1. Read your first sentence and your first paragraph. Do they draw you in? Are they intriguing, original, but not confusing?
2. Read the piece aloud as if you’re reading it to someone who has never heard it before. Make it a performance and listen to every sentence. Anything you stumble over might need looking at again. Even better, really read it to someone who has never heard it before. Nerves will make you spot more things.
3. Check for clichés. It’s very easy for shorthand descriptions to slip in unnoticed.
4. Check for adverbs. A more specific verb will make your writing stronger. I’ll sometimes do a search on my document for ‘ly’ to check that all of the adverbs are earning their place in my writing. (Beware though, not all adverbs end in ly.)
5. Be careful when characters express themselves using ‘felt’, ‘thought’, ‘wondered’, ‘heard’, ‘saw’ etc. Rewrite the sentence without these words to make it stronger.
6. Pick random paragraphs from your text, and copy and paste them into a new document. Do they need any more editing when not in the main piece? If lots of them do, carry out this exercise for all of them.
7. Copy and paste your text into Wordle or any programme which will show you the most frequently used words. Then do a search on any over-used nouns, verbs and adjectives and either change them to something else (but don’t over use the new word) or make sure you’re happy with the repetition.
8. Check that the beginning of each paragraph doesn’t start with the same sentence construction.
9. Read the piece aloud without listening to the story. This time you’re looking for typos, and those little words you might have left out which our brains fill in.
10. Read your first sentence and your first paragraph, again.
You can read the first chapter of Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days here for further inspiration, and you can find out more about the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller 2016 competition here.