The answers came in the form of 4250 comments and counting. I read through (
a lot many some) of them. Here’s a summary:
1. Read your work out loud. You will find mistakes your eyes won’t catch. Also, you can listen for flow, syntax and authenticity.
2. Have someone else read your work out loud to you.
3. Eliminate “very” from your vocabulary; it’s a lazy way to say something, and it means nothing.
4. “When writing dialogue, avoid using an adverb after he/she said,” he said wisely. You shouldn’t need the adverb to convey the meaning or intent of the dialogue.
5. Vary the length of your sentences to create rhythm and flow.
6. “Show don’t tell.” Or, specifically from Chuck Palaniuk: Eliminate all “thought’ verbs. These include: Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.
7. Character development! Don’t make your characters perfect. Try to make it so they grow in some way, progress.
8. Stop procrastinating and get started!
9. If you don’t know the meaning of a word, don’t just guess and use it anyway. Look it up.
10. George Orwell’s Writing Rules:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
12. Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Even the Chicago Manual of Style points out that technically correct writing can be, and not infrequently, harder to read than technically incorrect writing that “feels” right.
13. Writing is rewriting. Write a draft, then go back and change everything.
14. Eliminate the word “that” from (90% of) your vocabulary.
16. Make an outline.
17. Don’t be afraid.
18. Avoid nominalizations.
19. Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway