While there are many ways to screw up a good story, there are a few that can really kill your book before it’s even finished. Here are the three worst things you can do and what to do instead.

Use Normal Words

It might be tempting to try to sound smart if this is your first novel, but trust me on this one. Don’t toss out big words. Even if your character is a rocket scientist, use the most common word possible. If you need to use a big word, make sure it’s dialogue and only what is reasonable for your character. Your readers aren’t likely rocket scientists so use language they’ll understand.

Take It Easy On Punctuation and Emphasis

It’s a common argument between writers and editors, but italics are seldom necessary. It might be a struggle at first, especially if you’re trying to write out thoughts, but with creativity and lots of practice, you’ll figure out how to emphasize without accessorizing the text.

Don’t use exclamation marks. You might think you need them, but you don’t. Challenge yourself to write in a way that your reader will get the point without them. Use body language and facial expressions or even gestures instead.

The rule of ending sentences. If dialogue has been interrupted, it’s better to use an em dash before the closing quotation mark. Ex. “I lost my new swea–“ If you’re looking for it on the keyboard, you won’t find it and it’s not the minus sign. To get an em dash, simply hold down alt and type in 0150 on the numeric pad. Make sure to add one before any dialogue that picks back up too.

If your dialogue trails off, then it’s perfectly acceptable to use ellipses, or … You don’t need to add an additional period to end the sentence.

Don’t Head-Hop

Switching POV in the middle of a scene is an absolute don’t. There’s no way to even justify this and it will never pass an editor. Save yourself the re-writing time and make sure to stay in one POV per scene, and per chapter if possible.

More on the topic of self-editing in my book, Polish Til It Shines. It’s only $4.99 so grab it and start studying!

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