12 Common Writing Mistakes Even Bestselling Authors Make (from BookBub)


This is an abbreviated version. Read the whole post here: http://tinyurl.com/yd8eczh9

1. Show, don’t tell

This might be the most commonly cited writing mistake among editors. Authors are naturally prone to telling rather than showing. This means that rather than letting the reader experience a story through action, dialogue, thoughts, and senses, the author summarizes or describes what has happened. They often do this by info-dumping prose or by stating a character’s emotions rather than showing how those emotions are conveyed.

2. Weak opening narrative

Ever dropped a book after reading the first few pages? That’s usually what happens when the author starts the story in the wrong place. It’s an easy mistake to make. While the author knows something exciting will happen soon enough, it’s not obvious to the reader. If they’re not immediately hooked, chances are they won’t stick around long enough to find out what “something exciting” is.

3. Over-describing the action

Over-describing is when the author provides unneeded details about the characters’ actions. This slows the pace, lessens tension, and interrupts the flow of the scene.

4. Unbelievable conflicts

In many fiction genres, conflicts shape the story. Whether they’re external or internal conflicts, it’s important to give those conflicts substance and believability.

5. Viewpoint

Determining the correct point of view for the narrative is a huge part of a story’s success. We know, for example, that most YA is written in the first-person point of view because younger readers identify with the immediacy of the first-person emotional experience. Romance is usually told through deep third-person omniscient, since an author needs the ability to move seamlessly from the hero to heroine’s perspective. POV determines who tells a story and how — which is why getting it right is critical to a book’s success. For more in-depth information, here is an excellent post on how to choose the right narrative viewpoint and narrator.

6. Assumption of knowledge

Authors often write many drafts of their novels. After several revisions, it can be easy to forget that the readers only know what information they’re provided on the page.

7. Misuse of punctuation

How to make a correct use of punctuation could certainly be the subject of a whole other blog post, so here we’ll just focus on the three punctuation misuses our editors note most often.

8. Misplaced and “dangling” modifiers

Most people know to watch out for participles, but any modifying phrase “dangled” at the front of a sentence by a comma can become ungrammatical if not worded properly.

9. Disruptive or incorrect dialogue tags

A lot of authors get too creative with their dialogue tags. Though “said” and “asked” lack originality, they have the advantage of being “invisible” to the reader. It’s better to stick to basic dialogue tags to prevent drawing the reader’s attention away from the actual dialogue.

10. Inconsistencies in names and spelling

While it’s typically the copy editor’s job to pick these up, authors should watch out for inconsistencies when revising.

11. Misuse of tense

Even for the most experienced authors, it can be difficult to maintain tense consistency throughout a manuscript. Whether past or present is a novel’s main narrative tense, stick to it even in flashbacks.

12. Homonym errors and commonly confused words

We all have a few words that we never seem to be able to write correctly. It’s good to be aware of them, since a simple find and replace will often do the trick. Oxford Dictionaries has compiled a list of likely candidates here.