1. When editing your manuscript, Spelling and Grammar Checker1 and Find and Replace2 are your best friends. The first and most important (and surprisingly easy) step is to run Spell Check. Granted, it’s not a perfect piece of software and may want to make changes that you know are incorrect, but be forgiving because it can find typos and flag up problems with grammar as well. You can choose to change to what is suggested or keep your words as they were.
2. A homonym is a word that sounds the same as another but has a different meaning. Check your manuscript for the correct homonym. e.g. to, too, two; your, you’re; where, we’re, wear; there, their, they’re; it’s and its (a very common mistake: Often an apostrophe is used to show possession, but in the case of the pronoun *it* an apostrophe is not used. *Its* is a pronoun used to show possession or ownership and therefore referred to as a *possessive pronoun*.*It's* is a contraction of *it is* (or *it has* when *has* is not the primary verb3) The apostrophe takes the place of the letter *i* in is.) Use the Find2 function to make sure you’ve used the correct word.
3. Have you made your characters three-dimensional? Have you given your characters a personality, good qualities and flaws (to make them seem human), a unique voice? Try to give each protagonist some exclusive character or speech pattern. I’ve judged entries that were wonderfully constructed, but the heroine and hero sounded very much alike not only in their speech but in their internal thoughts. Make each character distinctive and let them use different expressions.
4. Have you varied the pace of the story? Long sentences tend to slow the pace. Short, sharp sentences pick up the pace. Make sure you vary the sentence structure, and limit the overuse of too many long sentences as this can slow down your story.
5. Do we see what the point of view character sees and feel what the point of view character feels? Do we laugh and cry right along with them? Do your central characters have motivations and emotions that develop through the story? And finally, have all the loose ends been tied up neatly with a bow so that when the reader reaches that final page, she smiles in contentment with the ending (in a romance), or at least doesn’t feel cheated by lack of information that leads to the murderer (e.g. a character who is brought into the story in the last few pages of a suspense thriller). Make sure the information is all there, though preferably trickled through the story as it develops rather than an information dump in the beginning.
1 In Word, “Spelling and Grammar Checker” is the ABCü button in the toolbar at the top or press *F7*.
2 In Word, to “Find” press *Control F* and for *Find and Replace* and *F5* or *Control H*. Or you can use the Edit tab in the top toolbar and scroll down.
3 Visit my blog on this topic: http://bit.ly/zWa3yL