Mistakes I've Seen Lately in Books I've Read

When reading a book someone wants me to review, I'm always sad when I see mistakes that the writer could have learned about at a good writing conference or in a writing class.

One problem I've seen recently is the overuse of exclamation points. Usually if the dialogue (and that's the only place an exclamation point should ever appear)is exclamatory enough, the point is not needed. I can't remember what author said it, but something to the effect that there should only be one exclamation point per book.

The use of too many dialogue tags like, he gasped, she chortled, he explained. Said or question is enough--and better still, have the character do something so that the action can be the dialogue tag.

Far too many pages of description, whether it be of a house, or a historical event.

Yes, I know Margaret Mitchell had all those pages about the Civil War in Gone With the Wind. I read Gone With the Wind about eight times, but after the first round, I skipped the description of the War. Readers are interested in what happens to the characters. If they are involved in a war or an historical happening, let the reader see what is going on through the eyes of the point-of-view character.

Those are just a couple of things I've noticed. The books I read were good, but would have been far better with the help of an editor.

Believe me, I make plenty of mistakes. Every chapter I write is heard and seen by my critique group. After I think the book is done, I make sure it is seen by someone who knows how to edit.

Still mistakes make it through, but not as many as would if I didn't have those other eyes checking for me.

If you are new to writing, take the time to read some good books on writing or attend a writers' conference or two.

I can't tell you how many writers' conferences I've been to over the years and even now, I learn at least one new thing at each one I attend.



Patricia said…
Hi Marilyn,

Great post. I work with beginning writers and I'd like to share this information with them .... can we talk? authorassistance@gmail.com

Cheryl said…
Excellent article, Marilyn. I cannot stand the overuse of exclamation points or useless tag lines, or funnier yet when you have an exclamation point and then the tag line is "he screamed".

I'm glad I'm not the only one who skips descriptions on books you've read multiple time. I love Lucy Maud Montgomery's style, but enough about the trees already. I just get right to the characters when I read the Anne of Green Gables books now.


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