It's The Little Things That Count
The last chapter/issue was about the basics of organizing your chapters and story. This chapter/issue will be about those smaller but very fundamental elements.
- Spelling: And by "spelling", I don't mean to discount or discourage the use of slang. I mean righting so that uther poeple can easliy understand wut u r tryin too say - without getting a headache. If there is one awesome thing that most email hosts and word processors have in common, it's spellcheck. Oh, glorious, spellcheck! This can easily help any spelling-challenged (or modern-day Kerouac) writer catch glaring mistakes that might distract readers from their awesome plot and beautifully organized chapters. It will also easily rid you of accidental "text-speak", which can be a quick way of ridding you of readers. Now it isn't always perfect, which is why grammar check can also be amazingly helpful. Combined, the two should catch most of the times you write "will" instead of "well", "right" instead of "write", "your" instead of "you're", and "its" instead of "it's".
At the end of the day, nothing beats rereading what you've written. If you trust someone enough to edit your work, ask/let them help.
- Diction: Besides being a word that can sound rather comical to the less mature, diction is a great way of saying word choice. It can easily get monotonous saying the same word over and over again. I know having a hardcover thesaurus is out of vogue, but Google is your friend. You can pretty much Google any word and get a ton of ideas. Or, if writing a more urban Michael, urban dictionary may be more your speed ;) For instance, "said" can easily be changed to:
stated responded argued retorted reiterated verbalized uttered articulated shouted replied exclaimed answered screamed whispered swore preached told dropped ranted lectured agreed
A good writer is constantly growing. Don't think a strong plot will cause readers to overlook flat prose. Keep expanding upon your knowledge and your vocabulary.
- Grammar: Ugh. This is not my strong suit. I tend to write in long run-ons with waaay too many commas or short fragments. So if your weakness is here, know that you aren't alone (and that somewhere in a distant, far off land, Red is trying to decide if what she is writing should be in first or third person, passive or active voice, and past or present tense). That being said, here are some key points that I want to highlight:
Read what you write out loud. You'll find that your pauses will quickly tell you where a comma belongs and when a sentence needs to end. If you are breathless mid-sentence, it's not a good sign.
Make sure that your personal pronouns match your subject. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Michael mistaking referred to as "her" or "she". This can get become very confusing to readers.
Remember that "I ate, Michael" is not the same as "I ate Michael". While humorous, I beg you to please never ever forget that.
Grammar is a huge topic in and of itself. Writing a story doesn't mean you need to get a degree, always write grammatically-correct sentences, or have your characters speak "proper English". However, it does need to consistently make sense to your readers, or else they won't be your readers for long.