Some of the common errors the editor finds, and in no particular order:
- Echoing words. For the current story it, seemed to be the word, ocean.
- Misplaced commas and punctuation. (Waves hand. Guilty as charged.)
- Run on sentences. Please feel free to stop and punctuate, especially if you can't read through it with one breath. If your turning blue, you might want to break it up. Often authors keep going, not realizing they're doing this. Oh, and if you have to use a semi-colon (;),you can break it into two sentences.
- Incomplete sentences. (I do understand that sometimes it's done on purpose, but the overuse of this technique causes the story to become confusing and scattered.)
- Modifiers. Evil little words an author tacks on to nouns and verbs to try to strengthen them. They slow the pace of a story unlike anything else, ie, the old woman ignited the C4 and the door suddenly blew up loudly. How about: The crone ignited the C4 and the door exploded. Rule of thumb, if it needs a modifier, the noun or verb can usually be replaced with something stronger. Not saying modifiers don't have their place, they do, but in moderation. If you have to use one, use only one to modify that noun or verb. No icy, dark nights.
- Wordiness. This is what someone means when you need to "tighten" your story. The example above is also wordy. What do I mean. Well night is usually dark, right? So, can't we simply call it night and assume the reader understands it's dark? Here's another I see quite a bit: He nodded his head or she shrugged her shoulders. You can simply say, he nodded, or she shrugged. The rest is understood unless, of course, he has more than one head to nod or she's a Siamese twin.
- Inactive phrasing. If the verb doesn't relate directly to the noun, it's inactive. When you see the words "been" and "was" in your manuscript, you're using inactive words. Instead of they had been running all night, or he was running, try, they ran all night or he ran. Also pay attention to the verbs. Verbs ending in "ing" are more inactive than verbs ending in "ed".
- Show, don't tell. She felt sad--telling. Her eyes watered and her lip quivered--showing.
- Last but not least, get a second set of eyes on your story before you submit it to an agent or publisher. I can look at somebody's story and often spot the items I mentioned above with little effort, but I'm blind to it in my own work. It's really funny how you don't see it when it's your own story. And those little errors my friends, could mean the difference between getting a contract or not.
- Oooh, I guess that wasn't last. Feel free to use spell check, but hey, remember it's not perfect. Some words that sound the same, can be spelled different, ie too and to, there, they're, their and it's and its. I highly recommend a Strunk and White to anyone not sure of when to use one or the other. I have one. Nuf said.
Thanks for stopping by,
Have a great Saturday.
D L Jackson