With almost 10 years of editing and ghostwriting services under our belt, Midnight Publishing’s staff has collaborated with hundreds of authors in all steps of their writing journeys. We’ve seen a lot of incredibly talented manuscripts come through. We’ve also provided in-depth constructive feedback on those books that needed a lot of work. It’s our passion to come alongside authors in all stages of writing and revisions as mentors and champions. We also seek to provide generalized feedback on the mistakes we commonly see to our readers here on our blog.
Our staff of professional editors feels strongly that an early or “aspiring” writer who has yet to receive much beta-reader feedback/critiques often falls into one of three camps that might result in a lackluster manuscript and months or years of revisions (no fun for anyone). The good news is that these mistakes can be avoided with proper preparation, self-awareness and basic knowledge of the craft. Keep reading to learn about the most common pitfalls new writers make. You can also contact us for a personalized consultation on how to make your work shine!
3 Big Pitfalls New Writers Fall Into
1. Too Much Setting – Not Enough Plot
This is common in a variety of genres, but we see it most often in science fiction, fantasy, dystopian, speculative, or other “genre” fiction. It is not seen as much in mystery or horror, though, which requires an extensive plot. Spinning a new world/dimension from thin air (complete with gadgets, clothing, geography, etc.) can become a slippery slope. From sharing a few necessary setting details to drive the plot forward to a several-page-long diatribe about the history of century-old tree stumps inhabited by gnomes before the first groups of humans began cutting them down to build apartment complexes (this is just a silly example).
What we are saying here is to always move the plot forward, and use setting as a way to populate the storyline with enriching sensory details along the way. Don’t fall so in love with your book’s setting that you forget a story is being told.
2. Too Much Plot – Not Enough Character Development.
A lot of new authors understand the importance of plot and action, as well as the various stages of a story arc (inciting incident, building tension, climactic event, denouement/resolution). However, they don’t spend enough time on crafting characters that readers care about and become invested in. The most exciting, action-packed, compelling plot in the world is going to fall short for every reader if they don’t care about the individuals who are taking part in that plot. So how do develop your characters enough to inspire your readers’ care for them? On we go.
3. Too Much Character Development – Not Enough Verbal Dialogue/Outward Interaction
Above we discussed that setting without plot is boring, while the plot without character development is meaningless. This last of the pitfalls new writers fall into is character development. It isn’t just a paragraph-long backstory of someone’s history followed by their physical characteristics (hair, eyes, and height). True character development is having your characters interact with their world and each other. Rather than telling us that someone is “shy” with a lengthy inner dialogue conversation, show us these nuances in the way they avoid eye contact with other characters or speak in one-word responses as much as possible.
“But what if they’re the only character in the book?” you might be saying, “and there’s no one for them to talk to?” Our staff immediately references the Tom Hanks-led movie Cast Away, about a man stranded on an island. What made that movie so meaningful was his relationship with an inanimate object. The volleyball, that he named Wilson and built a friendship with. The nuanced and heartfelt layers of those scenes gave Tom Hanks’s character so much more depth than pure solitude. It also allowed us to learn more about him while also being invested in the “supporting character” of Wilson.
You don’t need a massive cast of characters with tons of backstory to make us care about them. You just need to showcase their personalities and goals through their physical and verbal interactions with the setting and one another.
Lauren has been a professional writer and editor for more than 10 years. After graduating from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, she focused on magazine and book editing, and continues to write for publications on a range of topics, including travel, music, food and wind. Her obsessions include vinyl records, the ocean, scotch-tastings, a mean guitar solo, and the feeling of a physical book in her hands – ironic, since she has 400 on her bookshelves and is allergic to paper.