Below are the top 3 craft mistakes I see in many (so many!) of the developmental edits I do. While you can't avoid all of them, you can certainly pay attention as you write to save yourself lots of time and money later on. If you'd like to discuss how I can provide one-on-one, personalized editing assistance for your own manuscript (I offer three different tiers of editing, as well as a budget-friendly editorial review) through Utopia, contact me any time. Now let's get to it!
1. Unintentional Point-of-View (POV) Switches
I've come across these so many times in my editing work that it gets the number-one spot as a huge writing snafu. This is something you do not want to do unintentionally at length, because it will require tremendous amounts of revising that can span far beyond a developmental edit's typical parameters. In a nutshell, unintentional POV switches are when you, as the narrator, hop from one character's "consciousness"/POV to another's without a designated scene or chapter break. Now, this isn't the same as omniscient POV--a.k.a., you do have the authority to go mind-hopping from one character to another in the same scene. As a rule of thumb, try to stick to third-person or first-person limited POV and avoid omniscient POV unless you feel extremely comfortable in your author pursuits.
Nowadays, omniscient is very rarely done well and almost universally despised by agents and publishers, because it can be clumsily executed and confusing for readers.
**Want to see a popular example of omniscient POV? Read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice--the author moves from one character's head to another throughout the entirety of the book, and does so seamlessly.**
2. Characters' Goals Aren't Clear, and Neither Are The Stakes
This is another huge issue that can encompass an entire manuscript--when the characters' goals aren't clarified so that we can become invested as readers, and the obstacles getting in the way of those goals aren't easily defined so that we feel compelled to keep reading. I'm not saying that every single character needs an assignment they must complete to prevent the end of the world (hello Lord of the Rings, which my fiancé and I watched this past weekend!), but as the author it is your job to understand clearly what your characters want (they all want something, or you have no story), and to convey that clearly to us along with what stands in the way. You can have the absolute coolest setting in the world (or a setting that's out of this world!), but if you don't have characters who deeply want things and are continually being faced with trials that prevent them from getting those things, readers won't care.
3. Infodumps (Too Much Backstory, Too Soon)
Remember what I said about not telling us enough about characters' goals and the stakes in their way? Well, you can do the exact opposite by dumping a massive backstory on a reader without first providing a hook that assures the reader's investment. The concepts/literary devices of foreshadowing (hints of events to come in order to develop a reader's expectations) and Chekhov's gun (all elements in a story must play a role later on) exist for a reason: Pull your reader in with excitement, action, and the promise that their attentions will be rewarded later on with big reveals and backstories about the characters they've come to care about.
In writing, the author does best to abide by this poker-playing adage: Don't show 'em all your cards!
That's it for now--stay tuned for my next post, where I'll be focusing on the most common copyediting (i.e., grammatical) mistakes I come across in my work with clients.
And don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or to discuss your editing, ghostwriting, or publishing consulting needs! I'm always here to help.