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Common Writing Mistakes to Avoid – Part 2

Last week we looked at some common mistakes such as viewpoint/POV, exposition (show, don’t tell) and superfluous description, so this week we’ll take a look at the other common mistakes authors make when writing:
Tenses Incorrect punctuation Description – or lack of it Dialogue Tags Going to/starting to/began to
Tenses Getting tenses in a tangle a very common error among writers, whether they’re new or established. That’s because sometimes, during the throes of writing, it’s easy to slip from one tense to another without even noticing. Past tense – he did/she said/they were etc, is the most common tense to work with and an easy one to use. Problems occur, however, when writers choose the present tense, (I do/she is/they are etc), which is a little more difficult to get to grips with, certainly in terms of the choice of POV. Many will inadvertently slip from the present into past tense without realising. Here’s a simple example: I get out of the car and make my way to the foyer, knowing she wa…

Common Writing Mistakes to Avoid – Part 1

What better way to end the year than with a timely reminder of how to avoid those common writing mistakes that plague all writers?We’re all guilty; we all fall prey to them from time to time – no one is perfect. Writing is never static – we are constantly learning as we go, and even the most experienced writers have to double check themselves to catch even the most obvious errors. We’ll be looking in more detail at these very common mistakes:
Show, don’t tell Viewpoint/POV Prologues/Info dumps/indirect exposition Superfluous description Hanging participles/dangling modifiers Tenses Incorrect punctuation Description – or lack of it Dialogue Tags Going to/starting to/began to
Show, Don’t Tell This is probably the most common mistake that writers make. Telling a story is one thing, but ‘showing’ a story is another. So instead of writing flat, dull, unimaginative description that does nothing for the story, show the reader, let them visualise what you describe. Show them with atmosphere, emotion, thou…

Developing a Story – Part 2

In the previous article we looked at why it’s beneficial to do some story development, by pulling together the most important aspects such as plot, characters, genre, themes, subplots and setting.Now that you have an idea of the important ingredients, here are some ways to help visualise and develop the story. Storyboarding Many writers use storyboarding as a way to develop a story, by using sketches to visualise key scenes. It’s a practical approach used in movie making, with scenes drawn out that show the unfolding action and ‘snapshots’ of the important turning points and plot twists. This is useful if you’re artistic and want to truly visualise your novel with a graphic overview. Chapter Outlines/Story Arcs Favoured by many writers, the chapter outline is a simple summary of each chapter and briefly details what might happen, together with likely actions. It doesn’t have to be in-depth (though there is no reason for it not to be, if you want to do that), but the outline should contain…

Developing a Story – Part 1

All stories need some sort of development, to a degree.Writers are as individual as their stories and everyone approaches fiction writing in a different way, so there are authors who like to develop and plan their stories in great detail, and those who write ad hoc, commonly known as “pansters”. It’s entirely up to the writer what they do, however some planning and development is encouraged, otherwise the result could end up an incoherent mess. There are a number of benefits for story development. It’s the difference between driving a car in the dark with the headlights on and driving without any light at all. Without lights to see where you’re going, you’re quite literally in the dark – in every way. Story development works in the same way – you can choose to be in the dark about, and just hope for the best, it or you can plan your story/novel in as much detail as you want. Story development makes the process so much easier, it helps the writer not just to put together a story, but to…

Starting Points – Where Should a Story Start?

This is a common question asked by almost all writers. At which point is the right point to start the story? Where is the best place to start? The obvious answer is to start at the beginning, because that’s where every story starts, but in truth, the story shouldn’t start at the beginning, not in the literal sense. This sounds like contrary advice, but it actually isn’t.All good editors and writers will agree – a story should start just after the beginning. But what does that actually mean? It’s the general accepted principle that a good story opens at a crucial or significant moment in the character’s life. Often, you will come across the ‘Open with a bang’ statement, which advises to open the story in such as way as to grab the reader’s interest. In essence, this means the story should jump right into the action, and that means thebeginning of the story should reflect this. In real terms, however, this action probably wouldn’t happen until chapter two, when things get going and stuff …

What’s a Character Arc?

In much the same way that story arcs work, as discussed in last week’s article, character arcs encompass how a character grows and develops throughout the story, from beginning to end. But what are they exactly? When writers refer to character arcs, they’re referring to the continuing development path of a particular character, which begins at the very start of the story, when he or she is usually at his or her most vulnerable or weakest, and follows this development right to the end of the story, when the character is at his or her strongest. It’s that change the character undergoes that is captured in a character arc. Again, like story arcs, when we talk of a character arc, it’s a figurative thing, rather than a physical one. It is a representation of the chronological journey your main characters take through the entire story and the transformation that occurs because of this - his or her motivations, main goal, expectations, conflicts, important events, revelations and turning point…