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Common Writing Mistakes That Kill Your Writing Credibility

~LOGOLEPSY BLOG TEAM

There seems to be a perception that writers have perfect grammar and professional writers never need an editor.

The truth is, writers still make mistakes and as much as we try and avoid as many as we can, they still seem to pop up. As writers, we need to remember that we are only people with a passion for writing, but no one is perfect.

The occasional error is practically inevitable in a finished manuscript, but striving for perfection is still a worthy aim. Understanding the most common mistakes can help authors approach their work and editing process with more clarity — and keep them from stumbling on common pitfalls.

At Logolepsy Publishing Group, we work with experienced developmental editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. We asked them a simple question: “What’s the most common writing mistake you see even bestselling authors making?” You’ll find their answers below, from big-picture mistakes down to the nitty-gritty of grammar and punctuation.

1. Weak opening narrative

Your story’s opener is your one opportunity to capture a reader’s attention. Ever dropped a book after reading the first few pages? That’s usually what happens when the author starts the story in the wrong place. It’s an easy mistake to make. While the author knows something exciting will happen soon enough, it’s not obvious to the reader. If they’re not immediately hooked, chances are they won’t stick around long enough to find out what “something exciting” is.

“Never, ever, ever begin a narrative with action and then reveal the character’s merely dreaming it all. A significant issue I see with many authors is inserting too much backstory [at the beginning]. A reader’s interest has to be developed from the start, which suggests having vivid characterization and action (not meaning explosions, but tension, movement, ideas in opposition) from the get-go.” ~ EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

2. Show, don’t tell

This might be the most commonly cited mistake among editors. Authors are naturally prone to telling rather than showing. There’s nothing less impressive than someone trying to be impressive. There’s nothing less funny than someone trying to be funny. Eloquence doesn’t impress anyone except for the person trying so hard to be eloquent. This means that rather than letting the reader experience a story through action, dialogue, thoughts, and senses, the author summarizes or describes what has happened. They often do this by info-dumping prose or by stating a character’s emotions rather than showing how those emotions are conveyed.

“Believe it or not, you don’t want readers to admire your writing: You want them to be so engaged in the story itself that they don’t notice the way you use words to shape it. Anything that jars readers loose from the grip of the story needs to go, even if it seems “literary.” Weed out figures of speech that don’t serve the mood of the scene. Help them connect with your story. Let them experience your world.” ~ EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

3. Over-describing the action

Over-describing is when the author provides unneeded details about the characters’ actions. This slows the pace, lessens tension, and interrupts the flow of the scene. You want your writing to be an invisible curtain between your readers and your story. Anytime you draw attention to the narrative tools at your disposal, you insert yourself into the story and cause readers to notice the curtain. Although it may seem counterintuitive, most authors looking to improve their craft need to cut back on the devices they use (whether that’s assonance, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, similes or whatever), rather than add more to describe an action. Keep it simple, buddy!

“Avoid the temptation to impress your readers with your research, your plot structure or your knowledge of the flora and fauna of western North Carolina. When readers pick up your book, they’re not preparing for a spelling bee or a doctoral dissertation or a medical exam; they’re hoping for an entertaining, believable story that will transport them to another world and move them on a deep, emotional level.” ~ EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

4. Plot flaws

A plot flaw is, simply put, a glitch in believability or causality. When a character acts in a way that doesn’t make sense, or when one scene doesn’t naturally follow from the one that precedes it, readers will stumble. As soon as an event isn’t believable, it becomes a distraction. So ask yourself at every plot point: “Is there enough stimulus to motivate this action?” And then make sure there is. Always anticipate your readers’ response.

“Too many times a writer will grab readers’ attention early on with a scene that’s clearly been contrived just for that purpose, without introducing the characters or the setting of the story. Consequently, the writer is forced to insert excessive backstory into the next scene—thus undermining the forward momentum of the plot. Take your time, trust your readers and craft a hook that orients them to the world you’ve created. Then drive the story forward without having to explain why you started it the way you did.” ~ EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

5. Unbelievable conflicts

Imagine your protagonist hears that a killer is in the neighbourhood and then, in the next scene, decides to spend a cosy evening in the kitchen making homemade pasta. Readers will think, What? Why doesn’t she lock all the doors and windows, or call the police, or run to her car and get out of the area? Thus, at the very moment where you want them to be drawn deeper into the narrative, your readers pull away and start to question your character’s actions—and, to some degree, your storytelling ability.

“All stories will have conflicts set out by the plot for the characters to overcome, the peaks and troughs of the journey the characters go on. You need to engage the readers and present the conflicting situations in a manner that sounds believable. Let your story do more than reiterate the cliché, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Instead, challenge that axiom by presenting your characters with situations that raise the question, “When do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?” ” ~ EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

6. Misplaced and “dangling” modifiers

Most people know to watch out for participles, but any modifying phrase “dangled” at the front of a sentence by a comma can become ungrammatical if not worded properly. A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated from the word it modifies or describes. Sentences with this error can sound awkward, ridiculous, or confusing. A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence.

“From the innumerable manuscripts that I have been through, I can give you a few tips for revising dangling modifiers. Name the appropriate or logical doer of the action as the subject of the main clause. Always remember to change the phrase that dangles into a complete introductory clause by naming the doer of the action in that clause. Remember to combine the phrase and main clause into one.” ~EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

7. Using a Hook as a Gimmick

Many well-meaning writing instructors will tell you that you need to start your story with a good “hook” to snag your readers’ attention. And they’re right—to a certain degree. Hooks become gimmicks if they don’t provide the platform for escalation. Agents are always looking for something different inside their massive slush piles. Something unique and original—a “hook”.

“The writer’s primary goal with a hook is to create instant interest—to bait the hook in a clever way, to reel the reader in.  And because of that, a hook can feel shallow, manipulative. And worse, the writer is always in danger of turning the “hook” into a too-obvious gimmick. So, if you’re trying to create an enticing hook for your novel, first throw away all clichés, and then work hard to keep the hook authentic and sustainable all throughout the novel. If you do that, you’ll have your readers … hooked!” ~ EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

8. Sentence Fragments

Sentence fragments are incomplete sentences that don’t have one independent clause. A fragment may lack a subject, a complete verb, or both.

If you can answer these questions correctly, I’m sure you will never have a sentence fragment error again.
  1. Is there a verb? If not, supply one.

  2. Is there a subject? If not, supply one.

  3. Is there a subordinating conjunction? If so, remove it. b. Try the “Yes/No Question” Test. Can you rephrase the sentence into a yes/no question?

  4. If you can, then it is a complete sentence.

  5. If you cannot, then it is a fragment. ~EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

9. Misusing The Apostrophe With “Its”

You use an apostrophe with it’s only when the word means it is or it has. Without the apostrophe, ‘its’ means belonging to it.

“Everything you need to know is written above. Look at this example and you will understand better. Incorrect: I don’t believe its finally Friday. Correct: I don’t believe it’s (it is) finally Friday.” ~ EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

10. Punctuation Error

Even for the most experienced authors, it can be difficult to have the punctuations at the right place throughout a manuscript. Most punctuation errors are over punctuation errors.

“I received this message long back and this aptly describes the plight of using a wrong punctuation. Let’s eat grandma.Let’s eat, grandma. So you see how correct punctuation can save a man’s life.” ~EDITORIAL, LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP

These common errors are the ones our editors encounter most frequently. When it comes to authoring a flawless manuscript, collaborating with a professional editor is the best way to guard against common (and not-so-common) errors. There are a plethora of errors that need to be corrected. We hope to keep you enlightened with our upcoming blogs on the same.

Thank you for reading!

LOGOLEPSY PUBLISHING GROUP is a boutique publishing house with over 200 titles in print pipeline and one of the first companies in India to bring an Augmented Reality experience for the students and educators. We at Logolepsy are forerunners in delivering a wide range of products that helps foster a passion for reading from generation to generation. In business since 2014, we intend to change the landscape of education industry with our broad spectrum of books covering the major consumer book market. Logolepsy distribution centres can store more than a hundred million books. Invoicing, logistics and managing returns contribute to making distribution a strategic link in the book’s value chain. At Logolepsy, we deal in the following genres: Fiction, Nonfiction, Children, History, World Affairs, Politics, Crafts & Sports, Self-help & Empowerment, Health & Fitness, Spirituality & Religion, Philosophy, Business, Management, Finance, Cookery, Pottery, Activities (Sports, Games, etc.), Hobbies, Reference, Biography, Travel, etc. Defined by a culture of expertise, collaboration and openness, we cherish and respect our heritage whilst constantly challenging ourselves to disrupt or enhance the best that our Group has to offer to deliver something even better. —> LOGOEDGE (Educational Imprint) —> LOGOKIDS (Children’s Publishing) —> LOGOLEPSY BOOKS (Distribution Network) —> LOGOBUYS (Official Merchandise)

For any queries and/or feedback, write to us at contact@logolepsy.in.

Stay tuned for our upcoming book catalogue.

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