Working with New Authors – It’s Not Always Easy

Six Common Writing Mistakes I Explain Over and Over

I’ve been working with a client on four picture books over the past few years. She loves the final product and keeps coming back, but she’s still making the same mistakes regarding her feedback on the drafts.

With every new section or draft I send her, she sends them back with notes and edits.

The reason it’s a little frustrating is because when I work with a client, whether ghosting or rewriting, I answer any questions they have. I also explain why changes she may want won’t work. 

I do this through the entire process of writing the story. So, the client is kind of getting writing instruction along with their story. 

Some of the most common writing mistakes I need to explain are:

1. You shouldn’t tell the reader; you should show her.

This is a bare-bottom basic. Don’t tell the reader that Lisa is mean and sneaky; show the reader through dialogue and action.

Example: When Brianna turned her back, Lisa grabbed Brianna's paper from the desk. Ha, now she'll be in trouble for not having the assignment.

2. It’s essential to limit adjectives and adverbs.

Instead of: Peter angrily put the book down.

Use: Peter slammed the book on the table.

You get the idea. You can always rephrase a sentence to make it less passive and more action-packed.

3. There needs to be conflict in a story, even stories for children.

According to Masterclass, “a conflict is a literary device characterized by a struggle between two opposing forces. Conflict provides crucial tension in any story and is used to drive the narrative forward.” (1)

The conflict doesn’t have to be life or death, but it must be significant to the main character.

In children’s writing, it could be moving and leaving friends. It could be losing a pet and desperately searching to find it. It might be wanting to be on the baseball team but not being good enough.

The conflict, the goal the main character has to reach, is what engages the reader and makes her turn the pages. 

4. The illustrations will show what’s not written in picture books.

A lot of new writers have a tough time grasping this aspect of picture book writing.  

You don’t have to say (tell) Alisha wore eyeglasses and had curly black hair. If you’re writing a picture book, the illustrations will show it.

If it’s a middle-grade or young adult story, you can use dialogue and narrative to show it.

Below is an example:

Alisha pulled a tissue from her backpack and cleaned her glasses. “Ah, that’s better.”

“Owww,” yelled Alisha as she pulled the comb through her curly black hair.

5. You shouldn’t hit the reader over the head with the message – the takeaway.

I get this one a lot from clients. They want to make sure the young reader gets what they’re trying to tell them with the story.

Kids are lectured to all the time; it’s important not to preach to them in picture books.

It usually takes a lot of convincing to get the client to understand the need to have a subtle takeaway.

6. There comes the point when the story is done. 

Thankfully, most of my clients are satisfied with my endings. 

Some, though, just can’t stop picking away at a good story. Mind you, not making it better, but just having a need to pick at it.

And there are others who will make edits, which, if they’re okay, I’ll incorporate into the story, and then they’ll turn around and want them out. Or, forget they wanted those changes.  

I’m not sure how many explanations are needed or how long it takes most authors to get the general idea of the basics of writing. I’m beginning to believe that some people just can’t comprehend it or they don’t want to.

Either way, it makes it challenging to write for these people, or let’s say it takes some of the joy out of the project.
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of, one that’s publishable and marketable.

Contact me at: Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Or, if you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.
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