Oct 2, 2010

5 Tips on Polishing Your Manuscript from Writers Digest

Cindy R. Williams
Writer’s Digest - Online posted the following:
(The italicised comments are mine.)

FIVE Tips To Polish Your Fiction
September 03, 2010
by G. Miki Hayden

Half the difference between what works and what doesn't in fiction has to do with how the words are phrased. If you want to be a polished writer, remember these rules for smoother and more powerful writing.

1.Use appropriate and frequent paragraph breaks.

Readers want breaks. That's why text is divided into paragraphs to begin with. A skillful writer can always find a spot to put in a hard return. If you can't, look again; you can so. (It's all about the white space.)

2.Use only one name for a character.

If the character, Ron Carpenter, is a doorman, call him either Ron or Carpenter, but not both. And be careful about referring to him as ''the doorman.'' Although that seems like a good substitute for the name that has been repeated so often, unless his occupation is more than clear, the alternation between name and job title can be confusing. (Don't you hate to have to go back and figure out who in the world they are talking about. I 'll do it once or twice, after that, the book sails across the room.)

3.Choose entirely distinct character names.

Don't name your two lead characters Stan and Steve. Sure the names are different, but readers can't always track that fact—especially when they pick up the book three days later to read again. (Please don't use names that are just flat out weird like Klytara and call her Klyty, or names that can't be pronounced in your brain let alone out loud.)

4.Don't use slang unless you clarify it.

I''m pretty well-read but when I came across the phrase "seven deadlies" with the assertion that they built to felonies, I thought this was a special law-enforcement phrase and not a way of referring to the Seven Deadly Sins. (Tough balance sometimes when you are writing dialog in teen voices.)

5.Limit your use of possibly offensive language.

Reasons exist for characters to swear. But remember that, nowadays, most books are bought by women and many women don't like swearing for swearing's sake (even in gritty or naturalistic novels). (I love this! My mission is to write wholesome books for children, young adults and adults --yeah, everybody. It's great that others in the writing world see the true picture also.)

About G. Miki Hayden: She teaches both fiction and non-fiction writing on Writer's Digest online and is the author of WRITING THE MYSTERY: A START - TO FINISH GUIDE FOR BOTH NOVICE AND PROFESSIONAL. 


  1. Thanks for the points. I always have trouble with naming characters.

  2. Odd that in fantasy the name of the game is unusual names you can't pronounce. Oh no there I go again with the apostrophes.

  3. These are great, Cindy. Thank you for sharing this information.


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