From the “Top Ten Rookie Mistakes” panel at MileHiCon a few years ago. Here’s my quickie list of top ten mistakes. I’ve tinkered with this since I first put it together, but I think these are the basics. This is the stuff that marks rejectable manuscripts in the slush pile and allows an editor to quit reading before reaching the end. I’m open to suggestions for ones I’m missing or questions about the ones that I’ve included. Each is easily worthy of a separate, long discussion.
Top Ten Rookie Mistakes
- Failure to use action verbs.
- Failure to be specific.
- Point of view character is passive or pluckless
- Failure to invest “caring” into the point of view character.
- Relying on exposition instead of narration (particularly at key points that would be much more interesting dramatized).
- Failure to be unique (or at least to be familiar in an interesting way).
- Failure to surprise the reader globally (how the story unfolds) and/or locally (at the sentence level or word choice level).
- Failure to unify the story (the beginning doesn’t set up the end, or there are incidents and details that are not tightly integrated into the story).
- Having nothing to say or saying nothing (the story has a “so what?” feel).
- Language that is not concise. The story needs pruning.