Simple Tips to Polish Your Writing- How to Avoid Common Mistakes and Hone Your Skills.

in writing •  last year

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.

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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.

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  • Adding already understood words

When writing a sentence where someone stands up or sits down you don't have to say up or down.

Example…

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.

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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.

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Another example…

John pointed his finger at the teacher should be -

John pointed at his teacher.

Avoid explaining things that do not need to be explained.

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Example…

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.

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Wrong order.

"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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

For example-

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.

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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.

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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!

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As a french having learnt english at school, it always made sense to me that when the teacher said "sit down" it meant the action of moving from the standing position to the sitting position...
same for stand up
... Then, once you stand, well you stand ;-)
but the up or the down was indeed only for the movement (in my mind anyway...)
In french you don't say both, or it is called a pleonasm... But when you learn english the proper verbs teached are "stand up " and "sit down", now I wonder if we were correctly teached english ;-)
That said, I enjoyed the infos on your post @michelletsz, thanks for your writing it ^_^
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Very informative post. These are some annoying little landmines that we all run over occasionally. I've even seen some seasoned authors stumble on some of these before. It helps to be reminded of them from time to time.

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I appreciate the meaningful comment. It is more fun and interactive on steemit when people say more than just "good post!"

Another very good article. Pinning in the workshop.

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You are the best. :)

I love this series, even as an old-timer in the writing genre I admit I have done this on occasion! Resteemed!

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Thank you. I am going to keep up on the various topic posts. I thought it might be fun to write one about how to create sympathetic villains. I have one in a book where you feel bad for him even though he is a killer.

I'm so thankful that you are able to spend such precious time and share your wisdom with all of us at the Fiction Workshop. Thanks! Voted and resteemed.

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I appreciate your comment. Thank you. I plan to keep it up until I run out of things to say.

I like your post. Help upvote my post. Thankyou for sharing @michelletsz

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What is your post about?

upvoted, resteemed and loved ..thanks so much for this information. It is very useful since I am a newbie. great post!! I am also following for more teachings.. :)

Awesome info! I especially appreciate the POV section. That's something I personally struggle with and it's something that really bugs me when I see it in a published book lol. keeping this around for sure!

Hmmm. I tried including a tag here that would let me find this in the tips4fic section but it didn't show up there

Glad @rhondak is pinning!

glancing over this, it looks really well written, with lots of love ;) resteemed so I can read properly later ;)

Congratulations Human. This post has been chosen to feature in today's Muxxybot curation post....*....

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. I couldn't count just how many of those errors I have been making. Now that I know that they are errors, I can start working on avoiding them.