"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

10 Things I Can Tell You Are Wrong about Your Manuscript Without Reading It

(title shamelessly borrowed from Sue Grafton at Crimebake 2009)

A Protective Checklist, and what to do about it:

1) You’re over-using “and,” especially as a sentence connector. Remove it and your work will sound much more dramatic.

2) It’s “Fred said,” not “said Fred.” “Said Michael,” “said Jane,” will make your writing sound sing-songy and biblical. Stop it!

3) You’re confusing “its” and “it’s,” and, no, it’s not alright just because they’re confusing. They’re NOT: “It’s” is short for “it is”; “its” is a personal pronoun, as in “the bicycle, down to its hupcaps…”

4) You’re using “parent’s” as a possessive plural, when it’s singular. Instead, use “parents’” as in “my parents’ house.”

5) You’re confusing “lies” and “lays” and, no, it’s not alright to say, “She was laying with him on the bed.” See Fowler’s Modern Usage, and fix it!

6) You’re allowed ONE adverb per hundred pages. Search and destroy the others.

7) Remember to SHOW us what’s happening in your story, not TELL us about it.

8) Your dialogue is NOT action, moving the story forward. Root out every piece of dialogue that doesn’t contribute to the forward motion of your story.

9) You overuse certain words—you know what they are. Become aware of them, and don’t allow yourself to use them more than once in 30 pages.

10) Your story doesn’t start until page x. Remove the pages before x.

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