I’m going to add to this list of things authors should consider when self-editing. If you enjoy reading and don’t plan to write a book, do not read this section. Why? Because once you see the list you can’t unsee it. The punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure will return to haunt you when ever you’re reading and ruin the fun.
Those of you who write or plan to write, make yourself a checklist of your worst infringements. I’ll begin with the easy stuff:
- Vary your sentence structure and opening style.
- Minimize the use of gerunds [i.e. “ing” words]
- Does your story begin as close to the hero’s black moment as possible?
- Opening 10% should hook the reader with characters, story line, and author voice
- Use spell/grammar check
- Check for redundancies: circle around, brief moment, start out, kneel down
- Limit adverbs [“ly” words]
- Identify acronyms first
- Misused words/homonyms [who’s/whose, upon/up on, allowed/aloud]
- Check for double spaces
- Point of view – stick to the character who has the most at stake during that scene remember the POV character is the eye of the camera; we can only know what he knows or sees or experiences. It’s lame to cheat. “He appeared fatigued or angry or desperate…” We can speculate but we can’t “know” but we can observe and see what the character’s body language shows us. Don’t tell the reader how the other character felt – SHOW the reader what he did. I can figure out emotions from body language or dialogue or actions as well as the POV character. Let the reader figure it out. You can be forgiven for short POV switches but not for being OUT OF POV.
- Person and Tense – First, omniscient, or third person identifies who is telling the story. Past or present tense indicates when the action takes place.
First person past tense ususally reads like this: The steps didn’t seem like much of a challenge until I huffed to the forth floor and realized there were still three flights to go.
First person present tense reads like this: The steps don’t seem like much of a challenge until I huff to the forth floor and realize there are still three flights to go.
Third person past tense would read: The steps weren’t much of a challenge to Jack until he huffed to the forth floor and realized there were still three flights to go.
Third person present tense: The steps don’t seem like much of a challenge until Jack huffs to the forth floor and realizes there are still three flights to go.
Omniscient point of view is archaic in this day. Usually the scene is told in narrative by an all-knowing being who informs the reader how the characters feel, think, and act. Today readers prefer to determine what’s going on and what the characters are thinking through dialogue and body language, and additionally, what’s going on by the action or interaction between characters.