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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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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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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How to find and cut overused, repeated, and filler words from your writing

overused, repeated, and filler words

There are three kinds of words to keep an eye on during the revision process: filler words, overused words, and words that are repeated too close together.  Cutting out each of them will tighten your prose and make it more polished.   What are filler words, and why are they a problem? Filler words are unnecessary words that take up space without adding anything to the sentence. They slow down the pace of a scene and make reading seem like a chore. It might not seem so bad to use a filler word here and another one there, but the …

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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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12 tips on how to name your characters

how to name your characters

Naming your characters can be difficult since there are so many things to be taken into consideration when choosing character names. Here are 12 tips to help you find the perfect names for your characters: 1. Keep the time period of your story and your character’s age in mind. Names often go in and out of fashion. For example, Bertha was one of the top 10 most popular names for girls in 1880, so if you are writing a historical novel, it might be a good name for your heroine, but if you name a character Bertha in a contemporary …

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7 helpful considerations for choosing a point of view character

The most popular point of view (POV) in genres like romance novels is third-person limited POV with two or more point of view characters. That means that you’ll stick to the perspective of one character per scene (or even per chapter), but can switch to a new POV character between scenes (or chapters). For each scene, you have to decide on a POV character. Since readers will witness the scene through the eyes of the POV character, that’s a very important choice. How to choose the right point of view character for a scene Here are a few considerations that might …

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How to avoid head hopping and point of view violations

What’s point of view (POV)? Point of view (POV) is the perspective through which readers are viewing the story. Through whose eyes–and other senses–are readers experiencing the events of the story? What’s a POV violation? When you’re writing in third person limited POV, you are limited to one POV character per scene. You can’t write about things your POV character doesn’t see, hear, feel, or know. You can’t show us what’s going on behind your POV character or what the person on the other end of the phone line is doing while the POV character is talking to him or …

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