By K.M. Weiland
Source: Helping Writers Become Authors
Want to learn how to write right? Sometimes the best way to ace your writing is to first learn how to avoid doing things the wrong way. But wouldn’t you need a comprehensive list of the most common writing mistakes authors make—and tips on how to avoid them?
Yup. And here’s that list!
In my ongoing Most Common Writing Mistakes series, I identify the most common writing mistakes I see time and again. You’ll be able to avoid your fellow authors’ mishaps by learning how to spot problem areas in your structure, narrative, and character building. Even better, you’ll learn more than just how to avoid these mistakes—you’ll learn how to turn them on their heads to create strong writing techniques and powerful stories.
- How to avoid opening lines that bore readers or, worse, lie to them—and instead how to craft strong and compelling openers that hook your readers’ curiosity.
- How to keep readers from tripping over your characters’ thick dialect—and instead how to perfectly convey an accent or regional dialect in dialogue.
- How to avoid irrelevant or anticlimactic endings—by structuring your stories into cohesive wholes that build in tension and interest from beginning to end.
- How to eliminate choppy prose from your narrative—and instead write prose that flows effortlessly and pulls readers into the story.
- How to cut out flabby flashbacks—and instead create important character memories that fit seamlessly within your story.
- And that’s barely the start!
Even established authors sometimes find themselves tripping over these mistakes. Learn how to spot them, smash them—and write flawless stories that rise above the pack.
Mistake #1: Verbs That Tell Instead of Show
Learn how to keep your eyes open for places where you can effortlessly strengthen your scene by using verbs that show instead of tell.
Mistake #2: Are You Using “There” as a Crutch?
Whenever you see the word “there” used as a pronoun, you can be sure it’s being used as a crutch to hold up a weak and passive sentence.
Mistake #3: Poor Cause and Effect
If you can strengthen the narrative of your story by showing a logical progression of cause and effect, you’ll end up with leaner prose, more honest character reactions, and more involved readers.
Mistake #4: Vague Writing
As the creator of your story’s worlds and characters, you don’t have to wallow in the quagmire of vague details and fuzzy ideas. You can make statements of authority because, if you’re not the authority in your stories, who is?
Mistake #5: Incorrect Speaker Tags and Action Beats
Let’s a take a look at two means for indicating speakers and varying the rhythm of speech and narrative: the speaker tag and the action beat.
Mistake #6: Overpowering First-Person Narrator
The first-person narrator, more than any other type of narrator, is inclined to lapse into self-centered telling, in which he overpowers the story, at the expense of the other characters and even the plot itself.
Mistake #7: Opening Lines That Lie to Readers
Your opening line may be bristling with energy, danger, and barbed fishhooks with which to reel in your readers, but if the paragraph that follows pulls the old switcheroo, your reader is more likely to be irritated than impressed.
Mistake #8: 10 Stylistic Mistakes
Make sure you’re not letting any of these potentially tragic gaffes sabotage your readers’ trust in your competency.