The process of writing a book can be exhilarating, especially when you are producing your first draft. As the excitement begins to die down however, your journey slowly unveils that the process of writing a book isn’t without its hurdles. You further discover that the process of writing fiction presents its own set of unique challenges. Writing fiction is especially hard considering the effort required to create new worlds and populate them with unique characters. You finally come to terms and realize the enormous amount of work needed to inject into the process of producing a finished product as you envisioned it. Sound familiar?
Five Common Mistakes Authors Make
Of the numerous manuscripts that are written, few receive the seal of approval from publishers. This is not only because of the sheer volume of authors writing fiction today, but more so because few of them ever produce manuscripts that can rise above the level of mediocrity. Truth is, most publishers do not find it that difficult to wean through the myriads of manuscripts they come across to find the true gems. Why? Most writers tend to make the same mistakes. Upon researching these mistakes, I came across five of the most common ones expressed by publishers:
Reporting instead of Writing Scenes
A big mistake made by many authors writing fiction is to create reports about the events happening in their stories instead of producing actual scenes. A scene in any given fictional work must engage readers with the characters in the book and the world with which they are interacting.
Most authors writing fiction have a terrible tendency to tell people about scenes instead of showing them. Rather than restricting a story to the thoughts of a character or simply narrating events as they play out, writers are always encouraged to insert readers into scenes as they play out in real time. Your characters need to do something more for a scene to truly engage readers – possibly even interact with the world around them.
Dialogue is one of the most important elements in any given fictional novel. Dialogue in fiction isn't real but it must sound real. Writers have a tendency to forget the purpose of dialogue, which is to not only advance the story but to create conflict. Keep your dialogues sharp and don't allow your characters to engage in irrelevant and boring chit-chat. Authors that create dialogue which is not only bland but agreeable shouldn’t be surprised if they receive numerous rejections from publishers.
Most readers have come across books with scenes within which the characters that are interacting are not characters but talking heads. In other words, the environment surrounding them is so ambiguous that, because they are talking, there is little else for you to imagine other than their disparate heads just floating in the air speaking.
You know you are failing if your characters not only talk for too long, without any pauses, but they do not interact with the setting. You do not want your readers to read your dialogue while trying to guess where your characters are or what they are doing.
The Absence of Sensory Details
Sensory details are essential for comprehensively engaging the imagination of a reader. There are many fiction stories that are flat because they lack vibrant images. Removing sensory details will leave your scenes and stories feeling lifeless. Your readers need to know what your characters hear and see, the scents they are inhaling and the feel of the objects around them. Reinforce the prevailing mood, but avoid the obvious. This makes it easier to believe that they are reacting to real elements.
Failing to Provide Conflict
A surprising number of writers cannot bring themselves to inject conflict into the world of their fictional characters, this despite the fact that conflict is essential for writing fiction. Not only should your characters face or even instigate conflict, but the levels of conflict should vary. It’s best when conflict emanates from multiple sources. This creates an element of surprise and keeps things fresh and interesting.