Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ten Things To Check Before Sending Your Story To An Editor or Publisher

- I've Finally Created A Winner! -

Time To Send It Out, Right?

 When you finally type the last sentence of your story, the story you’ve wrung your hands over and spent sleepless nights thinking about, do you find yourself anxious to send it off? I usually breathe a sigh of relief, close my eyes, and imagine my book on the New York Times bestseller list. Well, no, not really. Actually, I don’t dream that big. I do, however, imagine an immediate call from a publisher or agent because they’re afraid someone will grab my book first. With that dream in mind, it’s important to carry my phone at all times so I don’t miss that all-important call.

If you, like me, get over anxious to share your new bestseller, you might want to slow down and run through this list of 10 things to watch for. 

1.   Just: Just is a word I find myself overusing. Even though it seems to flow naturally in my writing, in most cases I eliminate many of them when I do my final edit.  And, yes, it causes me grief to hit the delete key. I just find it to be a comforting word that just slips in my sentences just like a thief in the night. 

2.      That: This is another sneaky one. Again, do a word search or when proof-reading watch for unnecessary words that feel right, but don’t belong. 

3.      Exclamation Points: Good writing should have little or no exclamation points. Let your writing show excitement; don’t rely on punctuation marks. 

4.      Redundant Phrases: Eliminate phrases like “completely filled,” “difficult dilemma,” “false pretense,” “past history,” “written down,” “blend together,” and “brief moment.” Probably the ones that bother me the most when I read them are “brief moment” and “brief second.” Aren’t moments and seconds always brief? Another that I sometimes write without thinking is “stand up.” In most cases stand down doesn’t apply. We can usually assume a person only has one direction to stand. For a more complete list Goggle Redundant Phrases. 

5.      Adjectives and Adverbs: Adding lots of adjectives and adverbs to your writing can slow down reading and eventually irritate a reader. Instead chose descriptive nouns and verbs. Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly. 

6.      Said and asked are good words to use with dialog: Using barked, gushed, hissed, purred, growled, whimpered, and shouted to describe how a sentence is presented can be very distracting. In fact, the book I was reading yesterday had a sentence followed by “he hissed.” I actually tried to hiss the sentence as I said it. Impossible. Don’t try to entertain your readers with fancy words. The words will take away from your dialog by jumping at the reader. Said and asked blend in and go unnoticed. 

7.      Showing vs. Telling: This can be challenging sometimes, at least to me. When you feel the need to add some words after your dialog (see above) to tell how your character feels, instead you could show how the character feels by having him clinch his hands several times and bite his lip. You are now showing his emotions. Then follow the sentence with said; the reader won’t notice said, but can feel the emotion by the characters actions. This goes for other parts of your story as well. Be careful not to tell too much backstory, etc. Most readers like action.

8.      If it’s not necessary, ax it: It can be hard to delete great scenes or wonderful dialog that you’ve created. But when you read the story aloud, and it’s always a good idea to do that, if it slows down the forward momentum and serves no purpose, grit your teeth and grab the ax. 

9.      Watch passive voice and change to active: Sometimes this can be hard for me to grasp. Basically passive is where the subject is acted upon by the verb. Example: The TV channel was changed by Bill. Active is where the subject does the action. Example: Bill changed the channel. Looking for “ing” words can be a start to locating passive sentences. Example: She was crossing the road when he saw her. Consider changing this to, He saw her as she crossed the road. This is a helpful site. 

10.  Who and That: I find this mistake in books from noted publishers, and it really bothers me. People are followed by who.  The boy who lives down the street. Not The boy that lives down the street. Things are followed by that. The car that followed him was dark blue. Make sure to watch for this mistake, since I think many are using the wrong word.

After taking weeks and months to create, who wants to read the same thing over and over? But trust me, if you put away your work and pull it out in a few days, you will see glaring things that you didn’t notice the first time through.

Happy editing!

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