This is a guest article by Erin Scott. If you are interested in submitting a guest article of your own, be sure to read the guest article guidelines.
It may sound strange to say, but a writer has dark clouds hovering overhead while looking at a blank sheet of paper or the blinking cursor in a blank Word document.
Although it may appear easy, fiction is formed only after the writer has shed tears and blood (hopefully metaphorical)—poring over pages and pages of research, constructing ideas and wrecking them to pieces because they’re not good enough.
This is a routine most writers are all too familiar with.
But despite all the research and revisions, there are still fiction writing mistakes that make a story trite and unappealing. If you are struggling with creating a unique, captivating story, perhaps this list of the top three common writing mistakes can serve as guideline for your next work of fiction.
Mistake #1: Predictable storylines
Let’s get rid of some predictable storylines (for example a whodunit mystery which reveals that the criminal is the one least likely to have committed the crime). Good fiction is savored, digested with a craving for more. Experiment on some genre crossover, come up with mind-bending subplots, think outside your comfort zone of ideas. This process may take up more than your usual time for conceptualization, but trust that you will be able to avoid one of the most eye-rolling fiction writing mistakes.
Mistake #2: Usual, expected conflicts
What’s worse than a story ending with a happy ending just because the writer thinks it’s expected that stories end with happy endings? That kind of ending is one that’s all fluff and rainbows and cotton candy—no exciting conflict, whatsoever. And even if there is, it’s something that’s been used by thousands of writers before. Unusual conflicts may be hard to find, but they’re out there. Broaden your imagination, and ask all the what-ifs.
Mistake #3: Stereotyped characters
How many stories have been discarded by readers because of the same “bookworm boy wearing glasses” or the same “tall, confident, adventurous” male protagonist? It doesn’t matter if you come up with a man who wants not to be famous and rich or a city-going resident who dreams of living in a poor village. Think out-of-the-box with your characters all you want; just be sure they make sense with the rest of your story.
Mistake #4: Write and edit at the same time
When it comes to fiction writing mistakes, this one may be difficult to shed. So repeat this mantra when you write your story (especially when you’re still on the early stages): write now, edit later.
Grammar is an important aspect of every story’s structure. But when you’re still in the process of forming ideas and expanding your storyline, grammar needs to take the back seat. There is always time to edit later—when your initial draft is done and you’re already on the revision stage. Then, you can knock yourself out editing your work. This leads us to the next common mistake in fiction writing.
Mistake #5: Bad grammar
It can be as simple and complicated as misplaced commas and dangling modifiers. They may seem harmless when spotted once or twice, but it’s a different story when they’re plaguing your entire piece. Most readers sneer at unflattering grammar. Your storyline may be brilliant, but it’s overshadowed by this blatant mistake that could’ve been prevented by getting an editor.
Mistake #6: Narration over storytelling
Storytelling is about bringing the reader inside the world you’ve created, and that includes letting them experience the sensations you want to convey in every scene. You can’t immerse them in your story when they’re reading it like they’re from the outside looking in. Work on constructing the sights, sounds, and vibe, so your scenes become alive enough for readers to want to jump in.
Mistake #7: Clichés
Writers want to be recognized not only for their craft, but for their originality as well. So it wouldn’t help your reputation if you resort to using clichés in your stories. Although clichéd expressions may seem unavoidable sometimes, try to find a way to come up with a less common substitute.
Mistake #8: Anachronisms
Some fiction writers tend to be so absorbed with their writing that they neglect research and include certain items or well-known names in a timeframe they don’t belong in. How do you avoid this blunder? Research. Research. Research. Accuracy in details helps your readers understand the worlds and realities in your writing, especially if your story is set in a realistic setting. Good news for fantasy writers, though, because they can mostly get away with this.
Mistake #9: Spoon-feeding readers
Your readers are capable of stitching scenarios, ideas, and dialogues together; you don’t have to explain the reason behind every action or dialogue. Such writing style may even annoy some readers, and they may end up putting down your book halfway through. Don’t explain too much. Let your readers figure out the story on their own.
About the author: Erin Scott is a book marketing specialist at LitFire Publishing, a self-publishing company that offers a solution to your self-publishing needs- from creation to distribution and marketing. You can find her on Twitter @erinscottlf and read the company’s blog by visiting blog.litfirepublishing.com.