Only 3 Days LEFT!!! AHHH I can't even express how excited I am!
Today on the blog we have one of the lovely editors that will be attending UtopYA Con. She wrote a Guest Post about common errors she find in manuscripts! I totally learned something and maybe you will too :)
But what if you can't afford an editor?
I have the pleasure of speaking to authors every day about their various works and I often come across brand new authors that have finally completed their manuscript and want to self-publish but don't have any funds for the final touches. Whether those final touches are a professional designed cover or a paid copy edit, it's very hard to explain the importance of those things to someone with a publishing budget of zero.
So, for those brand newbies that can't spare even a few dollars for professionals, here are a few tips that might help you avoid some of the most common writing mistakes. Of course, this is a very short list that in no way replaces the value of an actual editor, but it will get you a little bit closer. ;-)
1. Had is not always necessary in past tense writing.
The word that I delete HUNDREDS of times from most manuscripts is had. Although it does serve a role, it can almost always be removed from a past tense sentence.
Bill had asked me to visit over the holidays.
Bill asked me to visit over the holidays.
Both sentences mean exactly the same thing but the second flows better. Do a search on the word had in your manuscript and look at places where it can be removed without changing the intent of the sentence. You'll be surprised at how many can come out.
2. Comma vs period in dialogue.
When writing dialogue, if there is a dialogue tag before or after the quote, use a comma and a lower case for the tag. If the words following the quote are not directly indicating who spoke, use a period and a capital.
"I don't wanna wear that," she said, stomping her feet.
"I don't wanna wear that." She stomped her feet and stormed out of the room.
Dialogue tags include 'spoken' words like: whispered, screamed, yelled, and mumbled.
Some 'non-spoken' response that are not considered a dialogue tag include: laughed, cringed, and shuddered.
3. Avoid 'trendy' phrases that are recognizable from other books.
This is hard to do but your readers will appreciate not reading 'the same thing' in your book as they've read in the last ten. But, if you absolutely need to use a common phrase, try to do it sparingly.
she let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding
my own personal brand of xxx
if I was/am being honest with myself
4. There is such a thing as too much description.
There are some times when a very elaborate description of a room or building is necessary to paint a picture in the reader's mind. There are other times when it's not necessary to list the color of every surface and every knickknack in a place that is not integral to the story. Sometimes just a high level description can keep the reader engaged in the story without their mind drifting to the new drapes they want for their family room.
5. Words to search/replace or just eliminate.
Like 'had' there are many words that you should get in the habit of searching for to see if you're overusing them. In many cases, you can remove them or slightly rewrite the sentence to avoid these pesky crutches.
started to (as in "he started to walk to the car." That can probably be shortened to "he walked to the car")
almost as if
that (in many cases, it can be removed without impacting the sentence)
and (can the sentence be broken up into two separate sentences for more impact?)