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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Single Biggest Writing Mistake

© 2010 Madeline Smyth
 I've written about the ten most common writing mistakes (see my 1/24/09 post entitled "Ten Common Writing Mistakes"). Among the greatest culprits: back-story dump, lengthy narrative, passive voice, dialogue tag overuse, head hopping, slow pacing, telling rather than showing, unrealistic actions/ reactions, poor characterization, and lack of GMC. I failed to add a few simple mistakes, such as clichéd plots, goofy dialogue, and repetitive wording, thinking they were obvious. But upon reflection, I also failed to mention the single biggest writing mistake. What was I thinking ... or not?

In my humble opinion, here it is: ASPIRING AUTHORS OFTEN WRITE THE STORY THEY WANT TO TELL, NOT THE STORY READERS AND EDITORS WANT TO READ. How can I explain this? Well, imagine that you are a reader standing in an airport store looking for a good book to pass the time on a long international flight, or that you are an exhausted editor sitting at your desk having to go through a pile of manuscripts on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. What do you want? An interesting plot, fast pace, well-developed characters, good writing? Actually, the answer is simpler than that.

And once again in my humble opinion, here it is: READERS AND EDITORS WANT TO BE SEDUCED. Whisper in their ears, intrigue their minds, tempt their hearts, inspire their souls. Oh yes, seduce them! That is what readers and editors hope for when opening to the first page, and by the way, that is what will make them hunger for more after reaching the last. And it's the only reason to write, isn't it? If you are like me, you have used your words to draw others into the make believe world of your mind since childhood.

Now, go back and read your manuscript, as if you are a reader or editor. Does it seduce you? Do you become so mesmerized while reading the first few paragraphs that you don't look up until after the first hundred pages or so? Do you have to continue until you reach the end, no matter what time of day or night it is, no matter what other responsibilities await? If not, rewrite the story, not the one you want to write as an author, but the one you want to read as a reader.

Happy Writing!

© 2009 Madeline Smyth. All Rights Reserved.

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