What to do with your writing when it’s done? You have written something. You’re pleased with it. You want to share it with everyone you know and everyone you don’t. But… wait. Take these steps before you paste it on your blog or bundle it off to an agent.
Spell check. Run it through an automated checker. Then check by eye. Read each word, starting at the end and working backwards. Print it off if need be. It’s amazing how the eye misses errors on the screen that jump from a sheet of physical paper.
Grammar check. Have you written, the ruins is a big draw for tourists? That is ought to be an are. Get your dialogue properly punctuated. Grab a grammar and punctuation guide if you’re not confident of the rules.
Sense check – Non-fiction. What’s the point you’re trying to make? Is it clear from the outset? Can you make it clearer, more intense?
Sense check – Fiction. Do your characters’ decisions seem plausible and true to their personality? Does the story have a clear beginning and end? Does it deliver on its promise?
Style check. Read your piece out loud. Do your sentences flow? Are there a lot of fragment sentences (no verb)? Are your sentences very long and complicated – and should they be, for your intended audience? Have you expressed your piece in the clearest way?
There’s a lot more I could say on style, but I’ll just add this:
Weak word check. Check for weak additions like very, really, nearly, slightly. If a thing is “really not necessary,” you can say it’s “not necessary.” If a character in your story feels that something is “slightly suspicious,” then saying it’s suspicious is enough. Words like just, basically, essentially will also weaken your sentence. I’m not getting into the whole Adverbs Are Evil debate, but be aware of them.
Redundant word check. Check redundant words too. “He picked his phone up off of the table…” could be “he grabbed his phone.” Or “This is a one-off unique situation.” If it’s unique, then by definition it’s one-off. And so on.
Formatting check. If sharing on your blog, check the Preview option to make sure text looks how you want. If preparing to submit to an external publication, read their guidelines, and follow them.
Bravery check. Is this a piece you’re happy to claim, forever? I’m not trying to put you off, just to check in with yourself. We can all be keyboard warriors. But we must be prepared to stand by our words, or at least to explain them when questioned.
There are plenty more checks you could make before you share your work. These are my minimum. And I often work to that minimum, because of time, and because I’m wary of becoming so perfectionist about my writing that I never hit Publish.
These simple checks help me feel confident that whatever I share I can be proud of, knowing I did my best to make it as good as it could be.
Come back tomorrow for easy ways to share your writing.
Also published on Medium.