Try to maintain consistent and comfortable chapter lengths. If you find a chapter has multiple section breaks, maybe you should start a new one instead.
Most readers expect a certain rhythm regarding how long a chapter lasts. Many also prefer to stop reading at a chapter’s end; if it drags on and on, it can be frustrating.
However, on the other hand, it’s usually not a good thing for a reader to put down your book, even if it’s to go to sleep or back to work. You can remedy that by ending each chapter with a cliffhanger, so they either keep reading or can’t wait to get back to find out what happens next.
Omniscient viewpoint can confuse the reader; make sure it’s really necessary & the most effective option before using it. If you really want to get inside the head of other characters in addition to your protagonist, separate chapters and/or sections might work better. Readers will relate more strongly to your character(s) if you present their thoughts one at a time, rather than bouncing back and forth. If you really want your reader to relate to your main protagonist, you should stick to his or her viewpoint as much as possible.
Consider your story’s point of view carefully. If you really want the reader to relate to your protagonist, the story should be told through his or her eyes only, even if you’re using third person narrative. Avoid slipping into an omniscient viewpoint by including something your character couldn’t possibly know, such as what the other person is thinking, unless, of course, he’s telepathic. Instead, describe what your protagonist is seeing in the other’s expression and body language. Another way around this you can use occasionally is to preface it with, “He didn’t know it at the time, but….” Break point of view carefully, deliberately, and sparingly.
As part of the admonition to “show, don’t tell”, learn to render emotions as opposed to using a simple modifier. Compare the impact of “He fumed with anger” to “His eyes flashed daggers, fists tightening at his sides” or “His heart raced, fury surging through him like a fire storm.” Concentrate on the physical sensations of the emotion you’re trying to express to capture what it actually feels like. One of the marks of good writing is conveying emotions to your reader in an effective manner. If your reader feels something, then your story is upgraded to an experience and becomes much more memorable.
Scrutinize all prepositional phrases to determine if they’re needed or whether the sentence can be reworded to avoid them. If they’re redundant in any way, zap those suckers out of there! For example, saying “He put his hat on his head” could easily be shortened to “He put on his hat.” Where else would he put it? Economy of words for maximum impact should be your goal.
Always check your manuscript for over-used words and phrases, such as: so, just, in order to, therefore, or any of your personal favorites. It’s easy to fall in love with a newly discovered word, then use it so much it annoys your readers. Some of the words I’ve seen over-used are ubiquitous, baleful, and humongous. You’re probably not even aware of this on the first draft, so put it on your list as something to look for when you start to edit. Once you discover your favorite, learn all its synonyms so you can replace it with ease.
If part of your story takes place in the military, make sure you use rank, terminology, and dialog correctly. For example, a superior officer would not tell an underling to “relax”, he would more likely say, “At ease.” Also remember that military personnel typically address one another by their rank instead of their name. Authenticity adds to the flavor and credibility of your story. Lack of it will throw a knowing reader out of the story and your fan base.
One of the most important things you must do as an author to make your work stand out is to create vivid characters readers will remember. One way to add color to your characters is by giving them a regional accent. Capture it in writing by deliberately misspelling their dialog to reflect how it sounds phonetically. Just make sure you’re familiar with what that particular accent really sounds like or anyone from that region will recognize it’s not authentic, which could do you more harm than good. Accuracy is always important.
Always strive to be the best writer you can be. Reading books by established authors published by well-known publishing houses provides examples of outstanding writing and editing that you should emulate. Most indie writers are still progressing to their best work. Some will be less skilled than you are, others more advanced, but to grasp the industry standard, read those accepted by reputable publishers. It’s good for your ego to read books from beginners, but to improve you writing, study techniques employed by seasoned, experienced authors.
Understand there are several types of editors. Just because you hire one, doesn’t mean they’ll do the job you expect, especially if you don’t understand there are different types. They may do a great job within their realm, yet miss other problems. I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve found in books where the author supposedly hired an “editor.”
Here’s the basic run-down: Proofreaders look for typos. Copy editors look at punctuation and grammar. Line editors look at everything. Content editors look at plot & characterizations. If this is news to you, then I suggest you read this great article that gives more detail.