Friday, September 9, 2011

Potholes to Avoid While Writing

For most of us writers, our first drafts are bloated and full of errors. That should not be a cause for worry as first drafts are all about getting a story out on paper. If we worry too much, it can affect the flow of words. And we all know that first drafts are reworked upon several times until the manuscript shines.

There are certain traps we can avoid  when  working on our second, third and consecutive drafts.

1.      Weak Characters. This is one of the major flaws editors and agents can pinpoint. Characters who do not contribute much to the movement of the plot and Characters that do things without a justification can seriously hamper a book’s prospects. Strong characters, whether they ultimately succeed or not, drive the plot. The readers are watching the character’s every move. They are aware that the character is trying. Underdeveloped characters can be a major irritant. When a writer has not tapped the true potential of a character/s, readers are definitely left with a feeling of being cheated.

2.      Coincidence. Though coincidence is unavoidable in fiction, but an excess of it will soon provoke incredulity. Coincidence must be treated with caution and should never simply be a cheap and easy way to resolve a dilemma or conflict within the plot.

3.      Serendipity. Serendipity can be delightful. Too much of it will become syrupy and syrupy on any page of fiction tends to make things sticky and can be a huge turn-off.

4.      Chunky dialogues. Dialogues are an important part of writing and can definitely make or break a story. To get the dialogues right, we should subtly eavesdrop on conversations. A lot can be learnt just from listening to conversations. People seldom answer each other directly, but manoeuvre to steer the conversation back to their own agenda. Dialogues can be vital to give clues about characters. We can understand a lot from the way people talk.

5.      Descriptions. Descriptions are a wonderful way to explain things, people and places in our stories. But an information overload can seriously overwhelm readers. Descriptions that gently creep up on readers taking them by surprise is always an asset.

6.      Language. Words are always a writer’s asset. If clich├ęs and the often used metaphors are avoided and replaced with new and unusual way of describing things, it works to the advantage of a story.

7.      Lame Endings. Endings that do not resolve the major conflict/s in a book and endings that have just popped  up out of the blue are major disasters that every writer should consciously avoid. Writers have to move towards the ending  by dropping few hints and foreshadowing a little about it earlier in the story.

What according to you all should writers avoid while writing. What do you feel turns off readers? What upsets you in another writer’s story?   


  1. There is so much to learn from this post...lame endings are a big disappointment for me.

  2. Don’t treat your reader like they’re an idiot. My current whipping boy is the American crime drama Castle, although it’s just the latest of a long list of shows who feel they have to explain every little thing to their audience and it becomes tiresome. The same goes for the plot, okay they’ve only got forty-three minutes to wrap everything up but if someone coughs you know it’s relevant. A book is a collaboration between reader and writer and if you try and do all the work for the reader where’s the fun in reading the thing? You have to credit him with some intelligence and if that means that some people don’t get the book then so be it.

  3. These are all excellent. I've read books that have made one or more of these mistakes. I definitely aim to avoid these pitfalls!

    I dislike whiny passive characters. I want to see strong, unique, and flawed characters who bravely overcome their weaknesses.

    Have a great weekend, Rachna!

  4. For me, it's imperative the ending have resonance from the first draft on. If it doesn't, there's no momentum to go back and fix the rest. You complete the draft and feel drained, rather than invigorated because those last few pages fell flat. Everything else can be fixed and of course the ending can be polished, but there's got to be something to it that makes your brain sit up and take notice enough that you're willing to go back and rewrite.

  5. Too many coincidences and seredipity can ruin a story. Even make for a lame ending. I like events to happen for a reason, for cause and effect to explain things, not chance. Too unrealistic.

  6. Good list. My number one pet hatred is when a writer underestimates the reader's intelligence. If a CP does that, I nail their backsides to a wall. Absolutely despise it. :-)

  7. Great list, Rachna. I think the lame ending is most annoying for me as a reader. I invest a lot of interest in the book's story problem, and if it turns out to be too easily or poorly resolved, it's a big disappointment.

  8. This is a great list, Rachna! I would say that predictability is a big turn off. I also prefer books that show me something new I didn't know before.

  9. First of all, I think that every writer should let go of all rules during the first draft. I think that is the biggest challenge we all face. As a reader, what turns me off are cliches.

    1. I've given up Adult Historical Romances (and adult romances as well) because of the cliched swooning female and the chauvinistic male.

    2. I don't like the Cinderalla Syndrome where the heroine is extremely passive.

    3. I don't like it when I can hear the author smile at his own joke when he thinks that he has just piqued the interest of the reader with a cheesy end-of-the-chapter-hook.

    Thanks for the discussion, Rachna! Happy Friday to you. <3


    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?

    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

  10. Humm, this is a tough one. I would have to go with dialogue. I never paid much attention before but when I read the first Twilight book, the dialog jumped out at me as being really weird. I remember saying to my sister that if people sniffed, snorted, grunted, and sighed that much in a conversation it would be the silliest thing ever to see. Then the movie came out and well... that's all they did.

    Endings don't bother me much. When I look at my book shelf maybe 3 or 4 books are stand alone books and the other 700 are all series books so I know there is more to come.

  11. Too many coincidences is big one for me. I have a hard time buying coincidences at all in fiction, actually. It's one of those things that works better in real life that it does in stories.

  12. Excellent list, Rachna! I'm gonna need this when I start editing. ;)

  13. Great list! I’d also add that the theme or subject of the book must hold the average reader’s interest.

  14. I don't think I have anything new to add, but would highlight your chunky dialogue paragraph. Dialogue is more important to me than plot or structure - as long as it is credible and is moving the story along. What sucks for me is dialogue which is out of character or too repetitive.

  15. Really great list here, Rachna, thanks for tying the subject together so well. I think #6 is the biggie for me--cliches and the over use of metaphors. Some are bright, but when they're not--or there are too many of them--the story suffers...

  16. how about the excessive use of the word "awesome". The word awesome is so powerful, and refers to anything that is truly awe-inspiring. But I fear that we have all watered down the significance of the word due to excessive and wrong usage.

  17. Fantastic list of things to avoid. What I try to avoid the most is contrivances and unbelievable scenes.

  18. Great list! What turns me off is killing a character just to tug at the reader's emotions. If you're going to off someone, it needs to be an organic development of the story, and not just to sucker punch the reader into feeling something intense that you could have created through more subtle story telling.

  19. These are great. I really hope people don't think my story possesses any of these.

  20. dialogue is a topic that's always bothered me because I feel that it's never right when I write it. Other people have said that my dialogue flows well but it just doesn't feel right to me sometimes.

  21. Hi Rachana,
    Yet another informative piece, with good tips and suggestions to writers.
    Great Post.
    Good going,
    I joined in again with my twitter a/c
    Best regards