Although good writing can be in the eye of the reader, there are a few common mistakes that writers make. Removing these errors can make for significantly better copy, taking your writing abilities to the next level.
Avid readers might give a book more of a chance to impress them, but for most readers, the first couple paragraphs give them a clue as to whether they are in for a good read, or just wasting their time. Don’t start your first couple paragraphs with boring descriptions about the surroundings or the characters – you have tons of time throughout the rest of the book for character development. Give the reader a hint of mystery, or some enticing details that make them want to keep going.
Don’t assume that the reader has pulled information based on something else you have written. If you want them to know, tell them. This can be extremely difficult for writers, especially because they are so close to the content that when they read it themselves, it makes sense. This is where an excellent editor comes in – they will ensure that you aren’t leaving any gaps in your story, as they can look at it from more of a distance and with fresh eyes.
A story relies on several things, such as where is this happening? Who is this happening? And when is it happening. Now, you can choose to write a story in multiple different tenses. You may set the scene in current day, but have the character relive a past memory. This is all fine, but keep an eye out for instances where you have confused the tense for the past when you’re actually speaking about the present, or vice versa. It’s easy for this to happen because you get so into your story and into your head that you don’t even realize you’re doing it.
Show, don’t tell
One of the most common things that writers do is to tell the reader what is happening, rather than showing them. Remember, the reader is invested in your characters and their actions. So don’t go into a lengthy description of how they were feeling or why they did what they did, show them!
Now, there are a lot of rules for grammar in English, but it’s really important to study up, even on the ones that you don’t think are as important. Your readers all have their own little grammatical pet peeves, and your more avid readers will have hawk eyes that catch every mistake. If you hit one of these nerves, you are essentially yanking the reader out of the story with a big bright light that says “GRAMMATICAL ERROR ALERT!” You obviously don’t want that. Try to avoid as many errors as possible, as even the best editor won’t always catch everyone. Do yourself a service by working to avoid them in the first place.
It’s a great thing to switch up your word usage and get creative, especially when it comes to speaker tags and adjectives. That said, there’s nothing worse than using a fancy word that just doesn’t quite fit, or that you haven’t used exactly right. When in doubt, simple language is king.
Got a writing tip?
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