Most Common Writing Mistakes: Are You Skipping the Best Parts?

The fastest way to frustrate a reader is to write everything but the good parts of a story. You’d think this would be a no-brainer. After all, as story aficionados ourselves, we’re presumably writing the story because of the good parts. The action, the romance, the comedy, the drama. We can’t wait to get it on paper, and readers can’t wait to experience it.

But sometimes, without even realizing it, we can end up skipping the best parts and leaving readers growling their frustration. This can happen for a number of reasons.

Why do authors skip the best parts?

1. The good stuff the reader is interested in isn’t the good stuff we intended to write about.

2. The scene is difficult or painful for us to write.

3. The scene requires information beyond our expertise.

4. We think we are sharing the good stuff.

What happens when authors skip the good stuff?

The result of any of these problems is going to be a scene that goes something like this:

Max braced for the showdown. It had come to this at last. He squinted against the sun and wiggled his fingers above his holstered six-gun. Across the street, Big Bad Red spat his tobacco and stalked toward him, spurs jingling. Next thing Max knew, it was all over and the townsfolk were slapping him on the back and buying him drinks. Phew, he thought. Glad that’s over.

Max might be glad, but readers won’t be. Here you’ve built up the scene, prepped them for a mighty wallop of spine-tingling, fingernail-biting, forgetting-to-breath action, and then . . . nothin’. How’s that for disappointing?

“But I left something up to the reader’s imagination!” you say. “Everybody knew what was going to happen there anyway!” you say. “The backslapping, drinks-buying scene is way more important than the gunfight!” you say.

Not to readers. The build-up to a scene is a promise to the reader. You’re foreshadowing something to come, and readers are going to want to see the payoff returned in equal measure.

How can authors avoid skipping the good scenes?

Let’s address our four reasons for skipping the best parts:

1. You never actually wanted to write about Max’s showdown. What you were really interested in was Max’s reaction to gunning down Big Bad Red.

Sometimes you can’t have one without the other. If you need a big scene to get to the next big scene, don’t skimp on either of them or the story will end up feeling uneven. And if it turns out you don’t really need the showdown, then don’t set it up so Max has to go through it to reach the scene that really matters.

2. You cringe at the thought of writing a showdown, since, as a kid, you had a bad experience High Noon.

Certain scenes may be difficult for you to write simply because of your own emotional makeup and past experiences. So you have to choose. Either write on through the discomfort (which is likely to give you a more powerful and genuine scene—and maybe even a little personal catharsis), or rewrite the story to avoid the necessity for it. But don’t skimp. Readers don’t care about your discomfort.

3. You don’t actually know anything about the Old West, gunfights, or six-guns.

Skipping the whole scene just to avoid making any factual mistakes is lazy. Lack of info can always be remedied. Put in the time to do a little research, and everything’s good.

4. You wrote the gunfight! It’s all there! Of course, you didn’t skip the best part!

Sometimes authors think they’re writing more than they are. Aside from the fact that our overactive imaginations can fill in the blanks for us while leaving them gaping for our readers, we can occasionally forget that summarizing is not showing. If the scene is important, we need to dig deep and come up with all the little details that will bring the scene to life for readers.

Ultimately, the problem of skipping the best parts comes down to either ignorance or laziness on the author’s part. Analyze your manuscript to make sure you’re not missing any opportunities or cutting any corners. Readers will thank you, and you may just discover you’ve been missing out on some good fun yourself!

Tell me your opinion: Have you ever skipped a scene for one of the above-mentioned reasons?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. The only time I felt like skipping an important moment is in the event of a love scene. But in my defense, 1) some readers may actually prefer it not written out, 2) this is the case of #3 and “research” into that stuff would end up rather awkward.

    (also, you’ve got one “suthors” up there, instead of “authors”)

  2. @Jane: One of my favorite genres!

    @Char: Patience is such an important part of the writing process. Good thing we’ve all got it in spades. 😉

    @ED: Gratuitousness (whatever the subject) is never necessary. But readers will always want to see characters reacting in crucial moments.

    @The Darling Novelist: Good point. The writers who take risks are often the writers who end up creating really memorable scenes. If *we* love something, chances are good readers will love it just as much.

    @Marina: What about cozy mysteries? I’m sure there are others out there who enjoy the mystery genre without enjoying the grungier bits.

    @Traci: Although erring on the side of too much showing in the first draft makes for an easier revision (since there’s not a lot of effort needed to cut and slash), the opposite approach can actually prove more fun in that second draft. It’s fun to return to a story and get to flesh out interesting scenes.

    @Adam: Thanks for catching the typo. Consider it fixed.

  3. Yes I’ve done this before! I’m too lazy… 😛

  4. Happens to the best of us! 😉

  5. Finally, found a mistake I’m not making. xD A good read non the less. I do wonder though if a scene can have to much action, description and the other goodies?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yes, sadly, there *is* such a thing as too much of a good thing! :p But it all depends on the balance of the scene. We want to pack in as many goodies as possible without tilting the balance too far in any direction.

  6. mimsy/darkocean says:

    One of the few things I don’t have a problem with. O-o I love writing the fight/conflict scenes. 😛 I do like to review this blog posting from time to time though.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Yeah, who wants to skip the best parts anyway? What fun is that? :p

      • None at all. Makes for a dry book. 😛 Although from the books I read growing up, some times there would be a rotten egg in a book, a battle scene that went on for so many chapters that it was frustrating! Just get on with the story already, you know?

  7. I might be a bit guilty. For sure in my rough and 1st drafts.

    My problem: I have this scene I really, really want to write but it is like 15-20 pages ahead of the scene I am at (or it might be related to the next book in the series) and my fear is by the time I get to that scene I will have forgotten it or forgot how the dialogue went. (I have that happen too many times to count. Sometimes it works out better. Other times I’m left lacking and pining away wondering how I can mentally retrieve the forgotten information.

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