Mark Dawson is one of the most successful and prominent authors in the independent publishing world, and his Self Publishing Formula, which provides a vast amount of information and training on how to get into the business and stay there, has become a must-have resource.
One part of the resource is a blog about independent publishing that Mark and his team contribute to on a regular basis. A recent article by Tom Ashford (What Are The Biggest Mistakes Writers Make? – Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula) outlines the five biggest mistakes that fiction writers are likely to make.
They are 1) info dumping, 2) head hopping, 3) too much description, 4) cardboard-cutout characters, and 5) dialogue tags. I find much in the short article to agree with.
The first point, info dumping, is about the tendency of a writer reveal all of the backstory at the very beginning so that, according to the thinking of the writer, the reader will understand what’s going on.
Not necessarily, says Ashford.
Your reader expects to go into your story relatively blind – that’s why they’re reading your story. Don’t make them feel like a baby being born inside an EDM rave, unable to comprehend everything being thrown at them. Drip feed the essential (and especially non-essential) information through actual character interaction (be that dialogue or your protagonist’s view of the world around them) and through scenes that physically add to your story.
Another point Ashford makes is about “dialogue tags,” which are the verbs of attribution writers use when their characters speak. Ashford makes the point that I continually made in teaching media and journalistic writing for nearly 40 years: Nothing is as good as the verb “said.”