I came across this article, 43 Words You Should Cut from Your Writing Immediately, on Twitter and found the author’s advice helpful. She hits on many of the mistakes I commonly fall prey to in my own writing. The following advice was particularly helpful for me because I struggle with dialogue.
Dialogue tags slow your pacing and distract readers from the conversation. You can keep these tags for the first couple sentences of dialogue, but once you established who says the first couple lines, readers can follow the conversation back-and-forth for themselves. Also opt for surrounding dialogue with action instead of dialogue tags. Action will let us see what the characters are doing besides talking, and offer character trait information as well. For example:
“I don’t know where I’m going,” said Derek.
“You have a map,” said Ramona. “Figure it out.”
“Haven’t you been here before?” asked Derek.
“It’s been twenty years,” said Ramona. “How am I supposed to remember?”
Derek frowned at the street sign overhead. “I don’t know where I’m going.”
“You have a map.” Ramona took a drag from her cigarette. “Figure it out.”
“Haven’t you been here before?”
“It’s been twenty years. How am I supposed to remember?”