Make Your Story An Easy Read – Some simple suggestions

The storyline in anything you write—whether fiction or nonfiction—needs to be written in a language and style that enhances the reader’s experience. My own first drafts rival the work of a first grader—messy, scrawled notes in the margins, scratched-out words. Here are some simple suggestions to help you clean up that first draft:

—Choose every word carefully. Prefer strong verbs to weak nouns. Check for the correct conjugation and tense of verbs. Use a simpler word in place of one that’s extravagant, not instantly defined, and/or hard to pronounce.
—Always prefer brevity over verbosity or wordiness. Cut any adjectives and adverbs not needed, and eyeball as suspicious even those you’ve spared in your prose. And take care where you place every word, particularly active verbs. Placing them at the end of your sentence gives your prose a little punch, keeping that particular word fresh in the reader’s mind, and can also be an effective lead-in to your next sentence.

—Punctuation is important, too. If you start seeing too many commas, it may be time to shorten or completely rewrite that long-winded sentence. Go easy on the exclamation marks. Same thing for the em dash (not to be confused with the en dash or the hyphen)—as well as typing in caps for emphasis. Be creative AND sparing in your prose.

—The bottom line (clichés should be avoided as well) here is to not clog your reader’s mind with superfluous fluff. It will slow their pace at reading, delaying the story, and just outright annoy them, maybe even get the pages to your masterpiece shutdown. If a single word or punctuation mark can’t carry its full weight on the page, take out your editor’s knife and start carving. And no matter how much that extraneous part of your work screams at you to be left alive, don’t fall for it. Have no sympathy. Keep cutting without mercy–and snuff those little darlings.

—And finally, If you can say what you want to say in ten words or three, choose the three-word option. Remember, you want brevity, clarity, and in the end, an easy-to-read story for your reader. Your task as a writer is to create and communicate effectively, in short, to take the single, flat dimension of a page and turn it into a three-dimensional world that your reader wants to be held hostage to.

This post is contributed as Guest post by R.E. Vaughn