Remember the very first story we finally finished writing? Remember how elated we were? It was such a great feeling to see all those words forming a real story. But soon after, the eye opener came--we had to take a good hard look at those sacred words. And sometimes it just wasn't as pretty as we first thought. But we started to study and learn and figure it out. And our writing got better and better with practice.
As I looked back at what I've learned along the way about writing fiction, I came across this old article buried deep inside my “How to” file. It’s still a gem and a good review of a few basics, so I figured I'd share it here.
EDITOR FAY THOMPSON’S SELF-EDITING TIPS
– Questions you need to ask before submitting your story
1. Does your story have dramatic unity? Is something happening on each page?
2. Is it obvious what is at stake? Your characters must want something desperately. Have you made it clear what this something is?
3. Have you given enough information so readers can see what you see? Remember readers know only what you tell them.
4. Is your story all there? Does it take too long to get started and is your first line a hook?
5. In Point of View, do you bounce between viewpoints (head hop) until your reader is dizzy and confused? Stay in one POV as much a possible. If you must change character heads, separate POV by space breaks or chapter breaks. Do keep POV changes to a minimum within a chapter.
6. Have you varied the length of your sentences? Some long? Some short? Some medium length? Long paragraphs will have your reader yawning. Too many short sentences will jar his senses. This goes for paragraphs, too.
7. Do you say no to your characters, or do they get what they want without a struggle? The reader wants the characters to almost get their heart's desire, only to have it snatched away from them at the last minute.
8. Have characters' names tripped you up? Don't use similar sounding names. Avoid giving characters names beginning with the same letter. Names should "fit" the characters. Example: Mitzi doesn't sound like a high-society matron.
9. In dialogue, do your characters talk like real people? Don't let them make speeches to each other. Use character names in dialogue just enough to keep readers from being confused as to who is speaking.
10. Have you been guilty of "reader feeder” This is where one character feeds information to another? Or do you ramble on about how this or that came to be? It’s much better to give back story or necessary information in small doses throughout the story.
11. Check punctuation, grammar, format and spelling. Okay, this includes fixing passive voice and ridding out those annoying 'ly' adverbs (softly, quickly) and pesky helping verbs like 'was' and 'had' as much as possible. (ate instead of was eating, etc.)
12. Now the tough one: Is it boring? If someone else wrote this, would you want to keep reading? Have your critique partner go over it. Insist on a tough critique and don't take it personally when they do just that.
Okay, so we’ve heard, read and studied this before. This is tried and true stuff and a basic review can’t hurt us, right?
Write well all.