The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

A book review.

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

(And How to Avoid Them)

by Jack M. Bickham

published: 1992

ISBN: 9780898798210

genre: Writing


👍🏼 recommended


This gem of a book lives up to its title. With plenty of real-world illustrations it walks through an endless series of mistakes that most authors will recognize, and explains what to do about them. It really is that simple. The mini-chapters representing each mistake have titles like:

"Don't Fail to Make the Viewpoint Clear"

And subtitles to match:

"...when you can keep your readers riveted on a single character and his or her problem."

There are a lot of books for would-be authors that talk about the process of developing a narrative, and rightly so. But this book is the kind of how-to that I think packs a lot of punch for anyone who's struggling.

I first bought this book while living in Australia in 2001. It's 2021 and I read it again last year as I was having another go at my story at that time. In the thirty years since this was written we now have the Internet with its many web sites and forums and instructional videos. What sets this apart is that the content isn't written by random forum-goers or some crank with a video camera. It's written by someone who got 75 novels published.

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