18 Ways To Fix Your Draft

1. Eliminate unnecessary adverbs such as very, absolutely, definitely, mostly, simply, terribly, totally, completely, utterly

2. Strengthen verbs

On Frog Dissection Day, she walked very slowly crept to the classroom and slid into her seat just before the bell rang for the class to end.
She was going planned to jog to the park.
It was a dark and stormy The storm raged all night.
He had drove a tomato red and black Buick Opel back in 1972.

3. Eliminate filler words and phrases, including

as always • at that moment • began to • finally • for some reason • kept [verb +ing] • just then • next • so to speak • continued to • unfortunately
with that • started to • was able to

4. Search for nominalizations: words ending in –tion, –ence, and –ship. Turn these false nouns back into verbs whenever feasible.

His expectation was that she would cook his dinner. [Wordy!]
He expected her to cook his dinner. [Concise]

5. Substitute specific quantities for vague words like some or a few
6. Eliminate or reduce repetition and redundancies.
7. Look for places where something you’ve written is stated or implied elsewhere or is obvious to the reader.
8. Vary your diction to avoid repeating the same word(s) in the same sentence or paragraph, unless you have done so deliberately.
9. Look for dangling modifiers: words or phrases that are out of place.
10. Consider changing passive voice to active voice.

The ball was kicked. → Nancy Bruce kicked the ball.

11. Be on the lookout for homophones that are often confused, such as peek, pique, and peak; affect and effect; its and it’s.
12. In fiction, look for point-of-view (POV) violations. Stay consistently in one character’s POV at a time.
13. Avoid using dialogue tags like “shouted,” “hissed,” and “sobbed.” Replace as many as you can with “said” and other neutral tags. Whenever possible, make your dialogue distinctive enough that tags aren’t needed.
14. In creative writing, it’s preferable to “show, don’t tell!” It’s best to put the reader directly into a scene. If you have too many narrative passages, you’ll need to turn some of them into scenes, using descriptive details to create setting and dialogue. The narrative should set scenes and move characters from setting to setting.
15. Use words appropriately. English contains Latin-based and Anglo-Saxon words. Latinate words are appropriate for formal writing, Anglo-Saxon for informal writing.

He lied about everything. (AS) He prevaricated. (Lat.)
I don’t own a car. (AS) I don’t own an automobile. (Lat.)

16. Fix agreement errors.
17. Watch out for tense shifts.
18. Know how to use punctuation correctly. When you deviate it should be for effect, not from ignorance.

And it’s one, two, three, who are you writing for?

And it’s one, two, three, who are you writing for?

If you don’t know your readers, what they like and dislike, what they read and why, and who they are as individuals, you’re probably not going to find a publisher for your book.

Even if you’re self-publishing, you still need readers, right? After all, if you were only writing the book for yourself, why would you go to the expense of printing multiple copies? So please admit it: you’re not writing that book only for yourself!

Now that you’ve admitted that you’d like someone other than yours truly to read the final product of your hard work, try to answer these questions:

Who are your readers?

Did I just hear you say you don’t really know? I realize you’ve a story to tell, and your hands are full, considering all the twists and turns you’re planning for the plotline. But even in planning your (cardiographic?) plotline, you’ll want to consider your audience. For one thing, you’ll need to put in just the right amount of conflict. And that means knowing your readers’ expectations.

Do you know your genre?

In order to understand your audience, you’ll have to have a good understanding of your chosen genre, and vice versa.

Are You Ready to Take Yourself Seriously?

To learn more about your chosen genre, consider joining an association dedicated to providing support for readers and writers of your chosen genre.

Writers Associations & organizations for Fiction Writers:


American Christian Fiction Writers — A writers association for writers of Christian novels and stories.

Historical Novel Society — A great association of writers of historical fiction. Offers community, networking opportunities (agents, editors, publishers, booksellers), and more.

Novelists, Inc. — A professional writers organization for multi-published book authors.

Mystery Writers Of America — An organization for writers of mystery novels, as well as editors, screenwriters, and other professionals associated with the mystery genre.

Romance Writers Of America — The trade organization for writers of romantic fiction.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America — SFWA offers many resources for writers of speculative genres. A very vibrant and active writers association.

Sisters In Crime — A writers organization dedicated to the professional advancement of women who write in the crime and mystery genres.

Western Writers Of America — A writers association for authors whose work focuses on the American West.

Welcome To The NEA: Or, How To Get Money For Writing Stuff — One of the most consistently magnanimous supporters of the arts in America is the National Endowment for the Arts, which has numerous—and generous—grants available in all areas of the arts, including literature. Learn more about the NEA.

Writers Associations & organizations for Nonfiction Writers:

 American Society Of Journalists And Authors (ASJA) — For independent nonfiction writers and freelancers.

Asian American Journalists Association — A writers organization for new and veteran journalists who are Asian Pacific Americans.

National Association Of Memoir Writers — For writers of all levels who are writing memoir, personal essays, and nonfiction.

Native American Journalists Association — A writing organization for Native American journalism. Offers many opportunities for professional advancement.

Nonfiction Authors Association — Their primary focus is helping their members with educational resources and community support for marketing nonfiction books.

Are You Willing to Study Your Target Audience?

Your readers want you to understand them, and you probably know quite a lot about them already. Write a detailed description of your target audience, and be sure to read several books your readers are most likely to read. Observe them whenever possible. Listen to them, and find a way to talk to them. Ask them what they’re reading for fun.

If you can arrange it, read them your first chapter and note their responses. Or you might simply pass out copies and invite honest feedback.

Can you think of any other ways you can get to know your target audience early on?


Thinking Ahead To Summer

Here in Seattle we’re in the midst of yet another late winter deluge. It’s a great time to be indoors writing, either alone or comfortably anonymous at a local coffee house, but I’m already fantasizing an out-of-town getaway. I’ve spent the fall and winter months at my desk, editing manuscripts and working on my young adult novel. After all this self-imposed seclusion, I’m ready to connect with other writers and editors, learn more about my genre and readers, and brush up on my skills.

If I can afford it, I may enroll in another workshop like the one I attended last year, the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop. I’d been working on a picture book and a middle-grade story, so the focus was perfect. As the workshop took place at one of our favorite coastal towns, Oceanside, Oregon, it doubled as our vacation.

While my partner roamed the Oregon coast taking photos, I sat in a large, airy room overlooking the Pacific Ocean, along with fifty others.  We spent the week in the company of agents, published writers and illustrators, and editors representing publishing companies. We critiqued each other’s writing, had several one-on-one meetings each day with instructors, attended guest lectures on relevant topics, and connected with fellow workshoppers and instructors before and after class.

When I returned to my motel room in the early evening, I had three or four hours to work on my manuscript. There was plenty of time to explore local beaches and restaurants too, so I never forgot I was on vacation. Best of all, I returned home feeling rested and rejuvenated and geared up to keep on writing.

Although I loved that workshop, this year I'm looking around for one that focuses on my current genre: the young-adult novel. I want to find a workshop that meets during the summer months, and it has to be in the Northwest because I’m on a budget. So where to start looking? The Internet, of course.  

A quick Google search led me to a workshop scheduled for the third week of September at Santa Cruz: the Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Novel Workshop and Retreat. This workshop brings together teens and adult writers, editors, and published novelists. It would give me a series of deadlines that make finishing my novel in September seem entirely doable. Considering all it offers, the workshop at Santa Cruz sounds like a winner, though one that would put a sizable dent in my checking account. 

For about half the price of the workshop in Santa Cruz, I can stay here in Seattle, enroll in a couple of writing classes at the Hugo House during the coming months, and sign up for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference (PNWA), scheduled to meet in Seattle at the end of July. If I'm able to complete my manuscript in time to take it along to the convention, it would be worth the price.

In the meantime, I'm going to join one of the writing meetup groups in the area. Writing groups can be helpful in a couple of ways. They motivate writers to keep writing.  They give them the chance to hone their editing skills. They allow them to network with others in the publishing industry. 

So even though it’s still rainy February, I’m already thinking ahead. If I have a game plan for the coming months. I'm less likely to be distracted from my writing when spring starts busting out. So here is my plan in a nutshell:

Step #1: Find a writing group.

Step #2: Sign up for a class that meets in March or April.

Step #3: Make up my mind whether to go to Santa Cruz in September, or to the writers’ convention at the end of July. I have until April to decide.

 Whichever option I choose, I'm more likely to stay on track with my writing goals.

Tom Naylor

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Alice Sutton

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