Today, I’d like to share with you the top 10 most common fiction writing mistakes. These were compiled by Danny Mancini at ProwritingAid, but I can tell you, they certainly ring true for me. I was most susceptible to number 3 when I tackled my first novel (the One that Shall Never See The Light Of Day). I've taken Danny's list and added my own thoughts :)
1. Poor handling of dialogue
Your dialogue must sound realistic. Try reading it out loud and letting your ears tell you whether it sounds real or not.
2. Unrealistic characters
No one is 100% Evil or Good. Make your characters – even the non-human ones – more realistic by giving them both good and bad personality traits.
3. Unlikable characters
This was my biggie back in the day. Your lead character – the hero – must be likable. If your reader doesn’t like her, she won’t care about her, and that is the end of her reading engagement. An unlikable lead is the kiss of death.
No plot twists? Predictable dialogue? That’s a big bag of yawns. Surprise your reader. Make him think “I did NOT see that coming!”
5. Use of clichés
Again, boring, tired, over-used. The only time clichés can work is in dialogue. If that’s the way your character speaks, then speak on!
6. Lack of pacing
Pacing in a novel is extremely difficult if you’re writing by the seat of your pants. Writers in my workshops understand that the Plotting Roadmap we use builds pacing right into it. Takes the guesswork away.
7. No sense of setting
This doesn’t mean you need to spend pages and pages describing the landscape (please don’t do that), but you must orient your reader frequently so they’re not left wondering where they are.
8. Lack of conflict
Another kiss of death. Remember, tension = what could happen, and conflict = what does happen. Make sure you have lots of both to keep your reader interested.
9. Editing as you go
Don’t do this. You’re giving in to the Lizard Brain when you start saying to yourself, “Oh, I can fix this up,” or worse, “Oh, this is garbage, I better fix it up.” There’s lots of time to edit after you’ve finished your draft.
10. Jumping on the genre bandwagon
You’ve heard the old adage “write what you know”? In this case, write a story in the genre you know. If high fantasy is your thing, then trying to write a hallmark romance because they sell the most will come back to bite you. You can’t fool readers. They know a genre fraud when they see one, so stick with the genre you understand the most.