Updated: Nov 13, 2019
There are rules to better writing but not all rules are rigid. The 'rules' that follow relate to avoiding passive use of the language where possible along with several other objectives.
1. Exclamation points are sometimes useful, but should be under-used rather than over-used. It can be better to look for a strong verb or exclamation or to show a strong reaction by the relevant character. Try to avoid them.
2. -ing words will weaken the writing. If she was singing; she sang - or she joined in with the group as they sang the club song. If she was walking; she walked - or she took off at a fast pace along the track. Look to use action rather than lazy words or weak description.
3. Words ending with -ly can be weak. She sang loudly - or - she raised her voice and others were encouraged to join her.
4. Was and were - are telling verbs, relating to something that happened and weaken the moment. Example: Archie was mad - or - Archie stamped his foot and threw his glass to the ground. (Show, don't tell)
5. Try to avoid words like very and just. If: She was very cold and just wanted to get inside - or - Jan said: 'I feel ice in my spine', and rushed to the heated cabin. (Again: Show, don't tell.)
6. It and that. Most its and that's can be deleted. In most cases these words do not contribute to story. It was driving him mad and that did not help his mood. Better would be: Jan's constant carping annoyed Jim and drove him mad.
7. Pronouns - he, she, they, them - these words are non-specific and use of the names of the characters in the story add clarity. On the other hand, the pronouns cannot be avoided completely - they allow brevity and constant repetition of names.
8. Avoid clichés - invent your own.
9. Misplaced antecedents can slip in to the writing. Example: When Carol complimented Jan she smiled. Question: Who smiled? Easy to fall for this - watch in the edit for them.
10. Point of View. Be aware of whose POV is relevant in the scene and watch for switching in a careless moment. Example: Jim thought Jan looked beautiful in her new outfit. He moved closer and she wondered if he was going to kiss her. (We are in two heads here.)
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