Although there are other common errors in writing, these are the five I see the most.
One of the most common errors I see comes with the usage of quotation marks and end punctuation. I get a lot of this:
“Hello”, she said.
“What’s up”? he asked.
“Hey”! Brandon yelled.
Quotation marks should come after the punctuation. The above phrases should look like this.
“Hello,” she said.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“Hey!” Brandon yelled.
2)Switching Between Character Perspectives Mid-Scene
Switching between two character perspectives (or seeing in the mind of two characters—God’s point of view) is both distracting and confusing. This is especially true if the entire book is from one character’s perspective, but shifts out of nowhere to the feelings/desires of a random character. If you do want to move between perspectives of characters, start a new scene with each shift. Your readers will thank you for it.
3)Dialogue that is Too Simple or Too Complex
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a main character try to ride his way through a book by answering questions with some one-word answer. “Great.” “Right.” “Okay.” In the end, this character lacks development and sounds like he has nothing intelligent to say. I’ve seen characters with so much depth, oozing emotion and a deep outlook on life, only to follow up with a “Gotcha” when told that the world is about to be destroyed by a bomb and only he/she can stop it.
This can also go the other way with too much dialogue. We don’t want to read two pages of the main character talking about how he/she is going to disarm the bomb either.
4)Telling, Not Showing
Okay, so you’re setting up a scene and you want to describe every little detail of what is occurring or where the character is at, or you want to describe the very miniscule steps of opening a door or putting on clothes. Don’t. Show character action that is brief and to the point. Better yet, just say…”so and so opened the door.”
This is also true of dialogue. You don’t have to say, “Don’t do it,” John said excitedly, raising his voice. Instead, show us. “Don’t do it!” John yelled. Even excluding the end description and leaving it at the exclamation point shows the rise in John’s voice. Always try to show. Don’t tell. I personally make this mistake in my own writing, and have been reminded of it by Beta readers.
5)Lack of Character Development
This one is easy to do. You take your main character and you do a good job of showing us what he/she is doing. But, we never get to see what is going on inside. What emotions does this character have? What is he thinking when he just shot that criminal? What memories haunt him? If the reader doesn’t connect emotionally to the main character, you’ve lost all hope of making the reader sympathize with that character.
Hopefully, these little tips will be helpful in your writing.