“Cardboard characters” are those that have no personality. Make sure yours have likes, dislikes, and opinions so they act like real people. If necessary, keep a list of each character’s physical and personality traits on file if they’re not vivid enough in your mind without it. Readers notice if your hero’s eyes are blue on one page and green on another. Same goes for that couch or car! Never underestimate how astute your readers may be! Otherwise you’re likely to find out when they give you a lousy review.
When you get to what you think is your final draft, start tightening your story by trimming adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases. Many adverbs go away when you select the correct verb. Make sure adjectives contribute to imagery or emotional impact and avoid repeating them. Prepositional phrases are often necessary for clarity, but make sure it’s really needed and that you don’t repeat the same information later. Read the sentence without each of these items to see what, if anything, they contribute.
Know the different types of editing, especially if you hire an editor. Otherwise, you may be disappointed or not get your money’s worth. I’m always amazed when I find a multitude of goofs in a book that has supposedly been edited. Just because a person can read, doesn’t mean s/he can edit! Furthermore, if they’re a specific type of editor, they may do a great job in that category, yet leave others flapping in the breeze, waiting for some discriminating reader of jump on them like a duck on a June bug.
Rather than reiterate what has already been said very well by another blogger regarding the different types of editors and what their duties are, check out this outstanding blog.
Whenever you’re reading and encounter something annoying that bumps you out of the story, take a moment to consider whether you do the same thing, but have been blind to it. You can increase your skill as an author by noting when something stands out in another person’s work, whether it’s positive and negative.
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.
When using a foreign language that you do not speak, be cautious when using translation software because it often doesn’t reflect the correct syntax. If possible, find a native speaker to confirm whether or not it’s correct. Google does a fairly good job, but there are certain idioms that don’t translate literally and can tip off a knowledgeable reader to your ignorance.
Watch for proper subject-verb agreement. “Writing skill IS important” vs. “Writing skill and grammar ARE important.” As a writer or author, knowing proper grammar is part of your job; even more so if you’re an editor.
Need a story idea? Fill in the blanks using the formula for the classic “What if?” premise. What if a ____ and a ____ went to _____ and ______. For practice, fill in the blanks based on your favorite sit-com or movie. This works well for creative writing teachers to fire up students’ imagination. The crazier the idea, the better.
When someone asks a question, be sure to punctuate with a “?” However, this can vary with narration. “He wondered whether the police had all the evidence” is a statement but “Did the police have all the evidence?” is a question.
Don’t slow down an action scene to describe the locale, whether it’s a room or city street. Do that in detail, long before the scene occurs, so the reader is already familiar with it. Then use a few keywords to trigger the image.