Guest Post: Leigh Michael


Leigh Michael is our fabulous Indie Author of the Month. She is the author of Sprite and Kin. You can find out more about Leigh Michael on her website.


I’d like to kick things off with a disclaimer. Providing writing advice can sometimes be a challenge. I can’t be sure that what works for me will work for someone else. Or even if what works for me won’t adapt as I progress as an author.

So for this moment in time, I’ve put together the following 10 tips for writers. Actually, you can look at it as my editing checklist. After I finish a first draft of a manuscript, this is the list I currently follow to help me quickly pinpoint areas for improvement. As seen below, it’s broken down into 3 stages.

Using the handy dandy search feature of Microsoft Word, I complete steps 1 through 5:


xxx. When writing my rough draft, I mark my manuscript with “xxx” whenever I hit a roadblock, I need to research something further (but for whatever reason, I couldn’t at the time), or I want to give a sentence a little more love. Now’s the time I go back and fill in all the missing holes.


Begun/started. Get rid of these words. A wise writer once told me, “It is never began {or begun} to {action} or started to {action}. It either happens or it doesn’t. There is no in between.”




Contractions. Combining words is great. It saves on word limits and keeps the writing nice and tight. I keep a list of common contractions so that I can easily identify and replace the instances that make sense.


As if/Seem. I picked this writing tip up from Seeking the Write Life (Thanks, Aimee!). Especially in first person POV, it’s important to avoid telling the reader what’s going on in another character’s head, or telling the reader how to interpret another character’s body language. As Aimee says, “If you’re using the names of feelings, or words like ‘as if’ or the various forms of ‘seem’, then you might be telling.”




Passive voice. More or less, this type of voice provides a second hand report of my story. I don’t want that. I search for the word “By” as a kickoff point for identifying uses of passive voice. Sometimes I’ll also search for “be, being, been” at this stage.


Then, as I’m editing line by line, I keep steps 6 through 9 in mind:


Passive voice (again). Searching for keywords gets the ball rolling. Now I concentrate on variations of “to be” + a past participle. Generally, this appears as “was/were” + a word ending in “ed.” Other common “to be” words: am, is, are, be, being, been.


Was. Chances are, I used this word a lot without realizing it. As I’m editing, I try to keep a keen eye for each instance. Typically, a sentence featuring “was” can be rewritten to showcase a stronger verb. Also some spots where I’ve written “was” + an “ing” word can be simplified to just an “ed” word.


Redundancy. I try to look paragraph by paragraph to ensure that I don’t start each sentence in the same manner. And also that I don’t use the same word repeatedly. is a fun resource that creates a word cloud to identify commonly used words.


Consistency. When I’m writing my rough draft, I maintain a list of correct spellings, capitalization, and punctuations for numbers, phrases, names, etc. It only takes a second to check each instance against this list as I’m going along.




Spellcheck. Yep, good ol’ spellcheck. This is generally my final step before another round of review.