Have you made these writing mistakes? | Elsie Granthier
One of the best parts of working at Jericho is taking the writing advice I come across and using it for my own selfish purposes. I do this a lot when checking editor reports on your manuscripts. Yes, I’m checking everything is up to scratch, but our editors are so excellent that I usually spend that time collecting gems of advice.
There are some mistakes that editors spot time and time again – so let’s look at a few together:
Letting your characters be dragged along by the plot
Let’s say your YA protagonist, Millie, despises the popular kids, but you know that she needs to go to the popular kids’ party to discover that the new girl in town has a crush on her. You might be tempted for Millie to get a random invite, that she accepts despite hating these kids. If you did that, your readers wouldn’t trust you, and Millie would probably be quite annoyed with you.
Instead, you’d need to find a reason for her to end up there – maybe she’s crashing the party to pull a prank on her enemy, or a friend of hers ended up there, got picked on, and now Millie must execute a rescue mission!
Even a story with the best plot would be nothing without its characters – so they must come first. Often when your writing doesn’t feel quite right, it’s because your characters are protesting the plot. So, when your protagonist says, ‘Hang on a second, I’d never do that!’ - listen.
Overcomplicating the Story
Often, when I’m planning a novel, I worry that there isn’t enough going on in the story. That’s when I begin to overcompensate... by overcomplicating.
With too much going on, does your reader have time to focus on the important parts? Do they understand what your narrative is about? No. Recognise what your book is about, and for every chapter, every scene, make sure that it serves the purpose you created.
As one of our brilliant editors says, simplification does not reduce your narrative; it enhances your message. Understand what book you’re trying to write, and make sure all your plot strands serve that.
Letting your research show
This particularly applies to the historical novelists out there – but no one is exempt from being a bit of a show-off when it comes to their hard-won research. If your romance novel is set in a Spanish vineyard, your characters may talk about tannins and fermentation, but if there are long paragraphs devoted to the history of winemaking, the reader will lose interest.
Think of why TV and film always cut away after ‘You have the right to remain silent’. Your reader’s interest in wine and Miranda Rights only extends as far as its relevance to the plot.
So, weave your research into the background, and keep the focus on your story. Don’t give champagne detail when prosecco will do.
You can (and should) look for these mistakes in your work, but when you’re editing a manuscript there’s always a point where you can’t see the wood for the trees (an editor would probably tell me to get rid of clichés like this!). That’s why we work with a global team of experienced editors who will give you the in-depth, unbiased, and genuinely helpful advice on your manuscript that you need.
We’re here to chat if you’re not sure which service would be right for you. Why not book a consultation, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply reply to this blog post. Then, we’ll get to know you and your manuscript to find the best service for you both.