Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 62: Head-Hopping POV

You know you’ve moved beyond recreational storytelling to serious writing the moment you discover you’re hopelessly confused about POV. Other than perhaps show vs. tell, no fundamental principle of fiction dogs writers more than creating a solid narrative—which often begins by understanding how to avoid head-hopping. It happens to all of us: we energetically send […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes (Flat Plots)

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 61: 5 Types of Clunky Dialogue

When you write excellent dialogue, you will simultaneously sharpen the rest of your narrative tools. When you write clunky dialogue, however, it’s unlikely readers will be able to engage with the story on any level. Happily, dialogue is usually one of the most enjoyable and intuitive parts of writing narrative fiction. We all do dialogue […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes (Flat Plots)

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 60: Flat Plots

One of the most deflating criticisms authors hear is that “they’re writing flat plots.” Not only does this (seem to) indicate a certain lack of personal depth, it’s also a sign the story is boring and forgettable. Fortunately, there’s no reason you need ever fall prey to this pitfall. In our last installment of the Most […]

what does it mean / to move the PLOT?

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 59: Overly Complex Plots

Complex plots? Good. Overly complex plots? Not so good. Complex plots are the stuff of literary mastery. They can take a story beyond a single dimension into an intricate exploration of life. Dickens, Mann, Eliot, and so many more literary luminaries show us how to do it right. But do it wrong, and what we […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes (Too Much Description)

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 58: Too Much Description

Sooner or later, most writers will get their hands slapped over description, whether it’s too much description or too little. The bad news is that this is a big deal in narrative fiction. Get the balance of your description wrong, and it could throw off your entire story. The good news is that once you understand how […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 55

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 57: Dead-End Relationships

Once upon a time there were two characters. They got along very well, cared for each other very much, always had good advice for one another, and always, always, always had each other’s back. The End. Oh yeah, and even though it’s hardly worth mentioning, there was also this subplot character, who once betrayed one […]

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Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 56: Unfulfilled Foreshadowing

Sometimes writing feels like magic. You look back at the story you’ve created and it seems like it came from beyond you. One of the coolest examples of this is with foreshadowing. Some little something you wrote in the early chapters without even thinking about it ends up being a huge clue or bit of symbolism […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 55

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 55: Beginning Your Story Too Late

Story beginnings are fraught with important decisions. But perhaps none of those decisions is more important than the question of when to begin your story. Too early or too late—either one can prevent readers from engaging with the story and obsessively reading on to find out what happens. Perhaps the more common mistake is beginning your story […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 55

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 54: Story Events That Don’t Move the Plot

One of your chief jobs as a writer is to come up with story events—stuff that happens in your story. Coming up with these exciting elements is likely why you started writing in the first place. Like C.S. Lewis, you were zapped with the electrifying image of a faun carrying packages and an umbrella through the snow—and […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 50

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 53: No Contractions in Dialogue

What’s the worst writing mistake an author can make? It’s a broad one: doing something you think makes you look sophisticated and clever, when really… it doesn’t. A common manifestation of this is a conscientious avoidance of contractions in dialogue and narrative. I’ll admit I fell prey to this as a young writer (who not […]