Avoid these ten mistakes when writing.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could improve your writing without having to make all sorts of mistakes?
There are typical mistakes that creep up again and again in novel manuscripts. As you learn to avoid them, you bring your writing to a professional level. An essential requirement for finding a publisher and ultimately readers.
You Are Using The Wrong Tone Of Voice
A fundamental decision
Everything is allowed in literary writing. It’s about the effect and about writing a descriptive text.
Depending on which perspective and in which style you tell, informal language registers are also allowed: colloquial language, swear words, idiosyncratic descriptions.
Anything and everything that serves the purpose is acceptable!
Then how is it possible to use the wrong tone of voice while writing?
There is always someone in a story, telling that story. In a novel, this may be a character of the fictional world, an outside reporter or an omniscient narrator, such as an Elf. Even the dead are suitable for experienced authors as narrators.
Implicity is enough
There is no need to state who the narrator is explicitly and of course, there can be several narrators in one text. But no matter the design, one thing always holds true: every narrator has a peculiar voice.
The narrative voice includes a typical wording, a standard syntax, an ideal way of conveying information and much more. Just as every person uniquely tells stories, so does every literary narrator.
If your narrator is an Angel, the story will sound different than if it were a homeless petty criminal.
Codger or Romantic?
Be aware of who your narrator is. It may not be necessary, but it may be helpful to have a particular figure in mind.
When writing and reviewing, be sure that the tone and content match your narrator character. Find the sections where an expression falls out of the narrative flow.
If your narrator is a closed-minded introvert, then he will hardly find maudlin words for a love scene. However, if he is a hopeless romantic, then he can scarcely remain neutral in the description but will lose himself in his pink revelry. Right, right?
You Don’t Stick With The Perspective
When we describe a scene, it is always from an individual’s perspective.
Perspectives and narrators are not the same, even if the first look seems like this.
An omniscient narrator may, for example, insert different figures in perspective and these change at will.
The perspective is also the point of view, from which we perceive a specific situation.
It often happens that we violate the current perspective when writing. An example from my current manuscript:
George has just travelled to Canjun and is looking for a room.
If you describe from George’s perspective how he encounters an old woman, you can explain the old woman’s facial expressions.
George is watching her react to him. However, what you cannot describe from this perspective are George’s facial expressions.
You Are Injecting Background Information Incorrectly
What your reader needs to know and what not.
When you tell a story, you should always know more about your characters than you give.
This knowledge advantage allows you to build tension. You can interestingly introduce your characters and keep the big picture in view.
Nevertheless, it is important not to leave the reader in the dark. He needs a lot of background information to be able to familiarise himself and to understand the plot.
What can go wrong, mistakes can happen on both sides.
Too much information makes your story annoying and interrupts the narrative flow.
Insufficient information plunges the void into hopeless disorientation.
Over some pages, it may be interesting for the reader not to understand what’s going on.
Even digressions can increase the tension by a yearning for the resumption of history. But in either case, sooner or later, the reader lays down the book if you overdo it.
Identify similar problems of your text and find a balance between too much and too little background information. In the end, it will be just right.
You Describe Unimportant Details
Many tend to tell everything very accurately. That can have some effect if the details are relevant to the progress of the story or understanding of the characters. If not, it will destroy your novel.
If something exciting happens at location A and location B, but the way from A to B does not do anything, you don’t need to mention it. Unless it’s clear that something terrible is going to happen in B and you want to increase the tension, then the way will be to the point, tension.
Does the clothing style say something about the character? If not, let it go.
Are the statements in the dialogues relevant, do we learn something about the characters or their relationships? If not, please delete.
Write More Effective
Go through your text and identify unnecessary details. Give up everything that does not advance your story. Advancing does not mean that everything has to refer to the external action.
It’s also about the mood, inner depths, etc. That something just stands there, is not enough to leave it alone.So you increase the impact of your story massively.
You Are Causing Tempus Errors
Past tense and Present tense
One of the most common mistakes when writing narrative texts is the misuse of the times. There are plenty of opportunities to do that.
Narrative texts are usually written in the simple past, the preterite. But if you like, you can also tell in the present tense. That makes things even more lively.
Whatever you decide – the main thing is to stay with it. Nothing is more confusing and unpleasant for the reader than unmotivated tense changes.
It looks different if your story has multiple time levels. Also as an effect to increase the tension is now and then gladly changed to the present.
Perfect Tense and Past Perfect Tense
The perfect composite past is more critical in exceptional cases. It can occur in oral speech or even if a past action is strictly related to the present state.
If you are telling in the past and describing events that happened before other events in the past, use the perfect tense here.
However, to make the reading more enjoyable, it is entirely sufficient to narrate the first sentence of this preliminary plot in the past perfect tense. Then just switch back to the past tense.
You Are Constantly Inserting Flashbacks
Sense and Nonsense
Specific events at one time can lead to explaining past events. Inserted in the right place, they enrich your story.
However, if you keep making flashbacks, there’s a danger that storytelling will not get going.
It is essential that on the level of the past, an exciting action structure arises. The different time levels should enrich the plot. Especially with flashbacks, you should ask yourself every time, whether they make sense at the respective point or not.
You Write Quite General
Many narratives remain strangely abstract to the reader. He learns what happens, but the events do not affect him.
If this happens, it is often because the text remains very general. Instead of saying exactly what happens or what the characters are talking about, you move to a higher level.
Back to the example from my manuscript. I could write:
I try to talk to the old woman. However, this is difficult because of the language barrier. I still find out that her name is Maria.
It becomes clear what happens, but it really cannot be experienced. It’s much better,
Maria, she yells at me as if I’m deaf, and pats on her chest with her flat hand.
George, I reply, laying my hand on my chest.
Of course, as with all advice, it always depends on the context and the intention to act. Of course, a more accurate or more general style can be just the thing.
You Write Implausible
Everything’s Possible Or Not?
In a fictional text, everything is possible first of all. Dogs can fly, cats swim, and aeroplanes talk – if you want it.
How can it be that you decide to write plausible or implausible?
The plausibility of a story depends on its own rules. So you can construct a world that suits your taste.
Within the novel, it is by no means implausible that people can rise from the dead or walk on water. Anything is possible, but only if it fits into the reality of your fictional world.
So if your protagonist is is a divine part or has magical powers, such actions are plausible.
But if all of this isn’t happening in your novel, and hundreds of pages are unaware of such forces. Hence they don’t exist.
Then it seems implausible if your protagonist can suddenly walk on water, as soon as he faces an insurmountable monster and thereby manages to escape.
Most plausibility errors are not as blatant as in this example. But that makes them all the more insidious and no less annoying.
Whenever your character is in a way out of its role, out of the bits of events, you should evaluate the consequences.
It’s worth not forgetting to rescue your protagonists from the monster.
But beware: this does not mean that the action is predictable. In contrast, it is lovely when something surprising happens.
But in retrospect, this aspect of action should be understandable in the context of the fictive world and its special meaning.
You Are Copying Successful Patterns
A Nice Try
The idea seems so plausible; if we copy success stories, we will succeed with our books as well.
And yet there is a significant danger within. Attempting to reproduce successful patterns quickly usually does not lead to a bestseller, but only to a bad copy. Why is it like that?
A good novel requires a unique view of the world. A unique way to tell. A voice or mood that does not exist.
If you orient yourself too much to existing success stories, you’re getting the chance to develop your literary voice. By striving for success, you prevent it.
Read the novels that impress you. Find out about the tips and working methods of successful authors. However, always use this to develop your narrative and spelling instead of copying others!
You Think It’s Ready After Only One Round
Maybe you have already started several novels, and now you have finally made it and brought one to an end. Undoubtedly that was a long way from the first idea to the end. After many months or years of intense work, the damn thing is finally complete.
The most common mistake of many aspiring authors is to underestimate the power of revision.
After the effort to track and finish a project for a long time, fatigue sets in.
It’s a redeeming feeling to have finished something.
Quite understandable, you have no desire after a long time to start all over again.
And yet, in the multiple revision is so much power that you must use them.
Depending on how mature the first version of your novel is, there should follow a second. Maybe a third and fourth is appropriate.
Some distance to your text and a new revision can improve your novel at all levels many times over.
What Did You Learn From All This?
To these ten mistakes, I could add many more.
It’s not just about listing possible sources of mistakes and alternatives. It is also that the reader can form his own opinion and sharpen his senses for what makes successful texts.
Now, are you ready to learn?
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