Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mistakes Writers Make

When I do manuscript coaching and editing for new and emerging writers, I get a front-row seat on common new-writer mistakes. Here are some of those common errors that can bog down what otherwise would be a perfectly good story.

Redundancy -- the repeating of words or phrases within the same paragraph or even page. Keeping your writing fresh and interesting means you need to abandon your own commonly used words. It can be challenging. Even when we speak we have certain expressions we use a lot. I was working on a book the other day in which the writer used the word "okay" no less than 10 times on a single page of copy. If you can't think of a new way to say something use a Thesaurus, which is my opinion is an irreplaceable tool when your mind is getting tired.

Useless details that bog down the pace of the story. What I try to teach writers is to use the setting as part of the storytelling process. For example, if you've got a character's hometown don't simply describe the place (that's boring). Put your characters in the place and have them react to the place. You can use setting to develop your characters. How does your protagonist feel about the setting? What does the setting tell you about the protagonist's socioeconomic standing? What does it tell you about their traits and characteristics?

Don't repeat in the dialog what you just showed the reader. This redundancy is another problem that bogs down story. Your reader already read what happened. Why are you repeating it in the dialog? The dialog should be a reflection of what happened, but filtered through the lens of the story and how it drives the story forward.

Action vs. stagnant chatting and retelling of what the reader just saw. Each "chapter" or scene needs to make a story progress. If you have two characters chatting in a coffee shop then make sure the conversation is designed to progress the story. Idle, go nowhere conversations will once more not make your book a page-turner. Each chapter, each interaction needs to have a point designed to develop the story or something important about that character that is also relevant to the story.

Would you like to know more about how to make your project a success? We offer editorial services designed to guide writers to produce their best possible work. Please contact us at or call 916-300-8012.

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