After spending the last few years writing, reading, and learning as much as I could about writing fiction and the “right” way to do things, I’ve also learned a lot about the wrong way. Not only through Theme of Absence, but also from my own work. In fact, most of what I discovered came from my own work.
So with that, I’d like to talk about the three most common mistakes I find in my fiction.
This is the absolute worst. Nothing irritates me more than finding a short story full of passive verbs instead of active ones, especially if it’s something I wrote. Now that I’ve become more aware of it, it doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but I’ll still find first drafts full of “he was sitting” and “she was standing.”
Another mistake I make far too often is one that isn’t so easy to overcome. That is the use of repetitious words or phrases. This pitfall really hits me if I’m writing a third-person story involving only one character. In one early draft of that type of story I started no less than five simultaneous paragraphs with “He verbed…”
Very ugly stuff, but at least in that case, it’s easy enough to find and fix.
The problem is it may not always be as glaring as that. You might just have to read the draft over enough times to pick out the repetitious phrases. Repetitious words are easier to find. Just use the word count function on your word processor. For phrases, though, it doesn’t hurt to have another set of eyes look over your story.
Too much telling
Finally, I have a terrible problem when it comes to breaking the old cliché “show, don’t tell.” Especially at the end of a story, I’ll catch myself telling the reader what’s happening (either through narration or through the voice of a character) instead of showing it through the writing. This is another one of those problems that might not be apparent unless you have another set of eyes (how many times have I used that phrase in this post, btw?) look over your story.
So those are the most common errors I make out of a list of hundreds.
The best way to improve at anything is to find your flaws and fix them. Hopefully pointing out these errors in my writing will help you fix the errors in yours.
What are your most common writing errors?