For the few who write fiction, allow me some tips that will improve your prose. If people have told you that your fiction stinks, follow these rules and write with good grammar. Even if your story is shit, your prose will be clean.
Vague words: Very, actually, just, really, quite, all speak loud but say little. I have written about these words before, but I'll repeat it again: use concrete descriptions. If I say The hall was very long, how is that different from saying The hall was long? Vague qualifiers attempt detail, but fail to add anything other than pulp, fattening fiction as greasy food fattens the body.
Proper quotations: "Hey, babe." The man said. If you append dialogue with he said, she said, or any variant thereof, it must be part of the same sentence; the dialogue must end with a comma, exclamation point, or question mark. In proper form: "Hey, babe," the man said or "What's up?" she said. Do not use a comma if you do not follow with a speaker attribution: "Hey, babe," the man drove alongside the girl.
Immediate dialogue: Keep dialogue real, curt, and honest. Avoid words such as so and now because they, like vague words, only fatten the useless meat of conversation. "So how are you?" becomes "How are you?" in cleaner writing.
Single punctuation: Because you are excited does not mean the reader is excited. "Really!?" If it's a question, use the question mark; if it's an exclamation, use the exclamation point; and if it's neither, use neither. You may confuse !? with the interrobang, which is a nonstandard punctuation and does not appear in most fonts.
Starting Action: Many writers, myself included, have the bad habit of not simply writing action, but starting it first: He nodded and started running away. Every action begins somewhere, thus this is redundant and less immediate than He nodded and ran away. If you use started or began to imply an action that someone could not fully commit to, let the action happen and note that it still sounds good. He started opening the door, but thought better of it vs He opened the door, but thought better of it. The second shows greater suspense, because a thought stopped the character from continuing the action. Decisive characters create better tension than indecisive characters.
And then: I killed a man, and then I went to bed. You'll notice a theme of wordiness in this article. And then implies a continuation of time, but the fact that the sentence progresses already implies that continuation. I killed a man, and I went to bed. Nobody will think that you are killing and going to bed at the same time. Readers are smarter than that.
Participles: Limit writing verbs in participle form. Was writing is the participle of to write. Using a participle verb removes the action from the immediate and distances it from the reader's perception of the novel's "present." Keep in mind that using a participle is not always wrong and sometimes is necessary. Phrases such as While I was writing, I saw a bird pose the greatest threat. This sentence distances the act of writing, as if it already happened before we arrive at it. I wrote and saw a bird places both parts in the story's present. I was writing and saw a bird could work to show that the writing is a continued action, while seeing the bird is a single moment. Also be wary of dangling participles: While writing, the bird passed my window.
He said: I have written on this multiple times before and will keep my opinions succinct. Use said as your main speaker attribute. I strictly hold to this rule, as I find other attributes (asked, replied, answered) redundant. Many writers enjoy asked as well as said, and that's perfectly fine. But never let me catch you writing "That's funny," he chuckled. Nobody can chuckle a sentence, or cough it, hiccough it, laugh it, scour it, snarl it. That's bad writing.