The 10 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

by Danny Mancini Sep 20, 2016, 1 Comments

Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

At Penguin Random House The Writers’ Academy, we excel at helping aspiring writers to hone their craft and sharpen up their writing technique. Whether you've been writing fiction for a long time or are completely new to the process, there are a number of common writing mistakes that all authors should be wary of.

So if you're struggling from a case of writer's block, or wondering what's blocking you on the path to publication, read on to ensure that you're not making any of these fatal writing errors...

1. Poor handling of dialogue

There's a variety of very common mistakes that authors can make when writing dialogue. It's essential for your dialogue to sound realistic and not overtly literary. Avoid overly long conversations that break up the action without contributing anything of value.

Above all else, dialogue should convey crucial plot information and develop your characters' personalities.

2. Unrealistic characters

At The Writers' Academy, we know that the most impactful novels will bring a reader to tears or make them laugh out loud by conjuring an emotional bond between the reader and its characters.

It is vital that readers can understand the actions of your characters if you want them to believe in them and care about what happens to them. Be sure to create credible motives and backstories for your main players.

3. Unlikable characters

Expanding on this, there's no use in your protagonist being perfectly realistic if your reader finds them so repellent as to not care about their fate. Your leads must be, if not totally likable, then at least relatable.

If you can evoke a feeling of common humanity or empathy, then your readers are sure to be emotionally invested in your character's arc, whether hero or villain.

4. Predictability

Whatever genre you're writing in, be aware of the most common tropes and current trends of that type of fiction. It can be tempting to fall back on what is common or currently popular, but by doing so you risk making your novel completely predictable.

Subvert your reader's expectations. If you're familiar with genre tropes, you can use this to your advantage and manipulate your readers. They know the genre inside out, so it's important to surprise them.

5. Use of clichés

Similarly, relying on the same old stale clichés and overused phrases as a million other novels can lead to your writing feeling overly familiar. Use fresh and original styles of wording and phrasing.

When a reader is making their way through your latest novel, you want that experience to feel new to them.

6. Lack of pacing

Over the course of an entire novel, variety of pacing is absolutely key. There should be peaks and troughs, periods of high intensity/action punctuated by lulls in which the reader can absorb and digest them.

Most importantly of all, there should be a continual escalation towards the climax of your novel - failing to do so will leave your novel feeling flat and numb the impact of your story's payoff.

7. No sense of setting

With all the attention you're paying to moving your plot forward and getting to your story's next big set-piece, it's often easy to overlook the task of establishing setting. A strong sense of place is essential for grounding your story and characters in the real world.

Give your readers a sense of life and activity going on in the world around your main characters. Show them the locales in which the action is taking place.

8. Lack of conflict

At the center of every story is conflict - some kind of disruption to your characters' status quo, an incident that needs reaction or resolution. Without this, your novel will likely lack a sense of purpose and drive, and quite quickly become boring.

What is the reason for your story's existence? What are you building the plot towards, and how are you going to do so? Conflict between characters is an author's main means of advancing a plot. No matter what you do, keep conflict at the heart of your writing.

9. Editing as you go

When creating a first draft, nothing is more important than simply getting words on the page. If you're constantly self-editing and second-guessing every element of your writing as you go, you'll inevitably grind to a creative halt.

Separate the writing and editing into two distinct processes. Doing so will allow you to write more freely, and help to overcome any instances of self-doubt that might otherwise occur.

10. Jumping on the genre bandwagon

A very easy trap to fall into as a debut writer is to try and cash in on whatever genre might currently be the hottest thing in bookstores. Don't be tempted - if you don't read crime, or horror, or paranormal fiction, this will undoubtedly show if you attempt to write in those genres.

As a general rule, stick to a type of fiction in which you feel comfortable, or at least one that you enjoy reading yourself.

A reminder

It's important to remember that, as with any rule, there will be exceptions to each of the writing mistakes listed here. There will be times when you employ these otherwise inadvisable tactics on purpose, to achieve a specific desired effect.

Generally speaking though, you should use this list as a guide to avoiding the common errors that can hamper your writing. So be diligent, take the time to properly edit and proofread your work and as always, happy writing!


If you’re looking for more valuable resources to aid you in your writing, visit Penguin Random House The Writers’ Academy Writer's Toolbox.

Or, are you interested in honing your creative writing skills online? Why not find out more about the Creative Writing for Beginners and Constructing a Novel courses, delivered to you 100% online by Penguin Random House The Writers’ Academy?

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About the Author:

Danny Mancini regularly provides writing tips and resources for budding authors in The Writers' Academy blog.

Comments (1) Add Yours

 
  • giannhs_83 says
    Very helpful. Thanks
    Posted On Sep 22, 2016 | 03:46
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