The Dreaded Red Pencil…
In: Writers & Editors
To an editor, each new manuscript is a journey of discovery. A new writing style, an author who takes you by the hand. You want to dive into the plot and storyline — but then you start to feel an itch only a red pencil can take away…
What are the common ‘mistakes’ (editing is partly subjective, I hasten to add) writers make? Let’s focus on point of view first.
Point of View
Do you have an omniscient narrator or a first- or third-person narrative? The challenges are there for first-person stories; you have to be consistent and not change perspective along the way. The reader only becomes aware of events at the same moment as your protagonist and perceives these through their eyes. There is no context other than the protagonist’s viewpoint, thoughts, and actions.
If you have a third-person narrative, make sure you stay with that protagonist or clearly show (as in a new chapter or with a paragraph break) that you are moving away from them and are now seeing things from someone else’s point of view.
All too often, narratives jump from one person to the other and that confuses the reader but it also makes it difficult for them to empathise with the protagonist, to fall in love with your character. Thus, they are less involved in what happens to protagonists.
Show don’t Tell
Another crucial mistake is the over-explaining of emotions, actions, and situations. When you write, ‘he rolled his eyes,’ we all know what emotions are going through that character at that time. To have it explained makes the reader roll their eyes in return but even worse, it blocks the imagination.
A book is not a film and for your readership to become invested in your story, your characters, you have to give them the freedom to create and use their own imagination while reading your book. That makes for a satisfying read and enhances the reading experience. That is what turns a novel — your novel — into a success.
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