Hey, all! Paige invited me to post today, and I'm excited! Eek! Yay! Heya! *waves* Okay, small celebration done. Now on to bigger and better things. Paige said many of you guys are writers, so I thought doing a writing tips post would be helpful. I'm a writer as well, and also edit for other writers, agented authors, and soon-to-be-published authors, so I'm going to cover some of the main issues and errors I see. They're in no particular order, and because I have covered many pieces of this, I'll just link y'all to the main posts so you can learn more if you'd like. :) Here we go!
1. Commas and periods always go on the inside of quotations. "This", is wrong. "This". is wrong. "This," is right. "This." is right. There are no exceptions to this. Always, always, always on the inside. With question marks, exclamations, colons, and semi-colons, unless it's dialogue or part of the quoted material, they go on the outside.
2. Make sure your dialogue format is correct. Main issues are periods instead of commas before dialogue tags, capital dialogue tags, and sentences as dialogue tags. Wrong: "Blah." he said. Right: "Blah," he said. Wrong: "Blah," He said. Right: "Blah," he said. Wrong: ""Blah," he waved at me. Right: "Blah." He waved at me. Click here for more help on dialogue.
3. Watch for excessive use of dashes, ellipses, adverbs, and italics. Click here to learn about dashes and ellipses and here to learn about adverbs and italics. When you overuse these things, they become annoying and interrupt the flow of your writing. No one emphasizes so much that every other word needs to be italicized. Too many adverbs are just a lazy way out. *nods* And dashes and ellipses (italics, too) should only be used for effect.
4. Make sure you're showing, not telling. And also recognize the difference between narration and telling. Telling is describing details you can easily show, or that have already been implied or shown. Narration is telling the story, describing the details that need to be described, giving history--in a natural way--that needs to be told. Click here to learn more.
5. Watch over-using words and phrases. Smiled, looked, turned, laughed. Those are just some of the words people use way too much. People don't smile every second. Okay, maybe they do, but find another way to describe a character's expression or action. And also watch the phrasing. "My cheeks grew hot." That's an example of one I found in a recent book over and over again. If you read your project out loud, that should help catch some of those.
6. Make sure you know your beginning, middle, and end. You don't always have to make an outline when writing, but if you don't have a clue to where your story's going, then you risk not having a plot at all. Crafting a novel is a big part of writing. You can't just write and expect the story to be fantastic. You have to have plot points and a beginning, middle, and end, even if you have a cliffhanger.
7. Work on character development. Give your characters distinct voices and personalities. Make them realistic. Give them all types of emotions, whether or not they're all prominent. Get into their heads. Show the reader what they like, who they are, what they love, what they hate, how they act. If your characters aren't strong, the book will go nowhere. Click here and here for more on characters.
8. Grasp emotions and feelings. If you don't have emotion, you don't have a realistic character or situation on your hands. Every person in the world has emotions, so your characters should too. But saying that they do means nothing if your reader doesn't feel it too. Click here for more.
9. Create a solid opening scene. You need to have an opening scene that takes your readers captive. Don't open with something so generic that your reader will put the book down. Don't open with "I woke up, I went to school, I saw my friends, and I came home." The saying goes, "Start the story where everything changes." If nothing out of the ordinary for the characters happens in that first chapter, then your readers won't care too much to continue. Click here for more.
10. Work on a mature narrative. One of the main things I notice when I read projects by newer authors is the lack of maturity. Don't forget that you're writing for readers who aren't dumb. And this especially goes for those of you who write YA. Remember that teenagers are smart. Yes, many are dramatic, many spend their time obsessing over silly boy problems, many are immature, but if you notice with books, those are never the main characters. Because they're not ready to lead a story. And this also goes for the prose itself. Make it mature, not choppy or full of things the readers don't care about.
These are just a few little tips. There are several common errors, several things you can do to make your books better. But the biggest one of all is to pour yourself into the book. Put yourself in the story. Make yourself feel and see what your characters are. If you want your readers to cry, then it has to make you cry too. If you want your characters to laugh, then you need to laugh too. If you want excitement, you have to get excited. Make sure you have a plot; nobody wants to read about a character going and coming from school and crushing on a boy. And most of all: Write what you love, not what you think book world will love. If you love it, and you continue to work on your craft, others will love it too. :)
Have fun writing!