1. Have an original plot.
If every book was the same, we'd get bored with them pretty quick. Variety is what gives that special spice. Try to come up with a story that's entirely your own. If your work is based off another work, however loosely, make sure you use your own style. Don't just repeat what someone else has already written. Nobody likes a copycat, and you could face an unpleasant lawsuit that way.
2. Have a good title.
If you want people to read your book, you'll need a title that will catch their eye. Make it exciting, but keep it brief, too. Don't make your title so long that it wears the reader down. Try to stay within the limit of ten words. If you have trouble inventing a title, go through your story and decide what the main theme is, what it is in that story that really stands out.
3. Make your characters as believable as possible.
The characters are what make the story a story. You learn about them, sympathize with them, and hate them. They make you laugh and cry. They fill you with joy, sadness, fear, and disgust. A good character is one that you can relate to. They have strengths and weaknesses, like you do. They grow and develop; they actually learn something as the story progresses. Avoid Mary Sues and Gary Stuscharacters who are perfect, in essentially every aspect. They have everything going on for them; everything turns out in their favor. They have no need to change or grow throughout the story. That's unconvincing, and boring.
4. Have a catchy introduction.
"Once upon a time, there lived a pretty little girl, in a pretty white house
Oh, come on, you can do better than that, can't you? "Once upon a time" is the oldest intro in the book. Go for something a little more creative, something that really attracts the reader's attention. Give your audience a good reason for continuing with the story. You could start by expressing regret, anger, surprise, or joy for something that had happened, or someone can say something very interesting, like this: "You're not serious about this, are you, Jill?"
Now that's an excellent way to start off a book; it makes the audience wonder what's going on, and what will happen next.
5. Give your characters something to do.
A good plot is one of the most essential ingredients in story-telling. Your characters must do something; they must have a problem that's big enough to last throughout the story, and it must be something important and exciting. For example, two girls struggling to decide which dress they ought to wear for the upcoming school dance isn't much of a problem, and isn't very entertaining. However, two girls struggling to survive on a desert island after they've been shipwrecked is a very big problem, and therefore a great deal more thrilling. Whatever the dilemma is, whether life-threatening or not, make sure it's something that can be worked out; make sure the characters can actually do something about the situation.
6. Be careful of sentence length.
This is where an author is apt to make the biggest boo-boos. A sentence may be too long, too short, too wordy, or entirely unrelated to the story. Take especial care in this area; say what you must, but don't ramble. Don't drown your readers in an ocean of words. Stick to the point. Use "and" and "then" sparingly. Use nouns and pronouns wisely. Avoid using too many adjectives, such as: "He was the most vulgar, insolent, impudent, boorish, crude, disrespectful, distasteful, insufferable man I'd ever had the misfortune to meet." Only one or two adjectives should be enough, three at the most.
Don't say the same thing twice, such as: "She moved quietly and silently through the haunted house." "Quietly" and "silently" stand for the same word, and that's a mark against you.
Avoid one and two-word sentences as well, if you can help it. Try to maintain an equal balance of long and short phrases.
7. Use paragraphs properly.
You'd have a much more difficult time reading something if it was all bunched together. That's why we use paragraphs. Paragraphs, in short, mean organization. Many writers have no idea when and how to use paragraphs. With some exceptions, one paragraph should be at least three sentences long, and should not exceed seven lines.
You always make a new paragraph when something changes in your story. You make a new paragraph when the time, place, and action changes, or when the speaker changes. Two quotes by two different people must always be on separate lines, like this:
"Mom, can I go to the movies with Kelly? Please?" I offered my best puppy-dog look.
"Oh, all right" The words had barely left my mother's mouth, and I immediately scooted out the door before she could change her mind.
8. Use good spelling.
There is no question about it: if you wish to be a writer, you must know how to spell properly. It is much more difficult to understand misspelled words; in some cases, it's like trying to make sense of a foreign language. Avoid text talk (THAT'S GR8, C U L8R) at all costs. Maintain a healthy vocabulary, but don't sound like you've butchered a thesaurus. Don't use excessively long, complex words, just to sound smart. If you have difficulty with big words, use a dictionary, or a spell-checker on a computer.
9. Use good grammar.
You will save yourself and your readers the headache if you maintain proper grammar skills. Good grammar helps a story flow much more smoothly. Always capitalize the first letter in a name, and at the beginning of every sentence. Know where to put commas and semicolons. Always use quotation marks whenever someone is talking, and always end a sentence with a period, or some other appropriate mark. One common mistake of authors is:
"I can't believe this." He said with a jaded sigh.
In this case, you use a comma at the end, not a period. And you don't capitalize "he". This is the right way to do it:
"I can't believe this," he said with a jaded sigh.
Another common error is the misuse of words that sound the same: there, their, here, hear, affect, effect. These errors are extremely easy to miss, especially since a spell-checker can't pick them up. Remember the differences between these words, such as how "there" means a certain location, while "their" refers to a group.
When you're talking of more than one thing, be careful of how you use "s" and "es". Also, watch your apostrophes. Apostrophes are used to show possession; you place the apostrophe before the "s" to show singular possession, or, in other words, if it's the possession of one person. If it's plural possession, or more than one person, you place the apostrophe after the "s". For example:
I want to check out Mr. Archibald's new apricot trees.
Whoa, look at that boy's cool hat!
Do you want to try out for the girls' basketball team?
When dealing with the possessive form of names that end with an "s", it's not always required to add a second "s", though it is preferred. Like this:
I promised to tend to Mrs. Jones's flowers while she was away on vacation.
10. Have a satisfying ending.
Not every story ends with "happily ever after". In fact, try to avoid using that kind of ending, if you can help it. The ending is where the loose ends of the story should be tied up. It must provide answers to questions that were asked at the beginning. Your ending doesn't always have to be a particularly happy one, but it should end on a satisfactory note. For instance, the character can be at peace with the world, or two opposing characters can reach a compromise. Your ending may contain a note of hope, or some little piece of truth. You may even end on a surprising note; the "element of surprise" often wraps up a story very nicely.