Crafting Style: 10 Fiction Style Pitfalls to Avoid

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Navigating and Overcoming 10 Common Stylistic Pitfalls in Fiction Writing

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Crafting a captivating writing style is a tricky journey. Between dialogue and prose, the whole show vs. tell Thing you’re always hearing about, conflict, clichés, and all the rest—not to mention editing afterward—you’ve got a daunting road ahead of you. Is it worth it? Let me work it. I put my thang down, flip it, and reverse it.

Ahem. Sorry not sorry for the random Missy Elliott. I’m a millennial.

Yes, writing is worth it, as is working toward a more captivating writing style. But there are numerous stylistic traps that trip up us fiction writers. We’re going to tackle ten of them today: purple prose, show vs. tell, sentence variation, inconsistent POV, info-dumping, weak dialogue, a lack of conflict, excessive adverbs and adjectives, overuse of clichés, and a lack of editing and revision. At the end, I’ll even give you a handy-dandy—free!—checklist to help you keep up with this dazzling onslaught of info.

So, what ten glorious foibles are we going to be looking at here?

  1. Purple Prose
  2. Telling Instead of Showing
  3. Lack of Variation in Sentence Structure
  4. Inconsistent Point of View
  5. Info-Dumping
  6. Weak Dialogue
  7. Lack of Conflict or Tension
  8. Excessive Adverbs or Adjectives
  9. Overuse of Clichés
  10. Lack of Editing and Revision

Hold on to your butts, my lovelies. We’re taking a Frizzle-style field trip into the harrowing world of stylistic pitfalls! You ready? You sure?

Then let’s go!

Pitfall 1: Purple Prose

In the mystical tapestry of ethereal existence, her eyes emerged as resplendent celestial orbs, radiating an incandescent luminosity that eclipsed the very essence of mortal perception. From their opalescent depths sprang forth an intricate cosmic ballet, where constellations pirouetted with the grace of celestial deities, their ethereal trails whispering secrets of the universe’s enigmatic symphony.

Bathed in the shimmering raiments of liquid sapphire, her orbs bewitched beholders, entangling their spirits in an inescapable embrace of ethereal wonder, forever ensnared within the tendrils of her timeless enchantment.

— What is purple prose? This. Dubious thanks to ChatGPT for this ethereal example of purple prose. I told the robot to make the text more florid, then even more florid, and damn, did it deliver. I can practically taste the purple.

Wikipedia defines purple prose as overly ornate prose text that may disrupt a narrative flow by drawing undesirable attention to its own extravagant style of writing, thereby diminishing the appreciation of the prose overall. I think that just about sums it up.

Purple prose is full of flowery language. It’s elaborate. It’s exaggerated. It traipses around in the fields of poetic language, finds every pile of glimmering unicorn crap it can, and rolls around in it like a dog. Gross metaphor? Yeah. But purple prose is kind of gross, too. Smells like grape cough medicine. Ew.

A bit of poetry in prose can be wonderful. Lush descriptions, vivid imagery, and rhythmic language, when done right, can suck you in deep and knock the breath from your lungs. But purple prose detracts from your story rather than enhancing it. It overshadows the message of your writing, and it confuses your readers and makes it harder for them to connect with your story. If they’re too busy stumbling over intricate metaphors, verbose descriptions, and convoluted or downright ridiculous language, they’re too distracted to be immersed within your story’s world.

The principle of “less is more” applies as much to creating a powerful and engaging story as it does to other areas of life. Strive for simplicity and clarity. Choose your words with care: aim for precision and impact, not purple or beige conveyance of your story’s happenings. A precise, painful punch to the reader’s gut is more effective than a belly blow cushioned by florid prose.

You can still play around with words—words are pretty, and playing with them is fun—but focus on getting your ideas across without losing yourself in elaborate descriptions.

Here are some tips for avoiding the dreaded purple:

  • Prioritize Clarity: You want your readers to understand you. Ensure that your writing effectively communicates your ideas without unnecessary embellishments.

  • Use Descriptive Language Purposefully: Select vivid and evocative words only when they add value to the story or enhance your reader’s understanding.

  • Show, Don’t Tell: I’ll be going into this a little more later, but in the meantime—let the actions, dialogue, and scenes speak for themselves, instead of relying on excessive adjectives, adverbs, and narrative.

  • Edit Ruthlessly: Grab that knife and go to town. Cut out unnecessary passages or sentences that don’t contribute to the overall narrative or character development.

    …okay, you can keep a few, but not if they smell like grape cough syrup! Yuck!

Your story and characters should shine through with clarity and impact, not transcend mortal bounds with their brilliance and leave an everlasting cosmic imprint. (Thank you again, Robot. Trying to generate the purple myself hurts my poor brain, and I kind of need that squishy thing for, y’know, life.) So, embrace the beautiful art of simplicity. Let clear words carry your story, with maybe a few well-timed strokes of your poetic brush. Your readers will thank you.

Pitfall 2: Telling Instead of Showing

Show, don’t tell is one of the most oft-repeated pieces of writing advice that I have seen. But what does it mean?

Wow, there’s a Wikipedia page for that, too. Who’da thunk it? According to Wikipedia:

Show, don’t tell is a narrative technique used in various kinds of texts to allow the reader to experience the story through actions, words, subtext, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarization, and description….The technique applies equally to nonfiction and all forms of fiction, literature including haiku and Imagism poetry in particular, speech, movie making, and playwriting.

In short…

  • Telling is when the writer just says what’s happening, without deepening the action and descriptions to allow readers to picture the scene in their own mind’s eye.

  • Showing is when the writer digs deeper, using descriptions, actions, and subtext to immerse the reader in the characters’ experiences.

Telling in fiction can be useful! Sometimes, to keep a story moving along, you need to get information about what’s going on across quickly, like when you need to do a time skip or otherwise fill in the less interesting details. Exposition and summarizing are not inherently bad!

When you rely too heavily on them, however, you rob your readers of the opportunity to engage with the story on a deeper level. Instead of being immersed in the narrative, readers are given a passive, detached experience, leaving them feeling disconnected and uninvested in your story.

To overcome this, you must embrace the power of showing. Immerse your readers in the sights, sounds and emotions of the events on the pages. Use vivid descriptions, dialogue, and actions to allow your readers to experience the story firsthand. This brings your story to life, and it enables your readers to form their own emotional connections and interpretations to your tale.

Here are some techniques to show instead of telling:

  • Use Sensory Details: Engage the reader’s senses by describing what the characters see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. This helps create a vivid and immersive experience.

  • Show Through Actions and Gestures: Instead of telling readers how a character feels, illustrate their emotions through their actions, body language, and facial expressions. A source I especially love for fleshing out these sorts of details is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression (Kindle link) (non-Amazon link) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I probably sound like a broken record by now, but it’s seriously fantastic and transformed my own writing com-plete-ly.

  • Employ Dialogue: Let conversations between characters reveal their thoughts, motivations, and conflicts, adding depth and authenticity to the story.

  • Create Vivid Settings: Paint a picture of the environment using descriptive language, allowing readers to visualize the world in which your story unfolds. If you need help with descriptions, I recommend Word Painting (Kindle link) by Rebecca McClanahan. I struggled a lot with description back in the day, but after reading this, it clicked.

Remember, showing doesn’t mean completely eliminating telling! There may be moments where summarization is necessary to maintain a good pace or convey important information efficiently. However, finding the right balance between telling and showing is key to captivating your readers and making your story come alive.

By showing instead of telling, you empower readers to actively engage with your narrative, making it a more immersive and memorable experience. So, bring your story to life through vibrant descriptions, compelling dialogue, and tangible emotions. Show, don’t tell!

Pitfall 3: Lack of Variation in Sentence Structure

Bobzo liked cake. He went to the store every week. He did not care for spaghetti. He did not care for Frank next door. Frank was probably a vampire. Bobzo was boring. Bobzo liked boring. He did not like excitement. He liked his white bread life. He did not want to save the world.

Okay, that hurt.

A lack of variation in sentence structure makes for boring words. No one wants to read prose that’s as dry as a bone in the Mojave sun. That’s what you get when you rely too heavily on a single sentence pattern: it makes the prose feel repetitive and dull, monotonous, detached. Now, what is the effect of sentence variation?

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

— Gary Provost

The above is one of my favorite quotes about writing and one of the best examples of the need for sentence variety. Isn’t it great? I cannot even begin to compete with it. But I’ll try to break it down anyway.

Variations in sentence structure create a dynamic and engaging reading experience. They add rhythm and flow to your words. They capture your readers’ attention with their poetry and music, pulling your audience deeper into your story, deeper under your spell, deeper. This is why it is important to embrace the spice of life, variety, in your writing. Here are a few tips:

  • Experiment with Sentence Lengths: Short sentences. Long, meandering, beautiful sentences as crystal clear as pure water on a spring day. Create a natural ebb and flow with your writing. Short sentences provide clarity and punch. Longer sentences allow for more complex ideas and delightful descriptions.

  • Play with Sentence Types: Incorporate a variety of sentence types—declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory—into your writing. This adds variety and reflects the different tones and moods within your story.

  • Use Different Sentence Structures: Go beyond the subject-verb-object structure. Incorporate different kinds of sentences, such as complex and compound sentences, to add depth and complexity to your writing. Experiment with fragments and run-ons in moderation. Play.

  • Pay Attention to Rhythm: Consider the rhythm and cadence of your sentences. Vary the placement of stressed and unstressed syllables to create a pleasing and musical quality to your prose.

Breathe life into your writing. Break free from the monotony of uniform, mundane sentence structures. The world of language is wide and beautiful. Explore it. Keep your readers immersed and engaged with artistry and rhythm in your storytelling. Let your sentences dance and sing.

Create music.

Pitfall 4: Inconsistent Point of View (POV)

Staying in one character’s head and revealing information can be hard. I’m in Bobzo’s head right now, you think, but Frank is over here watching the werewolves do their thing. Maybe I could pop in real quick—

Nope. I know what you’re thinking, but nope. Unless you’re planning on switching scenes, nope. Even omniscient POV insists on staying in the head of one viewpoint—the narrator. Resist the urge to play hopscotch between your characters’ heads! Resist!

Inconsistent POV is when you’re in one character’s head for a scene, experiencing everything through their eyes, and then suddenly, without any kind of noted and deliberate change, you’re inside another character’s thoughts. But why is this a problem? Why is consistency in point of view important?

Because inconsistent POV is confusing.

Consistent POV helps maintain reader engagement and creates a sense of immersion. When your readers are deep under your writing’s spell, sudden shifts in perspective are jarring, and they break the reader out of that deep immersion. You must establish and maintain a consistent and clear POV throughout your piece in order to keep your readers enthralled.

Tips, pls? How do you keep point of view consistent? I’m glad you asked…

  • Choose a Primary POV Character: Select a main character or a limited set of characters through whose eyes the story will unfold. This helps readers establish a strong emotional connection and provides a consistent lens through which they experience the narrative.

  • Stick to One POV Per Scene or Chapter: Avoid abrupt switches within scenes or chapters. If you need to switch perspectives, do so intentionally and clearly, providing a smooth transition for the reader.

  • Pay Attention to Pronouns and Narrative Voice: Consistently use pronouns (such as “I,” “he,” “she,” or “they”) and maintain a consistent narrative voice associated with the chosen POV character.

  • Be Mindful of Internal Thoughts and Knowledge: Stay within the bounds of what the POV character can perceive and know. Avoid providing information or thoughts that the character wouldn’t realistically know—even if you’re dealing with a telepath. Even telepathy should have some rules. Find other ways to have the POV character and the audience learn what you want them to know.

Inconsistent POV disrupts reader immersion and creates confusion within the narrative. Resist the urge to switch between characters’ perspectives willy-nilly. Select a primary POV character, or a few of them, to guide the story, and stay in their heads for entire scenes, sections of scenes, or chapters.

By maintaining a consistent POV, you will create a seamless reading experience that keeps your readers immersed and in love with you and your world.

Pitfall 5: Info-Dumping

What is info-dumping in writing? It’s something like this:

You’re reading along, making your way through some lovely words, and then splat! A big blob of information drops on your head like cold gruel from the sky. Splat! There’s some more gray and watery chunky sludge. Splat! Some more!

All of those blobs of information ooze together, formless and bland, every last detail forgettable in the amorphous goo swallowing up your shoes.

Info-dumping is when writers unload excessive information, be it background info or explanations, onto readers in ways that interrupt the flow of the story. Instead of carefully doling out every rich detail throughout the narrative, they dump it on readers in tedious and lengthy paragraphs, disrupting the storytelling with details that quickly bore the reader and fall right out of their heads.

How do you avoid info-dumping? You need to integrate information seamlessly into your writing. You can’t just pour it out in boring clumps or sloppy plops. No one wants that. So, here are some strategies to avoid info-dumping in writing:

  • Sprinkle Information Throughout the Story: Rather than delivering information in large lumps, reveal it gradually as it becomes relevant to the plot or character development.

  • Show Instead of Tell: There’s our friend Show, Dont Tell again. Whenever possible, incorporate information through character actions, dialogue, or observations, allowing readers to infer details. Spoonfeed sparingly, y’all. Spoonfeed sparingly.

  • Use Dialogue and Interactions: Utilize conversations between characters to naturally convey information, as they are more engaging and dynamic.

  • Trust Your Readers: Avoid the temptation to explain every detail. Give readers space to fill in the gaps and draw their own conclusions. They have imaginations, and they want to use them! Let them.

Remember, readers enjoy uncovering details and piecing the puzzle together themselves. By integrating information into your narrative, you create a more immersive and engaging reading experience. So, let go of the urge to dump information all at once—obligatory let it go, let it gooooooo—and allow your story to unfold organically.

Pitfall 6: Weak Dialogue

Weak dialogue is just that—weak. It diminishes the impact of your story and impedes reader engagement. Your readers want to form strong connections with your characters. When your dialogue lacks depth and fails to capture the unique voices, personalities, and emotions of your characters, it is challenging for them to forge those connections. Instead, they’re left with shallow impressions, or, even worse, boring ones.

Nobody wants a bored reader.

Well-crafted dialogue brings your characters to life. It seamlessly integrates important information into character interactions. It feels natural, and it’s rich with conflict, tension, and subtext. Weak dialogue lacks that. It doesn’t feel dead—it feels like it was never alive in the first place. Or it hits you with more of those gross, gruelly info-dumps. Yuck.

Here are some issues to focus on in dialogue:

  • Authenticity: Choose dialogue that reflects the unique voices, personalities, and backgrounds of your characters. Strive to avoid generic or robotic conversations that lack authenticity and fail to capture the nuances of real-life speech.

  • Avoid Excessive Exposition: Utilize dialogue primarily to reveal character traits, advance the plot, or build tension. Steer clear of using it as a tool for excessive exposition or information dumping, as this can make conversations feel forced and unrealistic. So no, “As you know, Bobzo…”

  • Incorporate Subtext: Engage readers by infusing subtext into your dialogue. People often convey hidden meanings, conflicting emotions, or ulterior motives through their words. Adding layers of subtext to your dialogue adds depth and intrigue, allowing readers to decipher the underlying intentions and emotions of the characters.

  • Eliminate Unnecessary Filler: Streamline your dialogue by eliminating unnecessary filler and small talk that does not contribute to character development or story progression. Keep the focus on purposeful and impactful dialogue, ensuring that each conversation serves a specific purpose in advancing the narrative.

Weak dialogue is a wimpy but formidable obstacle to the impact of your story. It falls short in capturing the distinct voices and emotions of your characters, resulting in lackluster conversations with all the depth of a dirty dishtowel. These don’t engage your readers. These don’t bring your characters to life.

By infusing your dialogue with authenticity and layers, you create a more dynamic and captivating reading experience. Let your characters’ voices, emotions, and interactions shine. Show their intentions, conflicts, and hidden motivations through subtext and meaningful exchanges. Breathe life into your characters and propel the story forward through them, and you’ll ensure that readers remain engaged in your little tale ‘til the end.

Pitfall 7: Lack of Conflict or Tension

I’ve covered conflict and tension before in my post Editing for Impact: Unleashing Emotional Resonance in Your Writing, but conflict and tension are vital in fiction writing. Conflict and tension are so vital that, without them, your story will be just a bunch of words arranged in some coherent order.

Conflict is a push and pull between forces, one of which is your character, over something your character wants desperately. Tension comes from this push and pull. Conflict and tension drive your story forward, provoking reactions and evoking empathy from your readers as they follow your characters on their journey. 

Both elements need to be personal. They need to revolve around what your characters want most, and they need to butt hard against everything that makes your characters themselves.

Or maybe it’s not that dramatic. Maybe your character just wants a sandwich or something and can’t decide what kind they want or if they want to share it with someone or not, or they don’t know if they even can share it because the guy they want to share it with might only consume blood. That can be a story, too.

How do you create conflict and tension in a story? 

  • Introduce Compelling External Obstacles: Infuse your story with compelling external obstacles, opposition, or challenges that hinder your characters’ progress. These obstacles should drive the plot forward and keep your readers engaged.

  • Explore Internal Struggles and Conflicting Emotions: Delve into the inner world of your characters and develop their internal struggles, desires, and conflicting emotions. By portraying their internal conflicts, you add depth and complexity to their journeys, enabling readers to empathize and connect with their internal turmoil.

  • Embrace Unexpected Twists and Turns: Avoid predictability in your story by introducing unexpected twists, dilemmas, or obstacles. Surprise your readers and keep them engaged by presenting them with unforeseen challenges that raise the stakes and create suspense.

  • Amplify the Consequences: Raise the stakes by amplifying the consequences of the conflicts your characters face. Make the outcomes of their actions more meaningful and impactful, with potential repercussions that heighten tension and drive the story forward.

  • Harness the Power of Slow Moments: While conflict drives the narrative, it is equally important to include slow moments that allow readers to catch their breath, reflect, and deepen their connection with the characters and the story. These quieter interludes provide an opportunity for introspection, character exploration, and emotional resonance.

Tension and conflict infuse narratives with urgency and emotional resonance, keeping readers hooked until the end. The external obstacles, internal struggles, and unexpected twists of tension and conflict test your characters, revealing their true nature and forging deep connections with readers. Because readers are a bloodthirsty bunch. They crave that juicy conflict. It’s fun.

Strengthen your story: strengthen your conflict and tension. Your readers will eat it up.

Pitfall 8: Excessive Adverbs and Adjectives

I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.”

Stephen King had that to say in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I’m not sure I’d go that far when it comes to adverbs, and I confess that I never have understood the hate for dandelions. I love dandelions. They’re like little mini suns. They’re pretty!

photo of dandelion flowers in a meadow
Photo by Helena Jankovičová Kováčová on

So, let’s instead say that adjectives and adverbs are like water in a dish that you’re cooking. Add the right amount, and you’ve got yourself something good. Add too many, and you’ve got something bland and diluted and just not great.

Excessive adverbs and adjectives allegedly weaken prose by causing redundancy, imprecise descriptions, a reliance on weak verbs and nouns, and a tendency to tell rather than show. They leave little room for imagination as well—readers like a little breathing room when it comes to descriptions in stories. Strong, precise language, however, fuels the imagination, and allows the readers to become more actively involved in the narrative.

Here are some tips on what to do about excessive modifiers:

  • Minimize Redundancy: Reduce the unnecessary repetition caused by excessive adverbs and adjectives that restate information already implied by the verb or noun they modify. Streamline your writing to maintain conciseness and ensure that every word adds value and impact.

  • Write Precise Descriptions: Employ adverbs and adjectives with precision, selecting them judiciously to provide vivid and specific descriptions. Opt for concrete details that evoke imagery, avoiding generic or clichéd expressions. Enhance the richness of your writing and captivate readers with precise and evocative language.

  • Use Strong Verbs and Nouns: Emphasize the use of robust verbs and precise nouns over an overreliance on adverbs and adjectives. Choose words that convey power and clarity on their own, without relying on modifiers. Infuse your prose with strength and dynamism by employing strong vocabulary.

  • Edit for Impact: Review your writing with a focus on maximizing its impact. Identify areas where adverbs and adjectives may be excessive or unnecessary. Trim and refine your language, ensuring that every word serves a purpose and contributes to the overall effectiveness of your prose. Consider alternative phrasing, stronger verbs, and more precise nouns to create a compelling and engaging narrative that resonates with readers.

By choosing evocative verbs and specific nouns, you can create prose that captivates and resonates with readers, allowing them to experience the story firsthand. Cool, huh? So be careful with those dandelions!

Or not. It’s your story, after all.

Pitfall 9: Overuse of Clichés

Clichés are a dime a dozen. People have been using them day in, day out since before there was anything better than sliced bread, and come hell or high water, they’re going to keep using them ‘til English is dead as a doornail…then they’ll find some other dead horses to beat.

Ah, clichés, those overused phrases, expressions, tropes, and stereotypes that have stuck around for so long that you can smell ‘em. Stinky stinky. Clichés are unoriginal. They’re so familiar they’re distracting. They’re a real pain in the neck, and you really do need to avoid them like the plague, else your readers be bored to tears. Then you won’t be bringing home the bacon with your writing anymore. Sorry to burst your bubble.

I’m not sorry for my bad sense of humor, though. Giving me this platform really opened the floodgates for—

Okay, I really will stop now…or nip this in the bud. Eyyyyyy…

Readers want originality. They want specificity. They want prose that sings, vivid imagery, emotions, new light! They want to be transported to unpredictable worlds on the wings of fresh, unique words. Clichés lost their impact long ago, which means you need to break free from the clutches of clichés, put your nose to the grindstone, get down and dirty, and go against the grain to get a leg up.

(I’m still not sorry.)

Here are a few tips to kick clichés to the curb and give unoriginality the boot:

  • Come Up with Fresh and Unique Descriptions: Challenge yourself to come up with descriptions that engage the reader’s imagination. Use figurative language, metaphors, or similes that surprise and delight, instead of tired ol’ phrases.

  • Go Deep with Character and World-Building: Create distinct characters and settings that defy clichés. Develop their personalities, motivations, and backstories in ways that are unexpected, steering clear of overused tropes.

  • Twist Clichés for Effect: If you find yourself using a cliché, consider subverting it or adding a unique twist to give it a fresh perspective. This can inject more creativity into your writing.

  • Embrace Originality: Trust your imagination and strive to create something new. Don’t be afraid to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy—or take risks, challenge conventions, and explore unconventional paths—in your storytelling. Your unique voice and perspective will shine through. I promise.

By aiming for the fresh scent of originality instead of leaning heavily on familiar old clichés, you will suck your readers deeper into your writing and give them an unforgettable reading experience. So let your hair down and let the creative good times roll!

Pitfall 10: Lack of Editing and Revision

Mmm, editing. My domain. Here we go, babies. Let’s get cracking.

Editing is where you make your story shine. Maybe you got to the end of your story and went, “Whoa, hey! I hit pitfalls 1-9! Oh no! What do???” Now you’re panicking.

In the wise words of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t panic.

I say over and over again that writing is malleable. Writing is malleable. Writing is malleable. Writing is hard. Writing is malleable. If you have made it into your story and have found yourself dealing with a plethora of pitfalls, I want you to breathe. Then, I want you to think for a second.

Look at you: You wrote a story. You wrote a whole-ass story. Wow. Congratulations! Who cares if it stinks right now? Give yourself a big ol’ round of applause—you’ve earned it!

A whole spiel about the importance of editing is beyond the scope of section 10 of a blog post, so I’ll be brief here for once. Editing is important. Editing is essential. Editing is a step that you must not skip. Failure to dedicate sufficient time and effort to editing will result in a subpar story. You put in all that effort, and then you decide that no, you’re not going to clean it up before you throw it at somebody else? Why? Doesn’t your little tale deserve better?

It does, and you know it. Of course you’re not going to neglect the editing process. You’re here on a proofreader’s blog, reading a post about writing style. You’re going to edit your story.

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for while you do it:

  • Ensure Consistent Plot or Character Development: Carefully review your manuscript for any inconsistencies in plot progression or character arcs. Ensure that events unfold logically, motivations remain consistent, and character growth is believable.

  • Look for Grammar and Syntax Errors: Poor grammar and syntax detract from the reading experience. Check for spelling mistakes, punctuation errors, and awkward sentence structures. Be thorough. Take your time. Give it your all.

  • Clean Up Wordiness and Repetition: Trim excessive wordiness and repetitive phrases. Strive for concise and impactful language that keeps the narrative flowing smoothly.

  • Dialogue and Descriptive Balance: Strike a balance between dialogue and descriptive passages. Avoid long stretches of uninterrupted dialogue or overly dense descriptions that might bore or overwhelm your readers.

  • Seek Feedback: Share your work with trusted beta readers or writing critique groups. Their perspectives can help identify areas that require improvement and provide valuable insights.

Edit your stuff. It’s hard and you’re tired, I know—believe me, I know—but it’s worth it. I promise.


Purple prose. Show, don’t tell. Lack of sentence structure variation. Inconsistent POV. Info-dumping. Weak dialogue. Lack of conflict or tension. Excessive adverbs or adjectives. Overuse of clichés. Lack of editing and revision. Ten pitfalls to avoid if you want to craft a writing style that sings. Today, I’ve told you a bit about how to fix or avoid them.

Writing is hard, but by recognizing these pitfalls and developing strategies to address them, you can elevate your writing to new heights. You can captivate readers with your storytelling prowess. You can write a banging tale that leaves them begging for more. And you can know when to push up against the advice I gave you here for great effect.

Writing is malleable. Try some of this stuff out. Practice. Persevere. Commit. You can grow as a writer, and with the information I just gave you, you’ll have a much better shot at that than you did before you clicked the link to this post.

Have fun, and go hit those words where it hurts!

Any thoughts, readers? How much trouble do you have with these pitfalls? Are there any others you can think of? Tell me in the comments below!

While you’re here, would you like to know more about wrangling plot holes? Or would you like an experienced professional proofreader to take a look at your stuff? I’ll proofread up to 400 words of your writing for FREE!

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