Seven Simple Critiques to Make Your Story More Readable

I learned of a big mistake during my writing classes I was unaware of. How to make my story more readable. I didn’t even realize I was making this mistake. However, after correcting these mistakes, I realized my stories were so much more enjoyable.

Make Your Story More Readable

You might think your work is wonderful just the way it is. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. Or perhaps, you are looking for some tips because you read your work and you read a successful author’s work, and you can’t figure out why yours feels different. Maybe you have been in contests, and even though you were sure you had critiqued your story to perfection, you still came up short. If you are a writer at all, you should take a look at these seven simple critiques that will make your story more readable. You might learn something you didn’t know.

Minimize Tags

Tags are those pesky little ‘he said’, ‘she exclaimed’, ‘said Bob’, etc. These get redundant and boring. If you are working on a small children’s story, these are much more expected, but once you hit chapter books and up, too many tags can make the story feel elementary. Try using descriptors and action words to let your audience know who is speaking. It flows much better and provides the reader a better visual scene. It makes the story more readable for the reader.

Use Normal Vocabulary

People often feel using overly-educated wording, it makes the story better, or makes them feel more qualified, or maybe some other reason. Point being, using over-the-top vocabulary that the general population would struggle with is a great way to lose readers. If your readers are having to look up words, they are becoming distracted from the story. They may also start feeling like they do not have the capacity to read the story. No one can enjoy a story that makes them bust out a dictionary and feel uneducated.

Format and Punctuate

Nothing kills the enjoyment of a read faster than poor formatting and poor punctuation. If you struggle with these things in your writing, find someone who can help point these out. Also, try to read what you’ve written out loud, following the punctuation you gave it. Does it sound right? Open a book and take notes on the formatting. When characters talk, it goes in its own line, and a new line starts for a different character speaking. There are apps, such as Grammarly, that do assist with these things. Many to most have free versions while also offering premium versions if you so choose. Check the Standard Manuscript Formatting guidelines. This can be located by searching just that in your favorite search engine.

Use All Six Senses…Yes, Six

Be sure to mix up the senses being used by the characters. So many of us (guilty!) fall into describing a scene we see in our mind and the visual is all that’s given. Readers are more drawn into a story when all the senses are being utilized. Just pause, close your eyes, and pretend you are there. What do you feel? Cold, hot? A breeze prickling the skin? How about that sixth sense? The internalized feelings. The sinking pit in the stomach, the increase in heart rate, the feeling of rushing adrenaline. What do you hear? What do you smell? Is there anything appropriate to taste?

Don’t Rush

I am guilty of this one as well, and it’s something I’ve seen often from others. I’m not sure about others, but mine comes from getting excited about my idea and wanting to have that final result as quick as I can get to it, only to realize it’s rushed and thus fails to build that necessary rapport between the characters and the readers. It’s helpful to have someone who can give honest advice for this one. Have them read what you’ve got and ask if it felt rushed. Ask how they feel towards the main or important characters. Do they feel indifferent? Is there any connection? Are they interested in knowing what happens to the character(s)? Take the time to build up your characters through their actions and establish that rapport.

Drop The ‘One And Done’ Motto

We are humans. We are not perfect. Things can always be improved. Read your story a minimum of three times before you claim it complete. I don’t mean, skim through and/or run the spell checker. Really read it, out loud if it helps, every word exactly as you put on that page. When you can read the entire piece without making a correction or deciding to revise, you can call it done. People do this in their own ways. I like to complete a chapter at a time and then proofread that chapter. This way, if I decide to change direction or I find a devastating discrepancy, it’s not an entire book to revise. I do read through it until I find no errors from start to finish once it’s complete. Some people just like waiting until they have it all and go through the entire thing at once.

No Offense

You cannot be your best as a writer if you are easily offended. Part of what helps writers learn and tweak their skills to produce something amazing is listening to others constructive criticism with an open mind and consideration. You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to change it. The constructive criticism I’ve received in the past not only benefited that specific work, but my writing skills increased. I take all criticisms as an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. Learn to enjoy them, because it will help make your story more readable.

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