I didn’t elaborate on those mistakes at the time, but it got me thinking about some of the common writing mistakes we all make. So here is a list–not a top-ten list by any means–but a list of some of the common writing mistakes I see in my own fiction, my Theme of Absence submissions, and other short stories I’ve read in the last decade.
This is my biggest pet peeve, and when it shows up in genre fiction, it just seems amateurish. For each scene, pick your point of view character and stick with it.
2. Bad proofreading.
I’ll admit, I’m one of the worst when it comes to proofreading. I’ll type about a blog post, skim it over once and then click “Publish.” A day or two later, my wife or another reader will let me know that I wrote “a” instead of “at” or “I” instead of “It”.
3. Talking to the reader.
I know this can be accepted sometimes, but it just really bugs me when the narrator address the reader, especially in a third-person narrator. Don’t do it. Suspend disbelief. Don’t remind the reader that they’re reading a story.
4. Lying to the reader.
This one bothers me too. It’s one thing to hide some details to build up to a plot twist, but outright lying to the reader isn’t a plot twist. It’s poor writing.
5. Lack of research.
You can’t fake certain type of research. If you write science fiction, beware. Your readers will be able to tell if you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Likewise with religion. Don’t assume you know the teachings of Islam or Catholicism without actually researching the them.
6. Homonym mistakes.
I had to laugh (at myself) when the editor of my novel told me it looks like I rely too much on spell checker because I had so many homonym errors. She was right, so it’s something I have too look out for now on.
7. Killing the main character for no reason.
I see too many stories at Theme of Absence where the plot gets to a certain point and then the main character dies and the story ends. It’s almost like the author has put the character in such a deep hole he can’t figure out a way to rescue him, so the only other option is to kill him. I know that’s a mistake I used to make when I first started writing.
8. Trying too hard.
Don’t try to impress your readers with highly descriptive, flowery writing. You fail as soon as the writing starts calling attention to itself instead of the story.
9. Preaching too much.
I have no problem with a story that wants to convey some sort of moral or political message, but when the story stops being a story and just becomes a sermon, you fail.
10. Overuse of adjectives and adverbs.
Limit your adjectives to one per noun, at most. Don’t tell me about the long, red, crumpled, lacy, dirty, bloodstained dress. Pick the most important adjective and use that one. And never use an adverb. Ever.
So like I said, this isn’t a complete list, it’s not even a top ten list. It’s just what I could think of off the top of my head. I hope it can be of some use to you.
I’ll be back tomorrow with another Five Links Friday, and until then, feel free to leave a comment if you can think of any common writing errors I left out.