The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

By Jack M. Bickham

Bickham’s extensive credits include 65 published novels, books and articles on fiction writing, and a stint as a lauded professor at the University of Oklahoma. His brief introduction summarizes his vigorous approach to modern fiction writing, a form recognized for its forward motion, its ability to engage readers from the first line and draw them into an imaginary world.

Each chapter offers insight on one of Bickham’s 38 identified fiction writing mistakes. Starting with “Don’t Make Excuses,” he gives writers a lot to think about when struggling to solve problems like writer’s block, slow-paced narrative, and how to finally sell work. Though it is presented as a serious of mistakes not to make, it is a wholly encouraging book, intended to guide writers through the common traps that keep good stories from shining.

Bickham’s book of advice amounts to what, in the 90s (when it was first put into print), would have been called a ‘reality check.’ At just 110 pages, this slim volume is a flying read with each short chapter imparting tested wisdom for writers who are determined to publish. He reminds us, from his personal experiences in publishing, that our pieces will be judged by harried junior editors who have time to glance at only the first paragraph before deciding whether reject a piece or approve it for further consideration. Faced with a cold fact like this, a writer could easily become discouraged. But Bickham has advice for that, too, filling his pages with affirmations for emerging writers.

While no book on writing technique can give would-be authors everything required on their way to success, Common Fiction Writing Mistakes seems to come close. Including practical exercises for blocked writers (or those who have lost their way), Bickham shows writers how to rethink obstacles and create stories that move readers.

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