There’s almost nothing more painful for my eyes than when I read an article that flip flops back and forth between past and present tense. If you want your story to be told as if it’s happening “right now” and want to put your reader in the moment with you, tell it in the present tense. Otherwise, stick with past tense! Read through your story once you’ve finished and make sure that all of your tenses correlate.
2. USE the spellcheck button — it’s not there to just look pretty!
I feel as though this is rather self-explanatory. But once you’re all done writing, click that cute little spellcheck button (if on Windows or type ⌘; on mac). Sure, my job is to edit submissions, and yes I can fix misspelled words, but misspelled words not only make you less credible as a writer to Brandon and I, but they stand out like eyesores to me.
It may seem obvious, but after you’ve gone through spellcheck’s suggestions, reread your work a few times. Spellcheck will not catch all of your mistakes, especially the grammatical ones. “They’re” may show up as a correctly spelled word, but you also might have accidentally used it incorrectly, like when it should have been spelled “their or there”. These are called homophones and are very trying on an editor’s patience, so make sure you’re using the correct “you’re and your”, “to, two, and too” etc.
Also, while reading through and examining your work, be sure to check your punctuation (or lack thereof, in some cases). If you have to use every breath of air in your lungs to read one single sentence of your writing, it might be smart to throw in a few commas or separate the large sentence into two or three separate ones. Contrarily, if you read a sentence and take a pause after every third word, maybe take a couple of commas out. Also keep in mind that repeatedly using the word “and” to link parts of your sentences together is okay to do, maybe twice, but if you find yourself using “and” three or more times in one sentence, it might be advisable to create multiple sentences.
4. Stay on subject — don’t let A.D.D. get the best of you
A reoccurring issue that I’ve come across when editing our submissions is that a number of writers stray in the direction of their content. They jump back and forth, and all over the place, rather than remaining focused for their poor, innocent reader. Some of our writers have included random bits of information that didn’t pertain to the actual the story at all. The moral is... DON’T DO THIS!
5. Think of an attention grabbing, but somewhat descriptive title—AFTER you’ve finished writing
Another mistake that a lot of writers make is in the creation of the title of their story - they develop the title well BEFORE they’ve even written the first sentence. It’s important to write freely, without the shackles of a subject. Don’t create your title until AFTER you’ve written the very last word. By doing so, you will be able to write freely and “matching” your title to the content won’t present itself as such a daunting task. For example: You can even just simply correlate your title with a certain word or phrase used in your story, which is memorable for your reader. NOTE: The title of your piece is the second most important part to grabbing a reader’s attention, second only to the photograph. Be sure to nail the title, so you are catching the attention of your prospective readers.