A Writer's Cheatsheet

To typo is human, to correct is divine, and to write in a stylish manner is priceless.

It's what is standing between you and a journal acceptance.


Typos and grammatical errors. 

The primary reason that authors get passed over on journal submissions is due to errors.

Proof your work. 

Use a writing aid beyond your word-processing program's capabilities.


Spelling and grammar are the tip of the iceberg. 

Pass on the passive. 

A wee bit is ok, but too much is like downing a shot of molasses without a chaser. 

Writing in the passive voice has been equated to watching paint dry.

When used for enhancement, ok. But for the most part, bring on the action.

Roller and Tray
Image by Hudson Hintze

POV is the viewpoint.

Point Of View should be called Voice & Vision. 

A voice is a character's voice, multiple characters' voices, or an omniscient narrator's voice. 

Vison only goes as far as one's periphery will allow. 

A character can only see as far as a head turn. (Unless the person had children or dogs, in which case, there are eyes in the back of the head.)

Characters are real people.

Well, real people that you work as marionettes. 


Give them quirks and mannerisms that make them leap off the page and into the reader's living room.

Characters have to do something, crave something, and then work towards it.

Make your characters scrape their knees. Get up. Stub a toe. Hand them a bandage, or leave them staining the white page a deep shade of crimson. 

Yellow Marionette

Plot can kill a good story.

Characters have to be right for the plot. 

Plot has to be right for the story.

Whether your story is character or plot driven, ask yourself whether it is a mutually beneficial arrangement. If not, kill the character off and/or redesign the plot. 

Have a blueprint. Every good architect does.


Dialog that sounds like written language is stilted and pushes the reader away. 

Good dialog is like eavesdropping at the coffee shop. 

Dialog is the perfect place to reveal knowledge that might otherwise pass off as boring drivel.

Multicolor Coffees
Colorful Bouquet

& Prose

Use prose to glue the reader to the page and make them believe that they are living the scene along with the characters.


Prose is beautiful when it is well-written and adds to the story, scene, or moment.

Verbosity disguised as flowery language will cause a reader to slam the cover shut, leave the book on the coffee table, and find it a month later covered in dust. 

For a more detailed set of writing tips, see A Writer's Cheatsheet the Long Form