As a group of professional editors and ghostwriters based out of Phoenix, Arizona, the staff at Midnight Publishing has come across our fair share of writing “mistakes.” Though each author has their own voice, style, strengths, and invariably some weaknesses, we’ve compiled a list of the most common writing mistakes that our editors come across in order to highlight them before you send us your manuscript, to possibly save you some money on the project and to strengthen your writing!
The POV Writing Mistake to Avoid:
This first mistake is a huge issue that we come across, and should be considered (hopefully) before you begin a new manuscript since it could span the entire thing and call for significant revisions: Head-hopping and Omniscient POV.
Head-hopping: Head-hopping is essentially switching from one character’s point of view (POV) to another without a scene break, chapter break or other indication of said change. If a majority of the book is spent in one character’s POV but then you’ve suddenly inserted another character’s thoughts or feelings (things that the main character couldn’t know since we’re supposed to be in their POV), that is head-hopping in action.
This is not to be confused with Omniscient POV, a style of writing in which most or all of the characters mingle POVs throughout the entirety of the book. Omniscient POV is one of the most difficult things to do well in your fiction writing, and only a rare few authors accomplish it. The difference between head-hopping and Omniscient POV is: does the switch feel seamless? As a reader, do you notice the change of POV, or did it happen easily and without confusion?
Keep in mind as well that many agents and traditional publishers will discount a manuscript solely on the basis that it has Omniscient POV or includes head-hopping, especially if that person is a debut author. At the end of the day, you should always write the way your heart tells you to write—but mechanically, this is a method to avoid until you’re very comfortable with writing fiction.
Want some examples of great use of Omniscient POV? “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen and “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling are two books that have done it very well.
Here’s an Excerpt to Demonstrate a Successfully Written Omniscient POV:
“Pride and Prejudice”- Chapter 3
“Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her five daughters, could ask on the subject was sufficient to draw from her husband any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley. They attacked him in various ways—with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises—but he eluded the skill of them all; and they were at last obliged to accept the secondhand intelligence of their neighbour Lady Lucas. Her report was highly favourable. Sire William had been delighted with him. He was quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable, and to crown the whole, he meant to be at the next assembly with a large party. Nothing could be more delightful! (bolding added) To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love; and very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley’s heart were entertained.
‘If I can see but one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield,’ said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, ‘and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for.’
In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet’s visit, and sat about ten minutes with him in his library. He had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father.” [bolding added]
First bolded segment: in the beginning of Austen’s third chapter, we are watching the story unfold from the group of characters’ POVs—the Bennet family—as well as Lady Lucas. The statement “nothing could be more delightful!” is an exclamation that encompasses all of their thoughts/opinions, but mainly the Bennet women. Thus, we can see as readers that we are not simply in one character’s head; we are in many.
Second bolded segment: It is very apparent that there is a POV switch in the second bolded segment. We’ve gone from a narrative POV of the conversation between Mrs. Bennet and her husband to inside Mr. Bingley’s head (“He had entertained hopes…”). This is knowledge that only Mr. Bingley could know—Mr. or Mrs. Bennet haven’t a clue about his feelings—so as readers we can see that we’ve gone into Mr. Bingley’s POV.
Come back next time for Midnight Publishing’s continued tips on writing mistakes to avoid and how exactly to steer clear of them…and when your manuscript is ready for our professional editing help, contact us for a free sample edit of your first 1,000 words! As the top editing and ghostwriting company in Phoenix, Arizona, we can’t wait to hear from you!
Citation: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. T. Egerton, Whitehall. 1813.