A lot of writers not just newer and novice writers are making these mistakes in their writing. If you’re a bit more aware of them you can definitely improve your writing and take it to the next level.
1) Thesaurus madness or thesaurus disease. It is when writers seem to be afraid of using the basic English language. Words that are straightforward and that people use all the time to describe things. They look up synonyms and antonyms of those words and decide the big fancy word with a lot of syllables will make me sound really, really smart.
When you can use a 1 cent word you actually come across as either pretentious or like you don’t know what you’re talking about when you are using 2 or 3 dollar words. If your reader has to look up the defination to understand what they are reading it can annoy them and they often stop reading your writing.
Synonyms aren’t always that accurate in substituting for the word you are trying to replace. The synonym may not have exactly the same meaning especially in the context of the sentence. You want to have clear concise words that the majority of readers are going to understand. You want to avoid misusing words and essentially sounding dumb. When you use fancy words you often sound like you are trying too hard.
When you have way too many characters with names and elaborate backstories that don’t do anything concrete or important in the story, it is often called character soup. Unless your story is about a group of friends you do not need 15-20 characters. It is way too hard keeping track of who they are or being able to tell them apart.
A character who doesn’t contribute to the primary plot, the conflict, or character growth are essentially deadweight in your story. When you have character soup combine characters. You may find that you have supporting characters in different places in your writing and they essentially perform the same function just in different places. Challenge yourself to take character X, Y, and C and put them into one character. Or take character X and get a little bit creative with how this one character would be in all of these places but essentially performing the same function. You are going to end up with tighter characterization and a more dynamic book.
Recognize when dialogue and scenes fill a lot of pages but they don’t actually move the plot forward. Look at scenes in your books and think how does this contribute to the overall plot or your A plot, B plot, your conflict, or character growth. Every scene should do something, every bit of dialogue should do something, whether it is character development or moving the plot forward.
Create a scene card for every single scene in your story. Put where the characters are, who is in the scene, where they start, and where they end. Clarify the function of every scene in your book and you can start to see that if you can answer the question of where do they start, where they end up, and what is the point of that scene. Rearrange as necessary for your story to flow.
Be very careful with tense shifting. You can use the free version of Grammarly to assist you with tense and any other grammar issues. There are great resources to help you with this so you can relax and write.
Typically your book is going to be told from a single point of view. If you are doing a close point of view then you should only be showing the reader and doing things from the perspective of that character. You can of course have multi points of view but don’t shift back and forth in any single scene or section. If you want to switch POVs (point of views) to another character in a multi POV story especially if you are doing third-person, you would want to do that with section breaks or chapter breaks.
Avoid using overly formal language and refusing to use contractions. Many writers feel contractions are too informal.
Using contractions especially in dialogue can be a character choice. It is a way to present a character who is more formal. Pull back from contractions if you were writing a historical piece but generally if you are writing any modern fiction and you want to have your readers not to be tripping over words, use contractions.
Don’t be afraid to show your work to other people. Sharing your work with others and getting feedback from peers essentially critique partners is so valuable to the writing process. None of us can really write and be creative in a vacuum. You’re always going to have to get feedback from other people. Hear that constructive criticism, take it on board, and then use that to improve your work. You’re going to get constructive criticism from an agent, you’re going get it from an editor. You’re going to have to learn to work with an editor and an agent so the best way to do that is critique partners. Share your work, don’t be afraid of criticism. You can look for critique partners who aren’t going to tear you apart.
You can ask for a compliment sandwich for constructive criticism or even sometimes cheerleading. If you do not share your work you end up writing in a vacuum and thus never improving. Started recognizing and breaking yourself of the habit of hiding your writing. Share your work with others and be open to hearing feedback, actually taking it on board, and using it to make your writing better.
We are, of course, all quite attached to our writing. When we’re not beating ourselves up for being horrible because of impostor syndrome. We tend to like our writing, it’s precious to us because it comes from our hearts. We pour it onto the page, we love the stories, the characters that we have, and very often we do get very sentimentally attached to scenes that we either had a lot of fun writing, or we had a really clever idea, or we really got funny in that scene, or a character has a moment in that scene. You have to learn to let go even of the things that you love.
You’re always going to have things that are relatively easy to cut because you’re not super duper attach to them. You’re like okay fine. In every book there’s going to be that thing that you love, you really love it. It could be a sentence, or a character, or a chapter, or scene, or what have you and you have to cut it. It is an obstacle in the way of your book working. You might resist at first. You have permission to resist at first, because we all resist at first. You’ll find that when you eventually come around and you learn to kill those things that are precious to you, it unlocks the whole book. It makes everything better. You miss it, but it was the right thing to do.
Start on the journey of learning to kill your darlings. You can start off slow, cut a sentence, cut a scene but save everything. Some of those darlings that are sitting off somewhere else every once in a while you will find a way to use some of them. Darlings that had been cut in other places, whether it’s a character that you had to kill, or if it’s a turn of phrase that just was not working on that page or happened to be in the middle of a theme that later was dead weight, and you had to cut the scene. Save these things. You can use them later, perhaps in the same story or in another story.