Writing Pitfalls Every Author Must Avoid

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A lot of early authors (myself included) make a great many mistakes when beginning the long, exciting, terrifying and notebook-riddled road to writing and publishing prose. This is normal; in fact, it’s good. What’s that age-old saying about “learning from your mistakes?” Yeah, that’s a clichéd statement for a reason.

Here at Midnight Publishing, we are not only writers—we are editors (contact us for a free sample edit!). Our job is to pinpoint these writing pitfalls and prevent them from slipping through the self-publishing cracks and out into the wide-open spaces of reader world (it’s a real, and at times critical place; just read some of your own book’s reviews on Good reads for a serious self-esteem recalculation).

Even better than relying on an editor to find the writing pitfalls discussed in this post is growing increasingly aware of them beforehand—less work in the latter, and growth as a writer in the former.

But how, you ask?

Hijack Stephen King’s brain and implant it into your own head.

*mic drop*

… What are you still doing here? I just told you what to do, it’s really not that difficult—okay fiiiiiine. If you don’t know crazy medical procedures like stealing brains and switching them out, then you can at least read and re-read his life-changing book, “On Writing.” (Read a post here about some of our favorite bits.)

A couple things he doesn’t mention are still issues that pop up in many manuscripts, even of those published authors who’ve sold millions, which are smoothed away in multiple drafts and multiple sets of eyes—but they’re still good to be wary of.

1. Contractions

Do you speak like an old English gentleman or lady, ignoring contractions at all costs? Saying “it is” and “she will” and “they are” in your daily speech? No? Neither do your readers. Combine words everywhere you can; less words, better flow.

2. Repeated Words

Certain authors love certain words (Stephenie Meyer, anyone? “Twilight” and company? This post on Vocabulary.com explores that further). It’s so incredibly easy to let repeat words slip through—I’ve found several in my writing, especially “smile/grin,” “looked/regarded,” etc.

Thesauruses are your friend. Use them. Love them. And follow King’s advice to read, read, read! It’s the best way to grow your vocabulary while also exploring other writing styles.

3. Telling Instead of Showing

Another popular phrase among the writer community—for good reason—is to “show and don’t tell us anything!” Basically, don’t explain things through a character’s inner dialogue or lengthy, dry descriptions. Have your characters interact with the world and each other to depict relationships, personalities, surroundings and to further the plot. Check out this post on She’s Novel for more tips on finding the balance between “showing” and “telling.”

4. Purple Prose

This is a huge one for novice writers. The reason my 50,000-word NaNoWriMo novel attempt of 2012 was so horrendous is because of this very issue: flowery, describing every-single-word-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life type writing. I literally spent paragraphs describing dresses the main character wore, the street she lived on, the spunky attitude of her love interest … I cringe even thinking about it. For examples of purple prose (even some from Twilight, to keep the theme going), check out this post on Lady Geek Girl. Stick to the action; everything else is meaningless.

5. Your OWN Brand of Mistake

Maybe you find yourself writing trope-like, flat characters. Maybe your dialogue is unrealistic. Maybe you don’t explain away plot holes in your world-building (or explain it too thoroughly). What’s important to know is this: the more you write, the more you learn. The more you read, the better you write. And the fact that you’re creating something for the world to read, enjoy and judge is a feat all its own.

Plus, we’re here for you along any step of your writing journey, whether that be outlining, ghostwriting, editing, marketing or consultation. Midnight Publishing is here to help; we’ve been trusted with over two million words and are always accepting more! Contact us to schedule an appointment today.