Make Your Writing the Best it can Be by Following these Guidelines
1) The first few lines of your book are very important. You must come up with sentences that will immediately capture attention and coax the reader to continue. When you see people flipping through books at bookstores, they read those first lines and you need to immediately make an impression that will prompt them to buy it.
2) The standard length of a sentence is generally 15 to 17 words. Try to keep most of your sentences shorter than that. Sentences that are too complex or include multiple phrases are just irritating, so make it easy on your readers by creating sentences that are easy to understand. Remember that a high percentage of people do not have anything beyond a Grade 10 education.
3) Watch your verbs. Instead of using is, was, had, went, etc., use more powerful verbs to liven up your sentences.
4) Watch for word and/or phrase repetition. In editing other writers’ copy, I found that they often get hooked on certain words or phrases and repeat them far too often.
5) Don’t use slang, unless it is within a conversation where it would be appropriate.
6) Write in color. In other words, don’t just say something like: “Mary had beautiful, curly, blonde hair. As she stood at the counter washing the dishes, her son Michael walked in the room.” Instead, write something like this: Mary brushed aside her curly, blonde locks. As she stooped by the sink to wash the dishes, she couldn’t help but notice her son, Michael waltz into the room.” Instead of saying, “John was a very large man with a booming voice. When he spoke, everyone in the room listened.” Instead try: John’s looming figure and booming voice propelled every person in the room to immediately turn and listen.”
7) Spare the adverbs. Get rid of those incessant words like ‘very, suddenly, quickly,’ etc. If you must use an adverb, make it an important one.
8) Don’t use clichés or over-used phrases. These also get very annoying.
9) Don’t use symbols.
10) Use dashes only for emphasis.
11) Express number 1 through 9 in words, and 10 and up can be either digits or words. Use digits for all dates and ages.
12) Appeal to your readers’ senses. Aside from color, give them light, sight, sound, texture and emotions. It is not enough to just tell a story.
13) Though your readers might not be as well educated as you, it is important that you do not talk down to them. Knowing your target audience will help significantly.
14) Do not overuse commas. I see this a lot when I’m editing manuscripts.
15) Do not use a capitol letter after a colon or semi-colon.
16) Put all conversation in quotes. If it is a quote within a quote, use single quotation marks.
17) Remember to save your work as you go along. There is nothing worse than spending hours writing your masterpiece just to have it disappear on you because of a hydro glitch.