I think it’s fairly safe to say most writers know one of the best ways to hook readers is to keep up a riveting pace that makes it just about impossible to put down the book. And it really doesn’t matter whether your reader is a book buyer who just picked up your latest release from the store, or an editor you’re hoping will help put your book on the shelves.  One way to keep that storyline moving forward is to follow one of my journalism professor’s favorite mantras: Omit needless words.  To me, tight writing really separates the consummate pros from the rest of the pack.

Some key points to look out for when going over your next draft:

  • Avoid explanatory dialogue – characters shouldn’t explain things they would obviously know just for the sake of the reader.  Find another way to include the information.
  • Don’t have your character say he’s going to do something and then describe him doing it.  Pick one.
  • Be wary of a lot of gazing. It’s not very action-oriented. Most readers will follow the story without it.
  • Consider each adjective carefully. Take out any that mean the same thing.  “The arid, dry desert” is triply redundant. 
  • Simplify as much as possible.  I can’t tell you many times I’ve changed “She moved her head up and down in agreement” to “She nodded.”
  • Avoid adverbs after dialogue tags.  “I’m sorry,” he said contritely.  The words themselves should express how they’re conveyed.  I credit Stephen King’s On Writing for hammering this one home.
  • Avoid dialogue tags that repeat the words just said.  “I’m sorry,” he apologized. Or “I agree,” he concurred.  Really, “said” is just fine.
  • Only use self-reflective words such as “own,” as in “her own,” and “himself/herself/myself/etc.” if needed for clarity.  Most sentences can read just as well without them.
  • Be sparing with “literally.”  Something literal should also have a figurative counterpart.  And it means the character is actually doing what you’re describing.