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Editing Your First Draft

Even if you have someone else edit your work, you’ll make that person’s job a lot easier if you give them a manuscript that’s as error-free as possible. Today, Trafford presents ten things to look for when you’re reviewing your first draft.

Incidentally, not all of these things are mistakes; some are stylistic choices that can potentially improve and tighten up your writing.

On to the tips!

Avoid the adverbs: an adverb here or there won’t ruin your book, but you should try to minimize them. If possible, try to use verbs that accurately convey your meaning.

Use the passive voice sparingly: the passive voice is fine, but it’s almost never better than the active voice (unless the performer of the action is unknown.)

Divide long sentences: your longer sentences might be grammatically correct, but they’re harder for the reader to follow. At least consider dividing them into shorter sentences.

Maintain a consistent narrative point-of-view: most stories are told from a certain character’s point of view. Many writers, however, make the mistake of jumping into another character’s “eyes” whenever it’s convenient. While it’s okay to have more than one narrator, make sure that it’s clear when you’ve moved from one to another (at chapter breaks, for example).

Remember to hyphenate modifiers: if you modify a noun with more than one word, you need a hyphen when that modifier precedes the noun.

Avoid “really”: it rarely adds any substance to your sentence, and you can safely remove it with no change in meaning.

Trim out “currently”: As is the case with “really,” think twice whenever you include “currently” in a sentence. Is it necessary? If it is, keep it in; however, it can often be omitted.

Be on the lookout for redundant words: “bouquet of flowers,” “whole entire,” “armed gunman”—these are all redundant pairs. Just “bouquet,” “entire,” and “gunman” are enough.

Use contractions: we almost always use contractions when speaking; use them in your writing too (unless you’re deliberately writing the words out for emphasis: “DO NOT speak to me again!”)

Don’t over-punctuate: you need at least one punctuation mark for each sentence, of course, but be careful not to overuse ellipses, colons, etc.

As we said at the start, many of these are style decisions, rather than mistakes. Our hope is that this article will help you identify some of the weak spots in your writing; keep the suggestions that are useful to you and discard the rest!

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