Are You Making These Mistakes in Your Fiction Writing?

John tells Jane about a wonderful story idea he has. Jane tells John he should write a book about it. John does. It is immediately picked up by a major publishing house, and within a month, it is on the NY Times Bestseller list. John quits his job and lives off his royalties. The End.

Every writer in the room is saying, "Yeah, right. It doesn't happen like that." For most writers, no, it doesn't. However, you may see better results if you rid your writing of some tragic mistakes.

Chapter one. Already bored. - It has been said that you have between 3-5 seconds to catch your reader's attention. That's not much time at all. With an opening sentence like, "It was a cold day in Maine," you're sure to lose the reader before they get to the really good stuff. So, start with the good stuff. Spend a lot of time crafting that first sentence until you're sure it will hook your reader. Once you have them hooked, keep them that way. Don't spend the first chapter trying to set up your plot and describe all your characters. You can do that along the way. Start in the middle of your story. Begin in the midst of the action. Then, once the reader is interested, you can fill in the missing details.

Getting from "Point A to Point B" - Your reader is hooked. Your story is going strong. You finished a scene. Now what? Obviously, you need to get to your next scene, but how? How can you jump from one scene to the next without an abrupt hiccup in the flow of the story? This is a tricky area for writers, and it does take practice to make transitions smooth. The best way is to avoid long, drawn-out transitions. Say what needs to be said in as few words as possible, then switch to the next scene as smoothly as you can. If all else fails, leave two or three blank lines between paragraphs to note the passing of time. This is effective, but if you use it too often, your writing will take on a choppy feel.

Weak characters - Readers want to relate to your characters, but it's difficult if your characters are not realistic. You know the type: the smart kid that never makes a mistake, the brave warrior who throws himself into the crocodile pit just to prove his bravery, the mom with five kids who lives in a perfect house with the perfect husband and the perfect car. Yuck! These types of characters are so fake that no one can possibly relate to them. Your readers want characters that they can believe in. Creating believable characters takes a lot of time and effort, but it is definitely worth it. Get to know your characters, and then show them to your readers.

Oops! That can't be right! - Many times, writers get so caught up in their story that they overlook certain points of logic. Bill was so excited to get his character on a plane that he had his flight arriving in Australia five hours after it left Peru. Not going to happen! Lisa was so entranced in her romantic reunion scene that she forgot her main character was allergic to the roses her lover was offering her. It's easy to be so wrapped up in the story that we lose sight of checking all our facts and making sure there are no holes in our plot or our logic. Believe it or not, your readers will pick up on it.

He said, she said - Dialogue is an important element in crafting a good work of fiction, but it can be overused or used incorrectly. Dialogue is the means by which your characters communicate. It is not a way for you to communicate to your readers. Granted, you can do some "showing" through a proper use of dialogue, but avoid having your characters tell your reader the entire story. There are other good ways to get your point across. Where's the action? Where's the description? Where's the plot? In certain scenes, it's easy to get bogged down with dialogue. Don't let this happen. It will cause your entire story to go stale.

Following these guidelines does not guarantee you a place on the bestseller list, but it will help to make your fiction work the best that it can be.


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