Writing Tips: First Draft Rules

13 12 2012

Great tips! I tell # 2 to all of my clients.

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

1235996_pencil-pusherYesterday I posted six rules I write by. Here are some more tips of the trade I’ve discovered work for me, when I hold myself to them. Consider them my personal writing commandments.

  1. Don’t worry about the particular phrasing in a first draft. That’s what editing is for, so don’t get stuck wondering and wondering and wording and rewording a piece of dialogue. If you have some amount of words down that get the point across, and you know how the scene needs to progress, then keep writing. You can fix it later. Writing time is not editing time.
  2. Adverbs are the enemy, so try to avoid them if you can in your draft. My loyal followers know that one of my favorite quotes ever is Stephen King’s “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” They are often overused and make for weak, jilted writing. That said…

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Novel Synopsis Made Easy

29 11 2012

Anyone beginning a novel, or who has completed a novel needs a synopsis.

Writing a synopsis before you write your novel will help you with your plotting and the synopsis can be a guide for you while you write. It is easier to write a synopsis before you write your novel because you don’t get bogged down details. When the book is completed just go back and revise your synopsis to make sure it reflects the novel you wrote, instead of the novel you intended to write. A synopsis is a handy tool to send to an agent as well.

A synopsis is:

A narrative summary of your book. That doesn’t mean that it is a grocery list of what happens.It should have emotional impact!

Written in present tense.This is a must, they aren’t interested in what you will be doing or what you will one day be doing. Write the letter in the here and now.

It’s written in third person.Think back to when you were writing essays in school and cut out all I’s and We’s.

Write in the style of your book. Remember the synopsis is a reflection of the best parts of your novel. Think of the synopsis as a first date. That means keep it brief; stay true to who you are; keep your negative self loathing locked up until they commit to loving you forever. 

A synopsis weaves together your main characters and their main conflicts in the narrative. This is where you show your craft by being interesting and brief. It took you a year to craft your novel; make sure your synopsis is equally thoughtful. One paragraph should flow logically to the next. If you are switching ideas, you need to make sure you build in a transition to connect your paragraphs.

Don’t include every character or every scene, plot point, or subplot in your synopsis. Give a nice gloss over of what your book is about and what drives your characters.No teasers. Remember, they can only judge your manuscript on what they are given- not what they are promised will be good.

Need someone to polish your synopsis? Charles Henry Editing does Synopsis editing and evaluations for $250.00. Email carolyn@charleshenryediting.com to get a professional editor to polish your synopsis today!

Copy Editing: The Nitty, Gritty, Checklist.

25 11 2012

Copy editing is more than just commas and semicolons. If you want to copy edit like a professional, go through the list below. Warning: this is not for the faint of heart. 🙂


  1. Sentences are clear, direct, and concise.
  2. Repetition is used effectively.
  3. Parallel structure is used effectively.


  1. Heads, lists, and sentences have parallel construction.
  2. Headings follow hierarchy guidelines.
  3. Voice and tone are consistent.


  • Text is easy to follow.
  • Information is complete and appropriately placed.
  • Transitions between parts, chapters, and sections are clear.
  • Transitions are effective on screen and on paper.
  • Cross-references are correct, worthwhile, and sufficient.


  • Sentences are complete.
  • Subjects and verbs, and pronouns and antecedents agree.
  • Verb tense is consistent.
  • Modifiers are used appropriately.
  • Word choice and sentence structure follow guidelines for localization.
  • Long sentences are divided for readability and localization.

Punctuation, Capitalization, and Spelling

  • Punctuation follows editorial and documentation set guidelines.
  • Capitalization is consistent and follows editorial and documentation set guidelines.
  • Spelling is consistent and follows editorial and documentation set guidelines.


  • Typeface conventions are followed in all book elements.
  • Product names are used correctly and consistently.
  • Trademarks are used correctly.
  • New terms are defined and appear in a glossary, if there is one.
  • Abbreviations and acronyms follow editorial and localization guidelines.
  • Numbers and symbols follow editorial and localization guidelines.
  • Cross-references are punctuated correctly and refer to the intended target.
  • Numbered lists and steps are used appropriately and are numbered correctly.
  • Figures and tables are referred to in preceding text.
  • Table continuations are noted correctly.
  • Notes, Cautions, and Warnings are used correctly.
  • Jump tables are used correctly.
  • Footnotes are used correctly.
  • Running footers and page numbers are correct.

Formatting and Layout

  • Book conforms to company publications standards.
  • Standard templates and formats are used.
  • Page breaks and line breaks are effective.


  • Graphics are consistent throughout the book.
  • Illustrations follow artwork and localization guidelines.
  • Figure callouts are capitalized correctly and are in the correct font.

Front Matter

  • Title page has correct title, part number, and revision number.
  • Credits page is current and trademarks (including third-party trademarks) are listed.
  • Table of contents includes correct heads and is formatted correctly.
  • Figures and tables are listed in the table of contents.
  • The preface uses the correct template and contains correct chapter numbers, titles, and descriptions.
  • The typographical conventions section within the preface is current.
  • Page numbers at the bottom of the pages are correct.

Back Matter

  • Appendixes are in the correct order.
  • Templates and formats are used correctly in appendixes and glossaries.
  • Bibliography is presented correctly.
  • Glossary terms are alphabetized, appropriate for audience, and defined clearly.
  • Index is complete, double-posted effectively, and formatted correctly.
  • Page numbers are correct.

Whew! If you want a professional copy editor to polish your book or article email Carolyn Elias at carolyn@charleshenryediting.com.

Non-Fiction Writing: A Content Editing Checklist

22 11 2012

Dear readers,

I have created a special content editing checklist for all my non fiction and academic writers.

  1. Are the explanations clear and unambiguous?

  2. Do the explanations lead readers to the appropriate conclusions?
  3. Are the facts, plot details, and character traits consistent throughout the text?
  4. Are the case studies and anecdotes appropriate for the context?
  5. Are images, lists, and side stories in the right places?
  6. Does the information flow cleanly from one idea to the next?
  7. Do page number or section references match?
  8. Are there any gaps in the information or explanation provided?
  9. Have there been any new developments that should be added to the context?
  10. What could be added to the story to make it even better?

Fiction: A Content Editing Checklist

21 11 2012

Fiction writers! Here is a special content editing checklist I have developed over the years just for you.

  1. Check, double check, and triple check for POV errors.

  2. Are their any weak, underdeveloped characters? Can they be bolstered?

  3. Do you have too many characters/characters that are too similar?

  4. Does every character have a unique voice or do they all sound the same?

  5. Is your piece long enough? Is your work too long?

  6. a Is the plot believable  (does it have internal validity)?

  7. Are the emotional stakes believable?

  8. Do the characters behave believably to the emotional stakes?

  9. Do the description/narration/setting/mood/atmosphere enhance the work?

  10. Is your protagonist established as a sympathetic character early enough in the story?

  11. Is the antagonist that is too weak or too evil to be believable?

  12. Is there enough rising tension in the story?

  13. Is there sufficient tension on every page?

  14. Is the ending logical even if it is not emotionally satisfying for every reader?

How to Content Edit Like a Pro: Overall Content Checklist

19 11 2012

So, you finally finished writing an amazing novel or academic paper and, after basking in the glory of your finished work,  now what? Editing. Editing polishes a good idea into a great product. It irons out all the little devilish details and can be overwhelming. I am frequently asked by clients how to begin editing. With so many little things to fix it is hard to figure out what things should be fixed first.

I always do content (substantive) editing first. In my opinion you can’t fix how to say an idea until the ideas make sense.

Content Editing Checklist: Overall Content

  1. Does the work clearly focus on one topic?
  2. Does the introduction grab the interest your intended reader and offer a clear purpose for reading?

  3. Throughout the work is there a clear, logical point that is supported in each paragraph

  4. Are the facts accurate?

  5. Does the work follow a logical plan from beginning to end?

  6. Does the body of the work present well-ordered paragraphs of main ideas with relevant, supporting details

  7. Does the conclusion leave readers feeling satisfied, feeling a sense of conclusion now that they have reached the end and know what to do with the information?

  8. Is the necessary background information given?

  9. Does the work moves smoothly from one idea to the next?

  10. Do the transitions make sense and ameliorate the flow of the work?

These are the ten most basic things to go through when beginning content editing. Tomorrow I will teach you how to line by line content edit like a professional.

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