Wednesday, February 4, 2015


That's my best advice.

Then there are these self-checks: 

·         One space after the period/end of sentence

·         Be aware of what you habitually do in your own work, like I miss little words all the time, and overuse words and phrases, especially words used close together in the same paragraph or on the same page. Do a global search to identify these usages.

·        Create your own cheat sheet
·         Use a guide – even the Chicago Manual of Style refers to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary; Kathy Ide’s Polish the Pugs, which leaves room for you to add your own material

Commas are fairly subjective, but they are still used in a series and introductory phrases (though not a hard & fast rule), preceding a dependent clause (a piece of information, not a phrase that stands alone), and usually with independent clauses (where a phrase can stand alone). If the sentence is understandable without, leave it off. Rarely use commas in appositives anymore.

Periods and commas go inside quotation marks; usually question marks and exclamation marks will too, except when the question is not part of the dialogue

Semicolons and Colons go outside of quotation marks

Titles of complete works are italicized; segments, short stories, chapters, are quoted

Apostrophes – pain and horror and supreme annoyance: IT IS=IT’S; 1850s; Jesus’s love for us.

o  Noun/adjective – no hyphen (generally, no hyphen when descriptive term is after the noun being modified); i.e., ear splitting
o  Adjective/noun – use a hyphen; i.e., jet-black; over-the-counter drugs are available on that shelf; vs. I’m buying drugs over the counter
o  Adverb/noun; Noun/adverb – no hyphen

Plural pronouns/plural usage: Someone didn’t get his nap today. We all need our naps.   Examine an author’s work carefully to see if she had any typos. “They/Their/Them” cannot be used as singular gender neutral pronouns. Just don’t do it.

Tense: past/present – make sure the usage is consistent throughout.

Point of View – make sure you are experiencing a scene through one character’s head at a time.

Strong voice – few usages of the “was…ing” construction

Formatting your page: (standard manuscript) one-inch margins, font with a seraph, 12-point, indented paragraphs, no space between them, double-spaced, no funky symbols, no section breaks; headers/footers – check the guidelines on the agent/publisher site – always check anyway

Elements of story: Every story must have a recognizable beginning, middle, end

Know the genre

Identify your inciting incident (this will help determine where your story actually starts)

Make every sentence/scene/chapter/character count for something or else you end up with a bunch of independent little cute incidents stuck together

Write a killer hook sentence that will sell the work

Add to Technorati Favorites
Bookmark and Share


  1. I love reading my work out loud. My spouse is longsuffering and dutifully listens ;)

    1. For some reason one of the Grimm Fairy Tales comes to mind when I think about reading my work out loud. A wussy princess and her maid are on their way to her new husband when the maid forces the princess to change places. When they get to the new kingdom only the old father father notices something is wrong. The maid/real princess won't say anything to a person about her woes, so the father eventually gets her to tell the kitchen stove. He goes outside to listen and learns the real story and whacks off the real maid's head or sticks her in a barrel of nails or something gruesome. When there's no living person to talk to, i talk to the plants. Supposed to make 'em grow better with all the hot air.

  2. Lisa, what a great guide, especially for me in light of my recent post about finishing my latest WIP. Wonderful tips and perfect timing! Super job.


    1. You notice I did post it long before yours :) But Yes, I have little cheat sheets posted all over my house. If you can't sleep, just roll over and start reading about adverbial phrases.

  3. I usually read my work to Mom. Since she has macular degeneration, she can't read it for herself, so this way we both win.

    1. Sweet. My dad get md and I get him a talking kindle.

  4. Great advice! I always read my work aloud when I'm editing. It's amazing the thing we catch when we hear it. Also, thanks for reiterating that punctuation goes inside quotations. It drives me bananas when people don't do this.

  5. You and me both. Thanks for stopping in April.