Mr. Smiley is making a list of what is needed in a story or essay or memoir piece--anything you write and want to submit for publication.
It's a given that you have to come up with a good story, whether it's fiction or a creative nonfiction piece. Let's say you were inspired and wrote a story that grabs the reader and holds on to them. At least, you think that's the kind of story you've written. You send it to what you think is the perfect market. It comes bouncing back faster than a tennis ball smashed by a pro. Why?
Maybe you concentrated so hard on the story part that you forgot some of the other important pieces. Take a look at the checklist below. Do you routinely pass over some of them? Hopefully not all of them. Some appear to be little things but there's a song about little things counting a lot. Same case when writing a good story.
- weak words--we fall back on old standbys too often. Why keep saying look when there are other words that mean the same but are stronger. A thesaurus helps when wanting to change some of these weaker words that pop up more than we'd like.
- poorly structured sentences--reversing phrases, or even two words, can make a sentence read better, become more clear to the reader.
- rhythm--this is something we consider a lot in poetry but it is helpful in prose to have a rhythm, or flow, to your sentences. Try to avoid too many short, jerky sentences.
- vocabulary--not everyone has a large and varied mastery of words. Increase your own vocabulary by looking up words unfamiliar to you when you read. Join one of those websites that send you a new word to learn every day.
- grammar--oh yeah, this one's a biggie. If you have a great story and write it with a plethora of poor grammar, your story is going nowhere. One way to improve your own grammar is to read voraciously and pay attention to the grammar successful writers use.
- repetition--this is a problem that many of us have--using the same word numerous times or twice in close succession. It's so easy to skip over this problem even when revising or editing our work. Let someone else read what you have written and they're likely to zone in on those repetitious words easily.
There will be some writers who think that, as long as the story itself is good, the things in my list above aren't all that important. There might be an occasional editor who likes the story itself enough to give help on the weaker parts but most editors will not, or cannot, take the time to help you rewrite the story. They might suggest that you do the rewriting and submit it again but, even that, is not a sure thing.
Pay attention to the little things. They do count.