Before you present your manuscript to a critique group or submit it to agents you should do a little self-editing. Here are some tips:
1) Edit as you go. I personally review the entire manuscript every time I finish writing 50 pages. This keeps the plot fresh in my mind, as well as how characters act in earlier chapters.
2) Give yourself a little distance. If you follow suggestion number 1, by the time you write the final word, you’ll know your story inside and out. Now forget everything you know. After you finish writing your manuscript, put it aside for a month or two. Write something else. Read a couple of books, then come back to it. You’ll be able to better judge what works and what doesn’t. You’ll be able to view more as an “outsider” would.
3) Read a hard copy. For some reason, I find typos on paper that have hidden from me on the computer screen.
4) Watch repetition, in word choice and sentence structure. A thesaurus is a wonderful thing. Also keep in mind how your sentences flow. I noticed I had a whole paragraph where I started each sentence with a pronoun. In my rewrite, I paid special care to fixing sentence monotony.
5) Take care to make sure your characters develop gradually. Character growth is important in a story, but it has to apparent as the story progresses. You don’t want a character to react suddenly to a situation, completely out of, well, character.
6) Check your plot and pacing. Do your plot points make sense? Does the story flow? Are there bits that don’t need to be there? Don’t be afraid to cut parts out.
7) Read dialogue aloud. This may seem wacky, but it works. Is the dialogue believable? Does it flow? Is it true to your characters?
Hope these tips are helpful. Feel free to share your own. Next: Components of a good critique group.