Thursday, 31 May 2012

An Editor's Golden Touch...

Do you want to know how to make your manuscript stronger? Polished? Close to publication? Psst…I can help with that. Correction—my editor, Kathy Teel, can help with that. Read on…

·         The word "as" is not your friend. It is almost never your best choice. In any ms, find all occurrences of it and cut at least half. This is especially true when it occurs near a dialogue tag.

·         You don't need both an action tag and a dialogue tag. For example: Jojo sneered at him, saying, "That was helpful." Those should look like this: Jojo sneered. "That was helpful." (this is where many of those words were cut)

·         Dialogue tags go after the first clause in the dialogue, not at the end, unless it's a short bit of dialogue and we know exactly who's speaking. "Thanks," Monkey said. "You never know when you're going to need an antique bassoon."

·         Avoid adverbs, especially around dialogue tags. "I hate you, you big fat jerk!" Merry screamed furiously. No, really, he's furious? We got that from the dialogue AND the verb (scream), you don't have to beat us with it by adding on an adverb.

·         People don't usually use each others' names very much when speaking together.

·         A sentence with 2 independent clauses does not have a comma: My daughter turned on Dr. Who and her friend rolled her eyes. NOT: My daughter turned on Dr. Who, and her friend rolled her eyes.

·         Use "said" 95% of the time. Delete your thesaurus' entry for the word "said," and don't use replacement words for it, except in very rare absolutely necessary cases.

·         Don't use dialogue tags at all unless it's otherwise unclear who's speaking. If you need to indicate who's speaking, try to use an action tag instead of a dialogue tag: Jingle jumped out of his chair. "I know that elf!"
That’s it. Well, not all. There’s always something when it comes to polishing and gleaning your manuscript to share with the world. The above sage advice was passed on to me because I made these common mistakes. So I thought I’d share them so that any writer reading this may in turn, better their best.

Image: 123RF Stock 11295853


  1. Great advice - now I need to get back to my manuscript!

  2. Very good, Sharon. Thanks for posting. Now I must leave to evict all the "as" holding me hostage.:)

  3. Good stuff! "That" is another word to be tossed more often than not. Happy writing!

  4. Thank you, Derek, Sloane and Alan! I have a copy of the above tips next to me when I write! I'm thankful for the sage advice! Cheers!

  5. Oh. I didn't know about the as word. Guess I need to get out the old eraser. Do they actually still make those? Thanks for the help, Sharon. Commas kill me.

    1. I hear ya, Cordelia! Commas seem to smack me down all the time! That's why we really do need an editor's golden touch! Wink.

  6. Well I thought you needed two independent clauses to use a comma, so I've learnt something new. Thanks Sharon.