When an author brings work to read to our critique group, often the story may be there, characters, pov and internalization firm, yet there are little things that ruin the writing. It’s clear that the author hasn’t done a good job of final editing. Here are some points to watch when you go through your story for the last time before presenting it to your critique group. For goodness sake, don’t send it off to an editor or an agent before you go over these points of good editing.
1. Mark repetitive words and phrases for rewrites or substitutions. As is a particularly overused phrase beginning.
2. Mark all lazy verbs such as were, was, had, look, walk, run and the like. Substitute active verbs or restructure sentence. In most cases take out just, very, only, almost. Those weaken the sentence. 
3. Substitute words (especially verbs and nouns) that will set a mood, convey the five senses or visualize a scene.
4. Watch your viewpoint. You are not God, nor are you a camera.
5. Balance dialogue and narrative.
6. Say what you mean. Incorrect placing of prepositional phrases can totally change the meaning of a sentence.
7. Be true to the voice and tone of your book in both narrative and dialogue.
Once those basic mistakes are corrected, *read aloud and mark the following to fix:
     A. Hard to read passages that make you stumble.    
     B. If you stop to breathe in the middle of a sentence, it’s probably too long.
     C. Unpleasant cadence, too many sentences with the same rhythm, too many long or too many short sentences within a scene. As a general rule, short sentences are used for fast paced action, longer are to calm down a scene.
     D. Sibilance (repetition of S or SH sounds) or iteration (repetition of same sounds) should be avoided unless you are doing it to create a particular effect.
     E. Too many verbs ending in ing. Was running becomes ran. Was walking becomes walked.
     F. Noun-verb repetition, most especially at the beginning of sentences. Jake saw, Jake sat, Jake ran, or he saw, he sat, he ran, etc.
     G. Overuse of adverbs and adjectives. They are in our language for a purpose, but use them like salt over tomatoes. A little goes a long way.
*When the time comes to read aloud, print out the work and go someplace else to read the entire story from paper, not the computer screen. I do this chapter at a time. Do not sit in the same place in which you created the work. As an editor you are wearing a different hat, so to speak, and it’s best to do the job away from your writer surroundings. Edit with a red pen, it stands out much better. After those corrections have been made, one more read is in order before taking it to your critique group or sending it off to an editor, agent or contest.
Wolf Song and Stone Heart’s Woman have both been released to Ebooks. You can also buy Stone Heart’s Woman in paperback. See my Kindle page for a listing of all my Ebooks. Hope you enjoy reading my work and will take the time to give me a quick review on Amazon.

About veldabrotherton

For thirty years I've been a writer. Publication of my work began in 1994 . I'm pleased to have recently settled with Oghma Creative Media as my publisher. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. I recently signed a contract to write westerns again, and what fun it's been working on the first one. If I weren't writing my life wouldn't be so exciting.
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  1. irishoma says:

    Great advice, Velda.Donna V.

  2. Debby says:

    I agree with all of this. However, I don't worry about extra words such as "very," "pretty," "just," etc. in dialogue because many people use these words in conversation and it makes dialogue sound realistic sometimes.In critique groups I have been in author intrusion was the biggest problem most writers faced.

  3. I can find problems with my stories but have trouble figuring out the best way to fix them. Amd I'm much better at editing things I did not write. I guess it all comes with practice. Your tips are very helpful! Thank you for sharing them!Robin A. Burrowshttp://www.robinaburrows.com/blog

  4. Excellent advice, Velda! I'm going to print this and post it on my bulletin board. I'm getting ready to do the final editing on my second novel and this checklist will definitely come in handy. Thanks!

  5. Debby says:

    In our critique groups we also had someone else read our work. You hear when things don't sound right or someone stumbles over dialogue or the dialogue isn't read as you intended for it to be. Then you know where to makes some "fixes" so that readers will hear the same inflections that you hear.

  6. JC Piech says:

    This is excellent advice! :)x

  7. Alice White says:

    Very helpful Velda, and hello 🙂 I am shortly due to begin another complete read-through of my work, since it has been sitting for a few months. All of this advice will be very useful to me in doing so. I like to let it sit a few times and go back to it with, hopefully, fresh eyes.

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