Yes, you’re doing it wrong. Mistakes are common enough in writing, from spelling errors to bad grammar, but here are some mistakes that aren’t so obvious. I will help you identify these mistakes as well as provide you with the solution. Here are 5 mistakes you have made in your writing and how to solve them!
1. Reader, Not Mind Reader!
Oh boy, now this a big mistake to start off with. To all fiction writers out there wondering why the reader loses interest or is left asking too many questions, here is why.
You, as a writer, know how your story will go. You have had it planned, all the twists and turns, but you fail to convey it to your reader. The reader doesn’t understand this broken train of thought because you are either giving too much information or too little.
To identify these errors you must read the story from the perspective of the reader. Establish what they know and don’t know. If your next chapter requires the reader to understand something and you haven’t made that point clear to the reader, it's going to be a confusing chapter for your reader.
However, if you plan on writing a chapter with a twist or about to throw some shocking scene at the reader you need to catch them unaware. Ambush them with your brilliance in this case, but if you have left too many hints towards this scene, it will be expected and boring.
The best metaphor I can use for this process is imagine your story as a flight of stairs. If one step is too short or too tall, you will find your reader stumbling along the story.
2. Stop Overusing ‘Said’
It’s time to take off the training wheels, my fellow writers. Something that took me too long to learn, but maybe this information helps you sooner in life. Said is dead, it’s time to crack open that splendid book of vocabulary locked away in your mind and evoke more emotion in your writing.
Too long have I written ‘he said, she said’, so upon reaching this revelation I learned that there are plenty of words at my fingertips that convey the statement, question or exclamation a lot better than ‘said’.
Yelled, screamed, cried, pleaded, choked, sobbed, announced, sang, murmured, whispered, muttered, inquired, spat, blurted, blustered, chirped just to name a few words at your disposal.
Use these alternatives, convey emotion in your scene and better shape your characters. If your characters seem too similar, give them a way of speaking and challenge yourself to use anything, but ‘said’, to describe their dialog.
3. You're Stumbling Instead of Pacing
Your novel seems to have a great story, it’s unique and the characters are enjoyable. However, there is something that is ruining the effect that the story has. All your chapters are there, but I’m afraid the pacing is terrible.
Your characters jump from happy to sad too fast. Your calmer scenes are boring because there isn’t enough story or character development. Your action scenes are mindless because your sequences are clashing and seem to go on forever.
The solution to all these problems is in pacing them correctly. Build every main character as much as the other, have your characters grow as the story shifts. Take your time with your action scenes, but don’t make it last a whole chapter.
Pacing is everything, it establishes flow and emphasises emotion. If you’re plot isn’t developing every chapter, or second chapter at the very least, your plot will be left behind. If your characters aren’t learning or changing every second chapter, they will be left behind as well.
Keep this in mind and pacing will establish itself in your novel.
4. Boring Characters
You enjoy writing this particular character, but not this one. You can’t seem to pin down exactly why this one character is boring and this character is too necessary to cut out your novel. So what do you do? How can you make this character interesting enough to write, as well as to read?
Well, first of all, what makes them stand out? If your character doesn’t have a defining personality trait they will continue to be boring. The character you enjoy writing is cowardly, or brave, or intelligent, or funny, but this one is just blah. To add interest to them, give them a quirk. Make them speak with a stutter, make them mysterious, make them short-tempered.
If personality is meant to be bland and neutral, give them a physical quirk. Have them dress strangely, walk in a curious manner. A funny haircut, beady eyes, scars, bruises.
Finally, if they speak, act and look boring, then make fun of that in your writing. Have this character create some interesting interactions with the other characters. Some funny, some cold and some leaving the reader with questions about this boring character.
With this advice in mind your character will be fun to write and interesting for your reader as well.
5. Don’t Publish the First Draft
Now, I am about to give you some tough advice. The kind of advice you need to sit down to hear and have a warm cup of tea by your side to ponder it after you turn it down completely.
The first draft is always the ugly draft, never will a first draft be good enough to publish, let alone do well. All those masterpieces and classics out there have had first drafts that the writer found so awful that after writing the second draft, they burnt the first.
Now, with that in mind, I am advising all writers out there to have a go at re-writing your first draft. I’m not talking about editing, fixing mistakes or replacing some sentences with another. I mean opening a new document and writing the words ‘Chapter 1’ on your screen kind of rewrite.
By finishing your novel you now have crystal-clear understanding of how your story will go. You can use this first draft as a guide of course and perhaps some chapters are too good to re-write, but there are definitely plenty of chapters in every first draft that deserve a going over.
Now, that is some difficult advice to hear, but it is a mistake a lot of writers are making. It jeopardizes their story and it lessens their passion for writing. Both are awful results that I don’t want to see as I am sure you don’t either.
Keep this in mind before you think you’ve finished your novel, that is all.
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