1. Leave it alone
Don't start editing immediately after finishing your first draft. Leave it a few weeks or even a few months. Approach it in much the same way as any reader would and correct accordingly.
2. Don't look at everything and think it's rubbish
Be brave. Don't be scared. It's normal for writers to hack away at their manuscript as a woodcutter would a tree, but that doesn't mean that it's all garbage. A writer has to learn to look for the green shoots of progress and to nurture them.
3. Always look for plot holes
Ask yourself: does this make sense? Would something else work better? What would the reader find more believable? Write like a winner not a beginner.
4. Make your character as realistic as possible
No 2-D characters please. Humans aren't like this and neither should fictional characters. Make sure that like the narrative they're entirely believable. Respect your reader.
5. Always look to cut.
Stephen King says that he looks to snip 2000 words from his manuscript. Me too. Cut off the flab to ensure a smoother, quicker read for the reader. Remember less is more.
6. Pay attention to your paragraphs
No winding, meandering rivers of prose please. Break them up to build pace, excitement and suspense. Look at which sentences could be broken off to stand on their own.
7. Avoid any unnecessary adverbs
Ideally, you should only use an adverb - particularly in dialogue - to inform the reader of something they would not have known otherwise e.g using the adverb "cheerfully" to describe someone's speech if they are normally dull and dour.
8. Avoid any unnecessary prose
Cut anything that doesn't add to the story or if it repeats what you've already said. Make each word count for something.
9. Make sure your dialogue is realistic
Make it as close to real life as possible. I die every time I see "Graham and I", instead of "me and Graham" when I know from their background that the character wouldn't speak so perfectly. Likewise a kid from the Bronx wouldn't converse like an Oxford don.
10. Keep editing
Don't stop until it's the best that you can make it. Don't get bored half way and then send it to the publisher regardless. If it takes ten read-throughs then that's what it takes. Typically for every day of writing you should be looking to spend one day of editing.
If you have any comment to make on the content of my blog please do not hesitate - I love a good discussion!
If you want to check out my novel - Jack Strong and the Red Giant - about a 12 year old boy's adventures on a spaceship check out the link below:
Jack Strong and the Red Giant