If you want to be taken seriously as a novelist and not seen as a newbie or wannabe author, you'll need to avoid the most common mistakes.
Since 2004 I've participated in numerous writing workshops across the country. I've attended classes from best-selling authors, coveted agents, acquisition editors and other people in the publishing business. Their advice typically boils down to some basic mistakes that could send your proposal into the shred bin before they get past the first few pages.
Here are three kinds of mistakes to avoid.
- Adding already understood words
When writing a sentence where someone stands up or sits down you don't have to say up or down.
She stood up should be reduced to - She stood. You can only go one way when you stand, and that is up.
The same goes for sat.
She sat down next to her dad is better when changed to -
She sat next to her dad.
When you sit you are typically sitting down so it's implied. You don't need to have down in the sentence.
Some things you can only do with a part of your body. (Unless, of course, you have a freak situation that makes our body different than others.) Today we are talking about the average person.
An example would be…
Janie waved her hand (that's typically all you can wave) so it should be changed to Janie waved.
John pointed his finger at the teacher should be -
John pointed at his teacher.
Avoid explaining things that do not need to be explained.
Jim turned the key in the ignition to start his car and drove out of the parking lot.
It would be better written as...
Jim started the car and drove out of the parking lot.
- You must say things in the order they occurred. It should always be action – then reaction. Pay attention so you don't reverse them.
"Ow!" he yelled when his little sister poked him in the ribs.
Correct way to write it…
His little sister poked him. "Ow!" he yelled and rubbed his ribs.
- Don't describe things that go beyond the knowledge of your character.
Information must be revealed to the character at the same time as the reader. This is the only way to stay solidly in one point of view at a time.
Also, the characters can't know technical details about something they are unfamiliar with or don't understand.
For example, if your character is an average person with no practical knowledge of airplanes, you should have them refer to some complex gadget in the cockpit as a round thingy with a red line and a green line.
While in the character's head you can describe the object as they are looking at it. If the character thinks or describes something in very technical terms that only a pilot would understand, then you better make sure your character has that fund of knowledge and background.
Another issue is the reverse problem where the character states the obvious or describes themselves in their thoughts. I don’t know about you but I don't think about combing my blond hair. I just comb my hair.
Characters rarely think about what they look like. Unless they are looking in the mirror.
If a girl is in the ladies' room inspecting her windblown hair, she could be thinking about the tangled mess of red locks because she is staring at her reflection. Otherwise, people don't typically think of themselves in descriptive terms.
The description should come from the person who is looking at the character you are describing and only when you are in that observing character's head.
Mark watched his girlfriend enter the library. She clutched her books and tipped her blond head to the side. She always wore the same shy grin when she scanned the room looking for him.
He can describe what he sees when he is looking at her. You - the reader - are in his head. It would not be correct for her to think about the color of her hair when she is walking into a room. She would be thinking about how she needs to find her boyfriend to study for a test, not focused on her hair color.
These are just some basic examples, but they are often overlooked or misunderstood. If you want your manuscript picked up by an agent or editor instead of having it tossed into a trashcan, it needs to shine. Avoiding the common newbie errors is a great place to start.
More articles to come soon.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of newbie errors. There are plenty more simple tips for me to share. But I'll leave those for another day. I hope you find this helpful and if you agree, please Resteem my post. Thank you!