1. Your characters grouse, whisper, bellow, and ejaculate their dialogue. Said. That’s all you need and most of the time, you shouldn’t even need that. Dialogue attributions are just markers to help orient the reader—2we tend to glance over them anyway so cut them where you can. But stick to said, or ask, as proper (the character is asking a question).
2. You use italics for emphasis. I battle so many writers on this one. Without italics, how will my reader know this is a thought?4 How will they know that the character stressed that word? Because you write it so they know. With practice you’ll learn to put important words in important places, so you don’t need fancy typography to shore up the copy. For now, cut the italics and trust your reader. They’ll get it.
3. You switch POV. It’s fine to get inside a character’s head, but bouncing around from person to person within a scene is awfully confusing for the reader. Stay with one character instead, and if you must change—save it for a scene break or other clear delineation.
4. You’ve never seen a modifier you don’t love. Adjectives and adverbs are the death of good writing.8 Pick strong, active verbs instead and cut the modifier. Try this: do a search for “ly” in your manuscript and you’ll get a sense of how many times an adverb has crept into your writing. Do another search for “very.” This is an easy fix, though. Catch ’em. Kill ’em.
5. You’re showing off. Complex writing does not equal complex thought. Using big,...