Certain red flags signal to writing teachers and book judges that a book or story is written by someone who does not use a writers’ group or contests to help hone skills. Seasoned judges and teachers expect further mistakes once they bump against the first. Sadly, mistakes distract from good story telling and hurt writers’ chances for publication and attaining readers.
- Any story or book that starts with pronouns “he” or “she,” rather than naming a protagonist until many paragraphs or pages in, is written by a beginner. Chances are high that the story will percolate with other wannabe writer annoyances.
- Misuse of punctuation.
- Misspelled past participles. The most commonly misspelled past participle is “lain.” People wrongly use “laid.”
- Misused verb tenses. Many writers do not go to the trouble of correctly using present perfect tense, relying on “just” in front of simple past: “I just ate.”
- Overuse of adverbs. “Even,” “just” and “basically” are ubiquitous.
- Starting a story with a character the reader has no sympathy for. Telling a tale through the eyes of a despicable person is hard to carry off. Readers need to bond, just like babies do.
- Trying to be too mysterious. (This hooks with number #1.) Writers who think they are being mysterious and refuse to give information that is descriptive and logical fall on their noses in the land of vagueness. No reader wants to be lost. This mistake always shows up early in the text.