I’ve noticed that beginning writers make a lot of the same mistakes. Here are a few things I’ve learned that may be helpful to you. Some of these might look obvious and easy. So does juggling, ice skating and hang gliding. They are not easy. Neither are the things on this list.
- Keep sentences short and simple.
- Don’t include anything that does not advance the story or help define the characters.
- Be careful about characters addressing each other by name. People who know each other seldom do.
- If you’re writing a story set in our time, keep the dialogue and description informal. If not, you will sound like a Victorian novel.
- Don’t explain things when you don’t have to.
- Don’t have characters tell each other things they know, or should know.
- Explain statements when needed.
- Don’t repeat dialogue and descriptions. Many beginning writers feel the need to tell the reader the same thing two or three times using different words. Give the reader credit for understanding you the first time.
- Refer to Elements of Style by Strunk and White whenever you can.
- Read the great French mystery writer, Georges Simenon, to see how simple sentences and a deliberately limited vocabulary can be used to tell very complicated stories.
Check out the new webcomic Tom’s Tiki Bar, written by me and drawn by Jason Chatfield.