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  • Writer's pictureDarren M. Palmer

Three Terrifying Writing Mistakes & How To Escape Them

Halloween is a time for treats and terror, a place where kids dress up as villains and vigilantes, and adults get to pretend they are kids for just one night, prancing around in costumes not typically suited for the workplace. And while Halloween is the place for scares, here at Self Publish -N- 30 Days, we do everything we can to make sure your writing is the opposite of frightful (unless you’re working on a horror novel, that is).

While our pristine team of editors works tirelessly to make sure your final product is seamless, it is always prudent to put your best foot forward from the beginning. Sending the cleanest draft possible allows editors like myself to focus on polishing your manuscript. This allows us to get you the best product imaginable in record time!

However, while we all wish to put our best foot forward at all times, we also all make mistakes. Even the pros continue to work on their skills. Writing is a continual pursuit, and as writers, we spend our last breaths perfecting our craft. So, to help on your writing journey, below are three common mistakes that put the fright in fright night.

Telling Not Showing

Tale as old as time, and a writing advice that has not seen its last days. “Show don’t tell” is one of the most common pieces of writing advice I see. But what does it really mean? Showing is when you paint the picture for your reader. Telling is when you explain what happened.

Now, everyone in fiction is crazy about this rule, but what is frightening to me is I don’t see a lot of people using this in nonfiction. While painting a picture is necessary for fiction, it is still vital in nonfiction as well (Even in self-help books or guides!). When writing any story, whether that be a battle with a dragon or simply a personal anecdote about a time you utilized a great sales tactic, bring the reader into the story with you. As prolific writer Anton Chekhov says, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

You can tell the audience how you felt in a moment. However, showing what it was truly like for you elevates the writing and makes readers relate to you and care about what you have to say.

Examples of showing versus telling:

Telling — When I sold my first house, I felt elated. It was the best day of my life.

Showing— The day I sold my first house, I ran around the living room like a dog with the zoomies. My cheeks hurt from smiling, but I couldn’t stop. I forgot to eat because excitement tempered my hunger.

Telling — It was a sad house.

Showing — The house was a tall gray thing with fogged windows and a floor that hadn’t been polished in years.

The writing above isn’t bad, but it doesn’t bring a reader in. When you spend most of your time telling instead of showing, you lose a chance to connect with the reader, and is there anything scarier than a lost opportunity to be great?

Not Using Spell Check

As I said above, some of the most hair-raising things in life are the opportunities we miss. And that includes not using the tools available to you. It’s spooky how many people don’t use it. Spell check on Word, Google Docs, or a myriad of other word processors is a godsend, but time after time, I see people don’t use it before sending things my way. While editing is my job, it is much easier to give the extensive treatment all our clients deserve when I don’t have to focus on minor spelling errors with red squiggles underneath them. Everyone wants the best bang for their buck. While I do everything in my power to treat all manuscripts with the utmost diligence, it is much easier for me as an editor when the manuscript is generally clean before it’s sent to me.

Spell check is a wonderful resource. It was created with the consumer in mind. So, if you have the help, why not use it?

Overused Words & Sentence Structures.

Last but certainly not least is repetitive language. Overused words and sentence structures are like haunted dolls in ghost stories. They may look tiny, but these little things can cause a lot of damage. When you use the exact words over and over, your writing becomes repetitive. As a result, your book starts to feel monotone, and while you may be saying different things, the writing begins to all blend together. It’s a quick way to lose reader interest.

For example, which from the paragraphs below do you find more engaging?

1. I wanted to be a success, so I started my own business very young. I was happy to start. The day went by fast. Soon, I was successful.

2. I wanted to be a success, so I started my own business. As young as I was, I had no idea how to start, but as soon as I did happiness radiated through me. The first day, I found myself scrambling. However, with time, I did exactly when I’d set out to do.

The first sentence explains everything. It’s not saying anything different than the second. However, the second is more engaging. It doesn’t keep using the word “I” to start sentences, and it refrains from repeating the word success. Going through your draft and finding places where you tend to use the same words is a small change, but it can make a massive difference.

While these are three eerie mistakes, they are not an end-all-be-all. Know that here at Self Publish -N- 30 Days, we do everything in our power to make your work shine brighter than a fog light on a distant beach. I wish you all a fun and frightful fall and know that with the right editor, even the most presumptuous of writing monsters can be put to rest.

-Katherine D.

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