ll be looking more closely at marketing, and how you can build an author platform for no cost. Yes, that’s right, no cost!

Your first port-of-call, though, and something you should bear in mind with all of your online efforts, is to use great keywords that will help attract potential buyers of your book.

What are the best keywords for book sellers?

A key word is simply a word (or phrase) that helps an online audience find you and your work. Think about when you search Google, looking for a map that shows you where Anywhere Street in Anywhere town is. You might key in ‘Anywhere Street’, ‘Anywhere Town’, and ‘Map’ in your effort to find what you are looking for. These are your search terms, and form the basis of keywords.

The keywords to use to sell your book

Let’s say you have authored and published a romantic comedy novel. Think about the words and phrases you might key in to search for that type of book. It’s not likely that you would enter words such as ‘murders in New York’ for example. You might, however, key in ‘romantic funny story’. Here are some tips on how to choose keywords and how to use them:

Think about keyword types to promote your book

How would you look for your book online? Think about the things that you want to read about, and how they relate to your book. Choose keywords that fit into these five categories:

  • Your book’s setting (London streets)
  • Your characters (divorced mum, ex-military)
  • Character types (timid male, retiring female, decisive male cop)
  • Plot (romantic comedy, detective thriller)
  • Story (exciting, misery, feel good)

Forget these as keyword choices to sell your book

There are some words that you really shouldn’t use. They waste space, and that is at a premium. Or they repeat what is already available. Here are a few examples:

  • Don’t use a common knowledge word. For example ‘book’: customers known it’s a book.
  • Don’t make claims that others might not agree with. Just because you think it’s the ‘best’ you can’t say that.
  • Temporary claims, such as ‘new’ and ‘recently published’ should also be avoided.
  • Don’t misrepresent your book. Don’t say ‘like Jane Austen’, for example.

Learn to use Google Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner is its new keyword tool. Learn to use it, run your ideas through it, and garner other keyword ideas. Then use these accordingly.

The key to using keywords to promote your book

  • Make your keywords relevant
  • Don’t use speech marks
  • Focus on the description of your book
  • Keep keywords consistent across all
  • Use keywords in a logical order
  • Experiment and think like a reader

Tips on Critiquing in Print

critics critique wellI’ve recently been asked to critique some work, so I thought I’d share a few tips which should help anyone in the same position do a good job. This is particularly relevant to all those critics who write for newspapers, magazines, or the like. When you’re putting something down in print, then you had better make sure your critique doesn’t make a mockery of your ability as a critic.

Constraints of quality catches errors

During my career as a freelance writer, the way I read all manner of material has changed to become far more discerning and critical. I suspect this is because the constraints of quality placed upon my work by clients are so high. I would be horrified, for example, to write a piece that was strewn with 21 easily identifiable errors in 342 words; especially if that piece is a critique of another’s work and pointed specifically to the requirement for editing, proofreading (notice how this is one word not two), subediting (one word, not hyphenated), and tips regarding style and presentation (notice the use of the Oxford comma, to help properly express thoughts in a list format).

Irksome misspellings are a real turn-off

One thing that really irks is the misspelling of words. In the course of my work I have to write for clients from America, the UK, Canada, and Australia – notice how the Oxford Comma is used once again – and this necessitates correct spelling. If I were writing a piece for an American publication, for example, I would ensure I used ‘er’ at the end of Kilometer, whereas for UK English publications I would revert to ‘re’ (kilometre).

If you must use cliches, then make sure they are correctly worded

I also give some thought when using clichés. I don’t particularly like them: they make me as sick as a parrot. They don’t make me as sick as a turkey. Just as UK English and American English spellings may be poles apart, or even miles apart, they are unlikely to be kilometres apart: the cliché simply doesn’t work well, particularly if misused and misspelled in a UK English publication.

Presentation, consistency, and punctuation for comprehension

Other elements of writing I might pay considered attention to, especially when critiquing other’s writing, would include presentation (for example, the first paragraph of a piece should never be indented); consistency (for example, if speech marks or inverted commas are used to accentuate words or phrases then they should be used throughout and not seen as interchangeable);  the correct use of commas (when a pause is required then use a comma), colons, and semi-colons; and also word use and audience (for example, ‘becomes involved with’ sounds far less ‘primary school’ than ‘gets involved with’).

Pay attention to tense and point of view with verbs

In addition, the use of verbs – together with the correct form for tense, plural and singular points of view – will need specific attention. As we say to all who come along to WordPlay: it is ‘story telling doesn’t come easy’ and not ‘story telling don’t come easy’. At a writers’ group you might just find superior assistance but we realise we’re all equal: so you won’t receive assistance from superiors. Realising the difference, and what both phrases mean, is not difficult.

If you are ever requested to provide a written critique of someone’s work, then here are a few tips to help you make your comments valuable:

•     Never begin with an apology, no matter how veiled it may be. Doing so simply negates the worth of what is about to come;

•     Always ensure that your own writing is the best it can be. Write it, put it to one side, and go back to it. Correct it methodically and thoroughly. Repeat this process a couple of times;

•     Microsoft Word is a great tool if used properly. Set your document proofing language to the correct English – and see those squiggly red, blue, and green lines? They tell you that your writing is poor;

•     Use your word processor’s spelling and grammar check, and then consider the message you wish to convey. This technology used properly can be the satnav of your writing – if you understand how to use it, then you’ll never arrive at the wrong address again. If you can’t be bothered to learn, then you’ll always be a lost cause;

•     When acting as a critic, always find the positive and suggest ways to improve the negative.

There is no longer anything obvious in the world of publishing

In this fast moving world, a critic must write for several markets. It is neither obvious where books (and articles, education resources, magazines, and newspapers) will be available to buy, nor the prices at which they will be available (increasingly publishers are not placing prices on book covers to allow ease of price flexibility as well as cross selling in different markets). The word ‘obviously’ should be used sparingly. In my experience, the only thing that is obvious – in all walks of life, not just writing – is that 50 years or more of self-proclaimed expertise counts for nothing if it cannot be backed up with expertise displayed.

If you are ever asked to critique someone’s work, then show your expertise to do so; because to do so requires expertise.

Six Steps to Perfect Proofreading

perfect proofreadingWhile content is important, a piece of prose littered with grammatical and spelling mistakes will grate on the reader and lose you more friends than any tedious content ever will. Here are ten tips to help your proofreading become perfect.

Use spell checkers, but don’t rely on them

The spell checker on your word processor is a great tool. Learn to use it (make sure you’ve selected the right language, for example), but remember this: it will make mistakes. It may not spot the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’, for example.

Careful of grammar checks

Your grammar checker, like your spell checker, is a great tool, but will sometimes want you to change something that you won’t want to change. The problem lies in the changed grammar altering the meaning of the sentence. So, again, use as a tool, but be aware that it is an aid, not the whole solution.

Take your time

Read a sentence, even a word, at a time, and go slowly. And try reading aloud: you’ll spot more errors that way, because you won’t be tempted to skip.

Circle your punctuation

Use a red pen, and circle each and every one of your punctuation marks, from commas to colons, full stops to parenthesis. On the way through, question if the punctuation is needed, if it adds to the understandability, and if it is the correct punctuation.

Start at the end

This sounds strange, but is a method that I use. It stops you from falling into the story and missing misspellings, and forces you to look at every sentence as a singular piece of work. Your focus will be entirely on spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Use a dictionary and thesaurus

We all misspell words. Keep your dictionaries, your thesaurus, and handbooks nearby. Check anything that doesn’t look right. Just doing this will improve your proofreading no end.

Over to you

Proofreading requires a methodical approach and you’ll develop your own strategy that suits your working routine. As with writing that first draft, the more you practice the better you’ll become. You’ll also find that you learn as you go: you’ll begin to recognise new errors. You’ll learn when to use ‘that’ and when to use ‘which’, for example.

It won’t be long before you’re proofreading like a professional, and this will also make your first draft work better. Proofreading is part of the hard work of writing, and one of the most necessary.

Ten Top Tips for Super Self-Editing

editor's red penMany writers make the mistake of believing they have to submit a story, or even whole novel, at the earliest possible opportunity. This often means the publisher, editor, agent, or competition judging panel receives the writer’s first draft copy. Not a good idea.

Rarely, if ever, is a first draft as good as it could be, though often the writer is so astounded with the quality of his or her work, and so convinced it is the best it can be, that it is sent any way. After a few days, when the writer has put some time between that first draft and second reading, he or she realises there is still a lot of work to be done to make that first draft great. Now comes the editing phase, and here are ten top tips to make your self-editing worthwhile and free flowing.

1.                  Give yourself a break before editing

That space of a few days will give you a new perspective on your work. Your judgement will not be clouded by the wizardry of your words, or the thoroughness of your thoughts. Suddenly you’ll see the mistakes jumping off the page, and you’ll breathe a sigh of relief that the agent or competition judge will be able to hear.

2.                  Make your sentences shorter

Your prose is a prisoner on the page, so make the sentences it faces short. Short sentences bring action closer, and keep the desire for what’s coming burning. If you’ve got a long sentence that contains a bunch of commas, bringing in several points, perhaps to cast a wide net, but eventually leading the reader to skip your words, maybe even put your book down and turn on the television, then you have failed to achieve focus grabbing copy.

I expect you understand what I’m saying now. Try to break each and every idea into its own sentence.

3.                  Close the door on adverbs.

The use of too many adverbs loses your reader quickly. They are often not needed, though you might find a need to find a stronger verb. Take that first sentence: does it really need the word ‘quickly’?

‘The cat-burglar walks stealthily from house to house ‘might better be said ‘The cat-burglar creeps from house to house’.

4.                  Punch the punctuation

Colons and hyphens can give effective emphasis to your writing. But too much punctuation looks like litter on the pavement. It’s annoying and unnecessary. Readers have to dodge it to pick a path to the destiny of the conclusion. Think about using commas instead, or, perhaps, by shortening those sentences.

5.                  Be a jargon buster

Some misguided writers believe that using jargon or highbrow words makes them sound better, smarter, and better informed. It doesn’t. What it does, though, is have the reader grabbing for a dictionary every other sentence. Quite frankly it makes the reader feel inferior, and fingering the pages of a dictionary becomes somewhat monotonous. Use a thesaurus and find words with which readers have at least some familiarity.

6.                  Make the redundant, redundant

I wanted to make these tips straightforward and to-the-point, then realised I was saying the same thing twice. That’s not a brand new concept, but with each meaning written twice your words fall down in value. Now let’s write this tip again, making the redundant, redundant:

I wanted to make these tips straightforward, then realised I was saying the same thing twice. That’s not a new concept, but with each meaning written twice your words fall in value.

7.                  Don’t start to edit until you’re ready

We often start to do something, but do we really need to? Did I start to prepare dinner, or did I prepare dinner? Did you start to clean the car, or did you clean the car? Use the verb on its own to tell your story, rather than start to tell your story.

Similarly, don’t think that you or your characters need to do something ‘in order to’ do something else.

I walked slowly to the kitchen in order to start to prepare dinner.

Doesn’t this sound better:

I strolled to the kitchen and prepared dinner.

8.                  Use contractions

Connecting with readers is important, so use contractions wherever possible. Doing so will make your writing more personable. What sounds more natural:

I am writing a blog post about editing

or

I’m writing a blog post about editing

And while on the subject of contractions, think about using them in dialogue – after all, it’s how you’re likely to speak with your friends.

9.                  Is ‘very’ really needed?

This is a very difficult technique to master, but is really important. All you have to do is ask yourself if those two little words are really necessary. Well are they? Let’s see:

This is a difficult technique to master, but is important.

10.              Find your weakness

If you can identify your writing weakness, the mistakes you commonly make, you will strengthen your copy almost immediately. You’ll know exactly what to watch for, both when writing that first draft and in its rewriting.

If there are certain words or phrases that cause you problems, then use the search facility on Microsoft Word to hunt them down and then delete or replace as necessary.