It is easy for anyone to make a mistake, even masters of a craft! For that reason, we are always learning how to better our work, how to avoid common errors and improve our writing. I have collected 7 mistakes that writers often make. By the end of this piece, these 7 will make a handy what-not-to-do checklist for any novel!
Let’s jump right in!
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1. Overusing ‘Said’
The word ‘said’ is both good and bad, much like the word ‘nice’.
It has been overused, and as such, most writers avoid the word like the plague. Of course, it shouldn’t always be that way. ‘Said’ is the ideal word to use if there aren’t any specific emotions to be displayed. Sometimes the neutral dialogue is ideal, in which case, it is better to use ‘said’ than any other example.
However, many novice writers make the mistake of using it too much. There are many fitting words to choose from to better convey the tone and emotion of the speaker. Not every dialogue will be an emotional outpour, but neither will they be neutral small-talk.
If anything, it is better to lean towards emotive words rather than ‘said’.
2. Poor Grammar and Spelling
It’s a boring mistake, a common mistake and every writer has fallen victim to it and will most likely continue to do so.
The goal of an efficient writer is to write as much as they can in a short space of time. A messy first draft finished in two months is better than a clean first draft finished in eight. It’s a good practice to sacrifice accuracy for productivity, as once the first draft is done, you aren’t done yet.
A second draft usually follows, then an editing process. It is during that editing process that all errors should be located and fixed. Poor grammar and spelling is the last thing you want your reader to notice. Yet, despite this express desire to avoid mistakes, authors still miss one or more of these mistakes in the editing process.
Read your work thoroughly, then read it again, then again, then years later to see if you notice anything else.
3. Inconsistent Pacing
Pacing is an aspect of writing that many writers struggle with.
It’s not always just a bad choice of pacing, but inconsistent pacing as well. While some scenes read smoothly for what they are, some scenes will read too fast or too slow. For example, the best fight scenes have a faster pace and usually end quickly. Yet, some writers will prolong a fight for the drama, but in doing so, remove the suspense.
As such, what they expected to be a gripping fight scene turned into a Shakespearian play with dialogue and poor fighting. That is only one example of poor pacing, but to repeat this mistake throughout your book will result in a broken story, one which could have easily been great had the pacing been consistent.
4. Boring Characters
By boring characters I mean two-dimensional characters.
The worst way to write a character is to have them perform a role to keep the story going, but not giving them depth or purpose in your story. These characters not only appear boring but also show a lack of planning on the writer’s part, as they only appear to progress the story.
Two-dimensional characters can even extend to the main characters, which is the worst-case scenario. The last thing you want is for your main characters to appear bland and uninteresting. Such writing will throw off any reader.
5. Publishing the First Draft
The first draft is never as good as the second, and the second is less than the third, and so on.
Rewrites are not always fun. Most writers shudder at the thought, but this in essence is what helps you turn your book from amateur material into professional literature. Not only do you remove unnecessary scenes, but you add the scenes that improve the story.
While it is not always necessary, it is recommended that you spend as much as possible working on your story after it is written, not just during. The results speak for themselves!
6. Not Writing for the Reader
Now, a writer who writes for the reader not only has a vision of what they want to write but what people want to read.
The mistake writers make is that they write for themselves, but in the worst way. A writer writes their story and believes all as well as they enjoy the read. Yet, the mistake is that they know what their story is about, they know where it is going and they know their characters better than anyone else. For that reason, if a reader who enjoys the same genre and theme picks up the writers book, they will often be confused.
The reader does not know what is going on in the writer’s mind. The writer continues their story, believing all the necessary information is there, but that is because they have all the answers. The best way to avoid this mistake is to ask someone you know to read the book.
For the best results, ask a friend who doesn’t particularly like the genre you are writing in. If that friend can follow your story with ease, then you have succeeded, but if they cannot, they can point our every mistake and help you correct them.
7. Drifting at the End
Stumbling at the last hurdle is a terrible feeling, worse if you don’t know that you stumbled.
Typically, beginner writers will slowly drift in their writing as they near the end of their novel. Thoughts of finishing concern them more with their writing. Some even lose interest in their story and are simply seeing it through to the end so they can start their next project. The result is a novel that loses all charm, all potential.
A mistake that can be easily rectified with renewed energy. Rethink the ending, go over the final points, build a better ending than the one you initially planned. Once done, slow things down, take your time writing the last few chapters. Deliver an ending that shines rather than fades. Make it a highlight in your novel, not just an ending.
You have worked so hard to get to that point in your novel, the last thing you want to do is throw the project in the trash. Worse still, you don’t want your readers pointing it out!
To this day I still make some of these mistakes. Worse still, there are times where I fail to correct them. I have read through my novels long after publishing to find a single typo, but that typo is enough to haunt me in the quiet moments.
I always end up correcting the mistake and going through the painful process of re-uploading the novel. At the same time, these are firm reminded that I will never stop making mistakes. It’s then up to me to decide if I will stop correcting them!
Keep this in mind and as always…
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!
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Thank you for reading!
Matthew Dewey, Writer
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