I've been reading a lot of stories from our slush pile lately. I've also been reading entries for a certain unspecified writing contest. I'm pretty sick of some things...
- Please do not start with a dream.
- Please, please do not have your story start with the protagonist waking up.
- Please do not start with someone driving somewhere in a car.
- Please, please do not tell me about your protagonist's hair style--especially not multiple times in the first 5 pages. I don't care how messy it is. I don't care if it's long or in a pony-tail or whatever. Hair style does not elucidate character.
- Please, please, please do not tell what color hair your protagonist has--especially by running his/her fingers through it! No real person thinks about hair color while they run their fingers through it. Go ahead, try it: run your fingers through your hair. Did you think "my red hair" or "my brown hair" or "my blond hair"? I bet you didn't.
- Please do not have your protagonist look at him/herself in a mirror as a mechanism to describe him/her for the reader.
- Try not to use common idioms. "Avoid it like the plague" if possible. Because if not, your story may be "dead as a doornail" "at the end of the day." Creating unique idioms is actually a great way to create character and build your world.
(You probably shouldn't use "awesome.")