When and how to use dashes, ellipses, and hyphens

Dashes, ellipses, hyphens

When I’m editing, I often come across manuscripts in which writers used an ellipsis when they should use a dash or the other way around. Sometimes, I also see hyphens used instead of dashes. So here are some simple rules of thumb for when and how to use dashes, ellipses, and hyphens.   Ellipses An ellipsis consists of three dots. Style guides differ on whether there should be spaces between the dots of an ellipsis and before/after an ellipsis. The Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition) prefers spaced ellipses, with a space before and after the ellipsis. Use nonbreaking spaces …

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How to Set Writing Goals That Are SMART

How to Set Writing Goals That Are SMART

It’s THAT time of the year again—the time where we set writing goals for the year ahead. Setting goals is an important part of a writer’s life. Without goals that keep us moving forward, it’s too easy to procrastinate and put off starting that book or finally finishing it. With the right goals, you’ll keep moving forward and achieve your dreams, not just in your writing life, but in all other areas of your life too. So what does having the right goals mean?   Set SMART goals for your writing! Most of all, make sure your writing goals are SMART goals. …

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What to Do After Finishing the First Draft of Your Novel

What to do After Finishing the First Draft of your Novel

I know once you finish your novel and type “the end,” you are probably either sick of the story and just want it off your desk or you are eager to get it into the hands of your editor and, eventually, your readers. But after finishing your first draft, that’s where the real work begins, after all, we all know that writing is really rewriting. Before you send your manuscript to an editor, a literary agent, or a publishing house, it should be as close to perfect as you can possibly make it. Even if you plan to self-publish and …

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How to Structure Paragraphs in Your Novel

How to structure paragraphs

Today, I’d like to talk about something few writers ever seem to think about: paragraphs. Most authors start new paragraphs completely by instinct instead of making conscious choices, and that usually wastes a lot of potential and can even lead to confusing readers. Often, authors don’t seem to know where to start and end paragraphs—and I admit that’s not easy to learn since there’s not much information on how to structure paragraphs in fiction. So why do you as a fiction writer need to worry about when and where to start a new paragraph?   The function of paragraphs Paragraphs …

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How to find an editor for your book

how to find an editor

In previous blog posts, I talked about why you need an editor and what an editor might cost. But where do you find a good editor? How can you avoid hiring an incompetent editor who will do more harm than good? Here are a few general tips on how to find a good editor Make sure you pick an editor who specializes in or at least has some experience in the genre of your choice. A wonderful editor specializing in mysteries won’t do you any good if you are writing romance novels or vice versa.  I suggest you check out …

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How much does editing cost?

One of the questions I get asked most often is: What does editing cost? My answer is always: it depends. How much an editor will charge you for editing your manuscript depends on several different factors. Factors that influence editing costs Type of editing: In a previous blog post, I explained the three different types of editing. Content/developmental editing is often much more time-intensive than copy editing so content editors usually charge more than copy editors. When you hire an editor, be very clear about what type of editing your manuscript needs.  Quality of writing and the writer’s level of …

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3 quick tips to avoid POV violations in your book

POV violations

Since we all have busy lives, I thought I’d give you three quick tips you can apply to your manuscript or add to your self-editing checklist right now. Each of these tips will help you avoid point of view (POV) violations that will jar readers out of your story and might make them stop reading.   Tip #1: Don’t describe the character’s voice before they speak If you are telling your readers how a character’s voice sounds before they even speak, you are violating the point of view. No matter whether the POV character is the speaker or the person …

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How to avoid or fix repetitive sentence and paragraph structure in your writing

repetitive sentence structure

You have heard the old saying “variety is the spice of life,” right? That’s definitely true for writing! If your prose is full of repetitions, your readers will quickly become bored. So your task during the revision process is to go over your manuscript and keep an eye out for repetitions such as: Repetitive paragraph and sentence beginnings Repetitive paragraph and sentence length Repetitive sentence structure Overused words and words that are repeated in close proximity In this post, I’ll focus on avoiding repetitions on the paragraph and sentence level. Read my previous posts on how to avoid overused words …

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The 50 most common grammar and spelling mistakes and how to avoid them

common spelling mistakes

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of submitted manuscripts with so many grammar and spelling mistakes that could have been avoided with a thorough spellcheck and careful proofreading. Of course, delivering a good story is still the most important thing when it comes to writing fiction, but typos, grammar mistakes, and spelling errors distract readers from the story—and sometimes even make them stop reading entirely. So do yourself—and your editor—a favor and pay attention to getting the grammar and spelling right, not necessarily in the first draft, but during the revision process.   How to avoid grammar and spelling mistakes The …

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10 red flags for telling in your writing

telling writing

We have all heard the advice to show, don’t tell in our writing. But how do you know you’re telling?   10 red flags that indicate telling 1) Conclusions If you give your readers conclusions, you are telling. To show, provide them with enough action, body language, and dialogue so they can come to the conclusions themselves, without you, the author, telling them. Example: Telling: It was obvious that he was trying to pick a fight. Showing: “What did you just say?” Snarling, he stepped forward, right into John’s space.   2) Abstract language If you are using abstract, vague language, …

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