There are so many places to go wrong when writing an entire book and even harder identifying these issues in your own book. Especially after reading it for the seven hundredth time.
Today, editor Megan Easley-Walsh (who helped me with my own book RIDDLE OF THE TIMEKEEPER) is on my blog to describe the top ten manuscript mistakes she sees all the time. This is super useful as an editing checklist when going through your manuscript, or to give to your critique partners or beta readers as things to look out for. Hope you find it helpful!
10. Pacing problems:
The beginning must be engaging. The middle has to keep up momentum and it should end with an impact. Part of pacing also involves where chapters break. The end of the chapter should demand that the character turn the page to discover more.
9. Starting in the wrong place:
Cliche beginnings of waking-up, getting dressed, dreaming or another expected start should only happen if there is a very good reason. Begin the story in an engaging place, where the action starts. Don’t drop the character in where nothing is happening, but also don’t drop the character into some epic battle before the reader cares about the character. This brings us to the next point…
8. Not enough empathy for the characters:
If a character is rebellious (this often happens in YA), the reader needs to feel empathy to understand why the character is this way. No matter what personality traits the characters have, it’s important that the reader can get a true sense of them. This brings us to point seven…
7. Not having fully developed secondary characters or antagonists:
Villains don’t perceive themselves as bad. Their actions make sense to them. Likewise, secondary characters are the stars of their own lives. They don’t know that they’re supporting someone else.
6.Too much backstory:
Telling too much backstory is distracting, because it takes the character out of the immediacy of the action. You wouldn’t walk up to someone and introduce yourself only to hear the entirety of his or her life. Many writers do the literary equivalent of this though, when they introduce their characters and mountains of backstory. Pieces of backstory should be dropped naturally into the story, when it’s relevant to what’s happening. In most cases, you must care about the character’s present before you can care about his or her past. A book is a snapshot of the character’s life, where the most interesting or life-changing events happen.
5. Too much physical description of characters:
Writers, especially new writers, like to describe characters in minute detail: hair color, eye color, what the person is wearing, how the person has done her makeup, etc. Physical descriptions do not often convey deeper characteristics and are often unnecessary. If there is a physical description of the character, it should be for a reason. The reason can be that another character is observing that character’s feature or that the description sets the character apart somehow. For example, Goliath’s height is necessary to the David and Goliath story.
4. Copying another writer’s style:
It’s your story. It’s important that you not try to copy your favorite author. It’s better and necessary that you write your own story with your own style. Reading widely helps you avoid copying someone else’s style (subconsciously).
3. Not editing the manuscript:
When you finish writing the story, it still needs to be edited. If you need help from a professional, that’s totally fine. But, it’s obvious that some writers don’t read their work at all. Blatant typos should be corrected at the very least without additional help. Before you submit your manuscript to an agent, publisher, or publish it yourself, it should be polished to perfection (or at least as close as possible).
2. Not finishing the manuscript:
Many writers have several stories started, but not finished. While it’s perfectly fine not to finish everything you start, what usually happens in cases like this is that the writer tries to edit as she or he goes. This often leads to fear of writing the wrong thing and stalls the writing process.
1. Not writing the manuscript:
Whether it’s worry, fear or a lack of time, not writing the story that wants to be written is the biggest mistake. Only you can write your manuscript. Your characters are depending on you!