The Three R's
Never, ever send off your first draft of a story. Or even your second. This is what separates the professionals from the amateurs. A professional author always remembers the three R’s:
Put your manuscript away for at least a week, longer if you can. Then take it out again and re-read it. The chances are that you will spot a lot of things wrongs. Some awkward phrases perhaps, a piece of information repeated unnecessarily, a character that changes name half way through the story.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is the title appealing enough? The first thing a title must do is make the reader want to read the book. The next thing it need to do is tell them what the book is about so it's worth taking time over your title to make sure you've got it right.
2. Have you got a story plot? This might seem an obvious one but you'd be surprised how many people write a story that hasn't got an actual plot in it, they write a string of events with no cause or effect, conflict or resolution. To quote E.M.Forster famous distinction between story and plot The King died and then the Queen died. That's a story. The King died then the Queen died of grief. That's a plot.
3. Does the beginning grab the reader? - Remember that a reader will often glance at the cover, the blurb and the first page to make a decision whether to buy/read a book so make sure something happens on your first page. This is not the place for paragraphs of narration or back-story.
4. Are there any dull bits? A lot of writers concentrate on a good beginning and ending but forget about the middle. Make sure you keep up the pace.
5. Is the story told from the correct point of view? If you're struggling with your story try writing it in a different viewpoint, first person instead of third person perhaps. Or try writing from another character's point of view - you might be telling the wrong character's story.
6. Are the characters adequately described? You don't need to give pages of description but most readers like to know what the main characters look like and a bit about their personalities. Try to use the 'show not tell' technique of action and dialogue for this rather than just stating the character traits.
7. Have you changed any of the character’s names halfway through the book? This is an easy one to do if your character has an unusual name or you have several characters in your story. Fill in a character profile from for each major character and refer to it when you're revising so you can make sure you've been consistent.
8. Has the conflict been resolved satisfactory? Your story doesn't have to end with 'happy ever after' but the reader needs to feel that the ending is credible and be satisfied with how the story has panned out.
9. Have you checked all the references and got your facts right? It you're setting your story in place or country that exists, using any scientific or historical facts, for example, make sure you do your research. If you use the internet to check your facts, then use at least three separate websites as not all sites are reliable.
10. Are there any obvious spelling or grammar mistakes? Check, check and check. An editor won't expect you to be an expert on grammar, of course, but nothing shouts unprofessional more than sloppy errors and punctuation.
If you're writing a children's story you might find my book Get Writing:Children's Fiction helpful.