Sandra Gerth author of the Writer's Guides Series

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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How to avoid overused body language in your writing

overused body language writing

Human communication is mostly nonverbal, so it makes sense to use plenty of body language, gestures, and facial expressions in our writing. Showing your characters’ emotions through their body language is also a wonderful way to avoid telling (More about showing vs. telling here). Instead of saying she was nervous, you could show her fiddling with her keys, for example. But if you use the same body language over and over again, readers will start to notice—and become bored. I’ve read manuscripts in which the characters seemed to smile fifteen times on each page. Or they nodded so often that …

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The 3 different types of editing

types of editing and proofreading

In my last blog post, I explained why every writer needs an editor. But actually, you might need even more than one editor. There are different types of editing, and they are all very different skill sets, so it’s rare that one person can do all types of editing—and do them well. Ideally, your manuscript will undergo each type of editing in the following order: Content editors – plot, characters, and the writing craft The content editor (sometimes called substantive editor or developmental editor) deals with substantive revisions of the manuscript’s content and points out things such as plot holes, flat characters, pacing …

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Why do you need an editor?

why you need an editor

Editing is expensive, so some self-published authors and some small publishers try to cut costs by skipping the editing. Needless to say that’s a really bad idea. Why? After spending months or even years writing a story, you’re too close to it. You’re so familiar with the story that you don’t see its weak spots anymore. You read the story that you THINK you’ve written, not the one you actually wrote. What was clear in your head might not be so clear on the page. No one, not even someone who edits for a living, can view her own story …

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Participle problems in fiction

You’ve probably heard of dangling participles, but participles can create other problems in fiction too. Before I dive more deeply into that, let me explain what a participle is. Present participles are forms of verbs that are formed by adding -ing. Example: Hoping for a happy ending, she read the last scene. Using participle phrases isn’t bad per se, but you should use them only for actions that happen at the same time as the action in the main clause. That’s called a simultaneous action. Example: Correct: Holding the tray steadily, she walked toward Drew. Since she can hold the …

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20 tips for proofreading your manuscript

Whether you’re self-publishing or submitting your manuscript to a traditional publisher, proofreading your work is important. A carefully proofread book makes you look professional and shows readers and publishers that you care about the quality of your work. Proofreading your own manuscript is not easy, though. After spending months or even years writing your book, you’re very familiar with the text. You see what you think you have written rather than what’s actually on the page. Here are 20 proofreading tips that can make the process easier: Put your manuscript aside for at least a week after you finish writing. …

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