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Alessandra Torre
December 15, 2020

A strong editor can spot amateurish writing a mile away. Whether it’s a weak character, bogged-down plot or inconsistencies, they uncover our problem areas with an easy flourish of their red pen. Which raises the question: What are the most common writing mistakes that editors see?

I posed this question to Susan Barnes, a former editor with the publishing house Hachette who has worked with me on five novels and who is both the toughest and best critic I’ve ever known. Susan joined me on First Draft Friday, and we chatted live – discussing this very question.

Susan shared her most commonly spotted mistakes, which included:

Telling, not showing

It’s one of the oldest rules in fiction – authors shouldn’t tell the reader how their character feels, they should show them. We discuss this rule in detail, along with ways to spot telling, and when it’s OK to break this rule.

Info dumps

Info-dumping occurs when an author bogs down a scene with sharing too much information at once. This can tie into showing/telling and often causes the reader to lose interest or start to skim over the content. Susan talks about exposition, backstory and descriptions – all which can be high-risk for info-dumping.

Storytelling and rough drafts

We also answer and discuss live questions from the audience on point of view, writing memoirs and how to get through your first draft in one piece. 

It’s a fast-moving half hour with lots of actionable tips and content. Click below to watch the full video clip or listen to it on the podcast.

Interested in connecting with Susan? Visit her website for more information.

Want to watch more great conversations about craft? We have over a dozen more videos in our First Draft Friday library.

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