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August 17 LI Blog

Common Mistakes in Manuscripts Every Writer Must Avoid

As an aspiring author, you have a passion for crafting a captivating novel. However, you also face many challenges along the way. To avoid pitfalls that could undermine your story's originality and appeal, you need to be aware of common mistakes that many writers make. By identifying and fixing these errors, you can polish your work and increase your chances of impressing industry professionals and making your book stand out.

In this article, we will show you some common flaws that publishers and editors often spot in manuscripts, and how you can fix them with the help of examples.

Poor Opening Hooks

The first few pages of a manuscript are important for capturing the reader's attention. Weak opening hooks can deter publishers and agents from reading further. Avoid starting with generic statements or overused clichés, as they fail to intrigue readers. Instead, focus on a compelling opening that sets the tone for the entire story.

Example: "The weather was nice, and the birds were chirping. Sarah woke up feeling content." (Lacks intrigue and fails to captivate readers immediately.)

Correction: "In the heart of a tempestuous storm, lightning shattered the night sky, awakening Sarah with a start." (A gripping opening that sets the tone and entices readers to continue.)

Weak Character Development

Characters are the lifeblood of any story. Inconsistent or underdeveloped characters can leave readers disengaged and unsatisfied. Readers connect with compelling, relatable, and multi-dimensional characters. Ensure your characters have well-defined personalities, backgrounds, and motivations that drive the plot forward. They should evolve and grow as the story unfolds.

Example: "Jake was tall and had blue eyes. He loved adventure and was brave." (Vague and lacks depth.)

Correction: "Jake, a lanky 6'5", possessed piercing sapphire eyes that mirrored the vast ocean he yearned to explore. His fearlessness was renowned, and he welcomed every adventure with open arms." (Provides a vivid image of the character, making him more relatable and memorable.)

Inconsistent Point of View (POV)

Switching between different POVs within a scene can confuse readers and disrupt the narrative flow. Choose a specific POV for each scene or chapter and stick to it. Consider how the selected POV impacts the storytelling and the level of intimacy you wish to establish with your readers. Common POV options are first-person, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient.

Example: "Mary felt her heart race as he approached. You shouldn't be here, she thought. John grinned, knowing he had surprised her." (Inconsistent use of first-person and third-person POV.)

Correction: "Mary felt her heart race as he approached. She shouldn't be here, she thought. John grinned, knowing he had surprised her." (Maintains consistent third-person POV throughout the scene.)

Overuse of Modifiers

Overloading your manuscript with unnecessary adjectives and adverbs can lead to wordy and convoluted writing. Opt for stronger nouns and verbs to create more vivid imagery. Trust your readers to interpret the scene without overloading them with unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.

Example: "He ran quickly and excitedly through the dark and spooky forest." (Overuse of adverbs and adjectives.)

Correction: "He sprinted through the eerie forest, his excitement overcoming the darkness that surrounded him." (Conveys the same message with more concise and impactful language.)

Info Dumps and Excessive Backstory

While vivid descriptions are essential, excessive details can bore readers and slow down the pacing. Strike a balance between painting a picture and allowing room for the reader's imagination.

Example: "Sarah, who was an aspiring writer, had always dreamt of becoming a best-selling author. Since she was a child, she had been passionate about storytelling, and her parents, both avid readers, had encouraged her to pursue her dreams." (Info dump about Sarah's background.)

Correction: "Sarah, an aspiring writer, had dreamt of becoming a best-selling author since childhood. Her parents' unwavering support fueled her passion for storytelling." (Conveys the essential information without delving into excessive details.)

Lack of Conflict and Tension

Engaging stories thrive on conflict and tension. Without these elements, the narrative can feel flat, uneventful and fail to engage readers.

Example: "They fell in love, got married, and lived happily ever after." (Lacks conflict or tension.)

Correction: "Despite the obstacles they faced, they fell in love, fought against societal norms, and worked tirelessly to build a life together." (Introduces conflict and tension to keep readers invested.)

Neglecting Editing and Proofreading

One of the most crucial steps in manuscript preparation is thorough editing and proofreading. Typos, grammatical errors, and punctuation mistakes can detract from the quality of your writing and undermine your credibility as an author. Submitting a manuscript full of errors can lead to instant rejection.

Example: "They're wedding was a beautiful event, and it's memories will forever be cherished." (Grammatical errors.)

Correction: "Their wedding was a beautiful event, and its memories will forever be cherished."

By avoiding these common mistakes in your manuscript, you can greatly enhance your chances of impressing publishers and agents. Remember to revise and edit your work thoroughly, seeking feedback from peers or beta readers, and ensure your writing is polished, engaging, and error-free. With perseverance and attention to detail, you'll be well on your way to becoming a successful author. Good luck!

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