No one is perfect. Whether you’ve been writing for years, or are just dipping your toes into the writing field, mistakes are bound to happen. However, I’ve found that with anything, I would rather a person tell me not only what to do, but also what not to do. Preferably, before I’ve spent the year writing a 100,000 word novel and am on my fifth round of edits.
Quick disclaimer: DO NOT get discouraged if you read the following list and realize you’re making one or more of the following mistakes. I constantly need to remind myself not to fall into some of these same traps. The purpose of this post is to point the mistake out to you so you realize you’re making it, can correct it, and hopefully avoid making the same mistake again in the future.
1. Unnatural Dialogue/All Your Characters Sound the Same:
Dialogue is one of your best resources. It enhances your characters, heightens tension, and advances your plot. Too often, instead of getting straight to the point, we add unnecessary details and our dialogue no longer feels like two regular people having a normal conversation.
How to Avoid: Go to a public place and people watch. Listen to the conversations around you. Write down any interesting mannerisms, or expressions, you hear and think of ways you can use these to make the dialogue in your novel sound more natural to your readers.
2. Correct Use of Tense:
This is not only my biggest pet peeve, but also something I struggle with constantly. Interestingly, one of the most common places we make tense errors is in our dialogue. For example:
I grabbed his hand and held it close. “But, I love you,” I reply, wiping tears from my eyes.
Notice the mistake? That sentence should read:
I grabbed his hand and held it close. “But I love you,” I replied, as I wiped tears from my eyes.
How to Avoid: Know what kind of writer you are, and write in whichever tense you feel most comfortable with. Then, proofread your novel as many times as it takes, until you’re confident you’ve caught all the tense errors that you can. Finally, give it to a capable beta reader or hire an editor to catch any mistakes that you may have missed.
The purpose of a hook is to immediately capture your reader’s attention and draw them into your story. Too often, new readers either use a hook that is too weak to grab the reader, or use no hook at all. Thus, the reader fails to connect with the story.
How to Avoid: Drop your main character into a situation where they are immediately faced with conflict. There doesn’t have to be an explosion, but your hook should be tempting enough that it draws your reader so far into your story, that they won’t want to leave.
4. Telling Instead of Showing:
I can tell you my character’s house was on fire, but it takes a good writer to help you feel the heat coming from the blaze, smell the charred wood, and hear the crackle of the flames.
How to Avoid: Your goal should be to make your reader feel. You want your reader to not just read something, but experience something. Use the five senses to immerse your reader more fully into your story.
5. Everyone’s Happy/No Conflict:
Honestly, happy characters are boring. A novel must have conflict to get your reader to care about your characters, and keep turning the page to see what happens to them.
How to Avoid: Think about your own life. How often do you agree with the ones closest to you? How often does your life turn out exactly the way you want it to? Conflict doesn’t have to be big. A character may get a speeding ticket, wake up late, get into a fight with a partner, or fail to meet a deadline. Think of your favorite book. What conflicts, both big and small, did the main character face? How many did you come up with? Now look at your own work in progress. Is your main character’s life too easy? Add some conflict.
I hope the above tips can enhance your writing journey. If you have any other tips you would like to share, I’d love to hear them. Drop a comment down below or tweet me @authorjadepenn