5 Common Writing Mistakes

Here are some common mistakes I find in manuscripts.

1. Filter words

These fall into the whole “show don’t tell” category of advice. They can stop the flow of the reader’s momentum. Filter words often include verbs that identify any of the senses: heard, felt, thought, saw, tasted etc.

Example: I heard the trill of the birds outside.

Correction: The birds trilled outside.

Example: His team was exceptional. He didn’t understand why they kept losing.

Correction: His team was exceptional. Why did they keep losing?

Filter words can remind readers they’re inside of a book, instead of keeping them entrenched in the character’s world. Keep them connected, and they’ll keep reading.

2. Head hopping

This is in all of my favorite fantasy books from the late 90s/early 00s, but it’s a big no-no now. It’s when the viewpoint changes from one character to another within the same scene.

Example: She gazed into his eyes. They were soft and brown with hints of gold. She’d never seen eyes so kind. How could she be so beautiful? Staring at him like he was all that mattered in the world.

Correction: She looked at him with a glowing face, as if she was entranced. How could she be so beautiful? Staring at him like he was all that mattered in the world.

It’s important to stay within a single character’s mind and only comment on what that character would notice. Swapping heads mid-scene can not only cause confusion, but it can also thwart the reader’s ability to connect with your characters.

If three people are talking to you at the same time, are you going to be able to listen equally? I wouldn’t offer an unnecessary distraction to your reader, if you can help it. Don’t give them a reason to stop reading.

3. Laissez-faire approach to grammar

Laissez-faire is the french equivalent of “let it go.” Some authors have a phenomenal foundation in grammar. Others are compelling writers who didn’t have the opportunity or interest to nerd out on all the rules.

But it’s something all authors need to know!

Significant grammatical errors are distracting and a lot of work to correct. If you want to self-publish, it’s going to cost you a lot of money for someone to comb through your manuscript, correcting every little detail. And that’s every time you publish. Save yourself some money and learn how to fix errors you consistently make.

If you want to traditionally publish, an agent may reject you because they’re looking for more polished manuscripts. Agents and publishing houses are busier than ever, and they’re looking for clients that aren’t going to create extra work for them. Especially when there are so many authors who can provide a clean manuscript in addition to an interesting story and compelling characters.

Give yourself a fighting chance in this competitive publishing landscape and work on your grammar.

4. Info dumping

This is something I see a lot of in fantasy. It’s hard to invite readers into an unknown world without walloping them over the head with every little detail. But backstory must be integrated, seamlessly. That’s why writing is an art.

Sprinkle background information along, like little breadcrumbs, providing only what is absolutely essential at the time. There may be a complex political system in your book, but if it doesn’t apply to page one, don’t bring it up.

Let your reader grow curious, and as you answer some questions, make sure to ask more.

5. Refusing a second set of eyes

I know many writers have trouble showing their manuscripts to people, and there are a few reasons. First, many are scared. Second, they can’t afford an editor. Third, they think they don’t need it.

Well let me tell you, no matter how much we may know how to do something right, that doesn’t mean we can. At least not alone.

Every manuscript needs fresh eyes. If you’re scared, why are you trying to become an author at all? Isn’t that the entire point of publishing a novel? For the world to see.

If you can’t afford an editor, find as many beta readers and critique partners as you can to give you feedback. Then consider traditional publishing because they pay for the editor. Or if you want to self-publish, find an up-and-coming editor whose rates are more affordable for you.

And if you think you don’t need someone to look at your manuscript at all, you probably aren’t reading this article anyways. Publishing is a collaborative process. No part of it can be done alone.

Why do I need an Editor?

Have you just finished your first novel and you’re wondering what to do with it? Are you thinking of submitting to an agent or KDP (Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing)?

There are several steps before your manuscript is ready for submission, and one of the most important is to find an editor. Although there are several types, each one provides a distinct service.

I offer a developmental edit, which looks at the manuscript with a bird’s eye perspective to spot discrepancies that lace themselves throughout the novel. But why do you need me or any other editor?

Because we often can’t see our own mistakes. In life and in our manuscripts.

Editors hold up a mirror, a different perspective from which you can view your novel. They offer fresh eyes to help make it the best it can be.

Some people ask if family and friends can replace editors. Or if beta readers and critique partners can. They may be talented enough to spot mistakes, but are they experienced enough to offer clear and constructive feedback? Do they feel comfortable being honest?

It’s easy to criticize, but can they communicate? Being an editor involves more than an eagle eye, it involves a silver tongue. It’s an art form, especially if we want our clients to not feel ripped to shreds at the end.

But I’d like to know what you think down below! What have been your experiences with receiving feedback?

Different Types of Editing

Some edits blur into each other in practice, but there are technically four distinct types.

  1. Developmental Edit

This is where I specialize and usually the first stop on your editing journey. I look at your manuscript as a whole. I analyze the thematic elements, character arcs, pacing, plot holes. Does your book match genre and age group expectations? Are your characters engaging? Do you need to trim one plot line or enhance another? Developmental editors can help you make these macro level changes.

2. Line Edit

These edits dissect the manuscript at a sentence level. Think diction, style, flow. Are any of your sentences awkward? Are your paragraphs too long or too short? Are your phrases clear or confusing? Line editors can help you craft better sentences.

3. Copy Edit

This is the time to nerd out on grammar, syntax, fact checking, consistencies. Did your character have blue eyes in chapter one but brown eyes in chapter thirteen? Did that scientific experiment seem unrealistic? Are there any misspelled or repeated words? Is your punctuation off? This editor will notice them and make the appropriate changes.

4. Proofread

These are the final eyes that view the manuscript before it is submitted for publication, and they are primarily looking for typos. Think of them as the editor’s editor. They are looking to catch any mistakes the previously missed. This is typically the last stage on your editing journey.

Blurred Editing Lines

It’s important for an author to know what kind of editing he/she is looking for. It’s essential to begin on a macro level and end on a micro level. What’s the point of fixing the phrasing of a paragraph or the punctuation of a sentence if you’re going to eliminate that character entirely in the developmental edit?

Save yourself wasted time and do your editing in order. The line and copy edit are often combined, which I can understand. Grammar and sentence structure go hand in hand, but it’s imperative that you have at least two or three passes on your manuscript.

Critique partners and beta readers can supplement if you can’t afford multiple editors. But it is essential to have someone look at the manuscript as a whole before getting into the minutia. Then, ideally, have someone read it to make sure your previous editors were right.

To Love Ourselves

I watched a movie last night and cried my way through it. Have you seen Dumplin’ on Netflix? It’s about a girl in a bigger body trying to fit into a beauty pageant world. It explores the inadequacies we feel when our bodies are unacceptable to other people. And worse: when we perpetuate our own rejection.

The movie opens with a little girl, Willowdean, with a big smile and soft tummy holding a box of donuts. Three boys confront her with, “Omg, do you see her? You are honestly a pig. You’re huge.” They continue to dehumanize her by oinking.

That big smile dropped, and those bright eyes clouded with tears. And her emotion grabbed me at the throat. I’ve been that girl in a larger body chastised for eating the same food as my siblings and friends. I just wanted to eat what everyone else was eating. But only certain people are allowed to eat fast food and buy desserts without judgment.

Why is that? Why is it anyone else’s business what we eat?

Some people respond with, “Well we’re trying to help them be healthy.” Do you go around taunting smokers and smacking cigarettes out of their hands? No, because that would be rude. Why do we feel we have carte blanche to comment on people’s weight and make judgments about their health?

I know plenty of people who are thin but unhealthy, and I know people in larger bodies who have great health practices. The truth is we have absolutely no idea what is going on in someone’s life just by how they look. And furthermore, it’s frankly none of our damn business.

But for many of us, we have internalized these judgments and accepted them as our own. Willowdean has a moment when a boy she likes kisses her, and as he caresses her back, he touches a particularly soft spot. She jumps up and just leaves because she was so uncomfortable with him touching a part of her she didn’t like. Which is absolutely ok. She is allowed to set that boundary.

But when he tried to tell her that he liked her just the way she was, she pushed him away. She told him he couldn’t possibly want to cross the barrier between between thin and not acceptable. He looked at her with big eyes wondering how she could decide whether or not he liked her.

I spent most of my young life trying to be acceptable enough for a boy to like me. Hours and hours of late night sit ups, morning work outs, and perennial dieting. Every birthday, every eyelash, I wished for a boyfriend. So to watch a boy find a bigger body beautiful just wrecked me. Realizing that the hours and hours I had spent trying to change myself were actually completely unnecessary. Someone could have loved me just the way I was.

And then to watch Willowdean reject him for just loving all of her. To see how entrenched we are in diet culture that we believe the lie of our own inadequacy. I just sobbed.

I’m with someone now who loves all of me, and has loved me at every size, but the wounds run deep. Despite all of my work and therapy and logic, I still feel undeserving of love at times because of my body. How is that even possible after losing so much weight?

Because it’s never been about the weight. It’s all in our minds. Feeling inadequate is completely up to us. I’ve had moments of hating my body at every size. The only constant was how I felt about myself. And to think how little I care about the weight of others, why am I so hard on myself?

If you experience any of these feelings or questions, I encourage your to watch Dumplin’ on Netflix. It was a wonderful reminder that we are the biggest obstacle to loving ourselves, but, thankfully, we can change that.

Mama Fought Back

My daughter came out of the bath saying, “I hate that I’m fat.” I grew up in a house where that was the worst possible trait a person could possess. So all the triggers started firing.

I have spent years working on my relationship with food and with my body. We rarely mention weight or “healthy foods.” We talk about exercise that feels good and construct meals with balanced nutrients. We talk about foods that feed our souls and have a place in our lives even if their nutritional content is low. We talk about enjoying life while also nourishing ourselves and listening to how our bodies feel.

I don’t think my children have ever heard me use the words “skinny” or “fat,” and yet I’ve heard them use them. The first time one of my daughters tucked in her tummy asking if she was skinny enough threw me into an absolute tail spin. I was so shocked and so hurt that my daughter felt the need to change herself so young. And I was furious that diet culture had infiltrated my house, unbeknownst to me.

But this time, I was ready. I asked her what fat meant. Then I asked her why it was a bad thing. I told her that all bodies line up differently on a continuum; no two are alike. I explained to her that if her doctor said she was healthy, how could there be anything wrong with her body?

She said actresses are skinny. I then told her that many of them don’t eat or have a healthy relationship with food. I asked her, “What is more important: to have a specific body type or enjoy your life?”

She thought about it before responding. “I want to enjoy my life.”

“Then we choose to love ourselves. No body type can give you happiness; only your mind can do that.”

We continued the conversation, and I kept my calm. Where the first incident left us all crying because my daughters were so distraught by my reaction, this time I responded with logic and poise. I kicked diet culture’s ass today. I refuse to be a victim within her vicious grip. And I will equip my daughters to fight back too.

Mom Knows Best: 11 Moms Share Their Best Apartment Advice

Mom knows best — so take her apartment advice!

Whether you’re moving across the country for college or just across town into your own apartment, moving out on your own is a huge step towards adulthood. To help you prepare for living on your own, we asked Moms to share their best apartment advice. Here’s what 11 real moms had to share:

1. Think ahead

apartment knick knacks.

“Start picking up new decor items before you move, especially if you can find things on sale,” says Chelsy at Motherhood+Mayhem. “This way, you won’t spend a ton of money furnishing your apartment and making it feel like home. Plus, you’ll already have some amazing items as soon as you move in!”

2. Add personal touches wherever you can

Wall decor in an apartment.

“My best apartment advice for a first apartment is to hang up your favorite photos and artwork,” says Amy Smith from Amy & Rose. “The quickest way to make a space feel like yours is to decorate it with your favorite things. Hang up your best photos and add some personal touches, such as artwork you’ve created or knick-knacks you’ve collected over the years — they’ll add personality without even trying very hard at all.”

3. Prioritize your closet organization

Clean, organized closet.

“My apartment advice is to make sure that you invest in ways to organize your closets,” says owner and editor of Teach Workout Love, Jennifer O’Shea. “Closets are key in apartments for storage so having baskets, shelving, containers, etc. would be helpful in saving space. Anywhere that you can maximize storage whether it’s under the bed, in the closet or organizing drawers — use it!”

4. Add some greenery

Flowers and plants in a small apartment space.

“Purchase some easy-care plants such as bamboo stalks or cactuses and spread them throughout your apartment to add a fresh, homey feel to your first place,” says Whitney Fleming, ParentingTeensandTweens.com. “You can even add a few artificial plants or succulents. Also, splurge on a few fresh flowers every once in a while to perk up your kitchen counter and add some color.”

5. Opt for multi-purpose furniture

Dining room area in a first apartment.

“Choose your furniture wisely — in addition to looking good, make sure that it’s comfortable and easy to maintain!” says Lauren Webber of Dainty Mom. “If your apartment is small, go for space-saving and multipurpose pieces.”

6. Identify a purpose for your space

Plants and a couch in a small apartment.

“Think about the place where you spend the most time,” says Ingrid Read, the founder of Working Momkind. “Is it the couch, where you binge-watch your favorite shows or the bed, where you find yourself hitting snooze too many times to stay in there a little longer? Maybe it’s the kitchen where you enjoy making every meal from scratch? Once you’ve identified your space, you can comfortably splurge on that and whatever is within reachable distance of it. If it’s the couch, get the one you think about sinking into all day, an ottoman or coffee table and a nice end table for your favorite book, remotes and phone charger. Once that space is complete, everything else will fall into place, becoming your home.”

7. Don’t be afraid to incorporate pops of color

Colorful apartment with pops of color.

“I am no interior designer by any means, but I am very good at rooting and uprooting and making places homes,” says Domiana, retired pro athlete turned 2x bestselling author coach and healer.

“My biggest tip is to add pops of color. For example, my color is yellow, which is the color that I embody. So, find something that expresses your personality and makes you feel comfortable in order to really make your place feel like a home. Those pops of color can come from throw blankets. You can never go wrong with those. Therefore, finding cool colors that make you feel comfortable and cozy in your new space is so important. Lastly, plants make everything better. Just that greenery around you.”

8. Prioritize the essentials

Kitchen with essentials like a coffee maker and coffee.

“My best apartment advice is to prioritize your essentials before moving,” says Mommy Sigrid of Lovingly Mama. “For me, having a bed and mattress (with pillows), clean sheets, towels, bath products and coffee with a coffee maker are moving day essentials. These are the things I would need to take a good bath after moving in, a good night’s rest after unpacking, cleaning and arranging. Plus, the coffee will help you face the new day in your new apartment. All three: bath, sleep and coffee are my necessities for sanity.”

9. Choose your roommates wisely

Roommates.

“My motherly apartment advice is to interview potential roommates thoroughly,” says Jacqueline Pinchuk. “Make sure you’re a good fit for each other. Find out how clean they are, how often their significant other spends the night, preference for communal food vs. individual, division of shared bills and household responsibilities. Small things, like not having toilet paper when it’s your roommate’s turn to buy, become an important part of enjoying your new home.”

10. Work with your walls

Artwork in a dining room area.

“In order for your apartment to feel like your own — you need the walls to reflect you,” says Kathleen Tomasewski from Mom on the Go in Holy Toledo. “This doesn’t mean that you have to go spend a lot of money on expensive wall coverings. Get creative with it. Take some of your favorite book covers, book jackets, magazine covers and/or pages from calendars and frame them in white or black inexpensive frames. This will provide for a cohesive collection of some of your favorite things that reflect you and make you feel more at home in your new apartment.”

“You could always take it a step further and only include covers or images that contain a particular color scheme, say red, pink and white or navy and black. But again — remember the covers or images you choose need to reflect you, your interest and your personality. It is your space, after all!”

11. Nourish yourself

Cooking in an apartment.

“My go-to apartment advice for when you’re ready to move out on your own is to make sure you have a decent set of pots and pans,” says Heather Wells, founder of The Single Mom Blog & Podcast. “Eating out is great but being able to cook a nice meal will not only make it feel more like home but it will help you save money.”

Because Mom said so

Whether you follow some of this motherly apartment advice or you follow all of it, just know these mom-approved recommendations will help your first apartment feel like home in no time!

Day Care Guilt

I dropped my daughter off at day care this morning, and it killed me a little bit. The idea of another mother watching my child because I was unable to do so. The guilt clung to my shoulders and suffocated my heart. 

My other children ventured outside the house once they were old enough for preschool, and I justified this because it was preparation for kindergarten. At eighteen months, my youngest wasn’t eligible for preschool, but I needed to carve out some time for myself. 

With three older children in school and extracurricular activities, my early-morning, late-night, and naptime breaks no longer existed. I was simply never alone, without being utterly exhausted. Being consistently overwhelmed every minute of every day led to an emotional break, and I felt like I was losing my mind.

The Reckoning

I came to a crossroads: was I doing a disservice to my youngest by keeping her at home full-time? I was drowning under the weight of my maternal responsibilities without an outlet from the diapers and goldfish.

I was losing my love of being a mom. I no longer enjoyed the snuggles but felt stifled by them. I couldn’t engage in their fantastic stories. I couldn’t be present for their emotional struggles because I could not overcome my own. Every day I stayed home, without pursuing personal growth, my joy dwindled. 

Then I had a conversation with one of my doctors, and it unlocked something inside of me. I told her how overwhelmed I was and how I missed my writing. She said, “I’m a better mom for working.” She went on to tell me how she was more patient with her children, more engaged, and how work offered emotional support when home life was tough. 

Debilitating Fear

This conversation incited hope that I could improve my situation, but then the fear set in. What if I couldn’t find the right person to watch my youngest? What if I paid more in childcare than I could make? What if failing as a working mom made me feel even worse than I did as a stay-at-home mom? It didn’t matter that I had basically run a company before having children. I was convinced that six years at home had dulled my entire professional skillset. 

And so I waited, wallowing in my insecurities, and wading deeper into the waters of self-doubt. Until I couldn’t breathe, and the only option was to rise up for air. No one could save me. I had to save myself. No one would make me happy. Only I could do that. No one was responsible for my professional path. Except for me. 

I accepted the realization that working might be exactly what I needed and absolutely essential to my well-being. I also knew some changes had to be made to create an environment conducive to success. 

The Benefits of Work

If I was actually going to give working from home a real shot, I needed time during the day, while the sun was out. Morning time had been taken up by packing lunches, making breakfast, and herding everyone out the door. Naptime for one child meant quality time with another. And bedtime for everyone meant collapsing on the couch for mom. Those snippets of time I used to maximize had been obliterated by school related activities and the ensuing exhaustion. 

Daytime childcare became my only option. So as the guilt and shame of a stay-at-home mom dropping her child off with another stay-at-home mom clawed at me, I made a different choice. I confronted my self-loathing and pushed back.

I reminded myself of all the reasons why day care was a great situation. For everyone involved. My daughter would be able to play with other children and socialize outside of our house. It would contribute to another family financially and help us further invest in our community. It would drastically improve our home life. It would give me back to my family by first giving me back to myself. And it couldn’t hurt to make a little extra money along the way. 

Finding Success

And so I dropped my daughter off today with fear in my heart but the courage to fight for myself. For what I deserved. For what I needed to survive. A sense of purpose outside of my role as a wife and mother. I had the pleasure of being a woman today. With goals of her own and dreams and aspirations for a bright future. 

And all of my fear and worry and stress was for nothing. After a morning full of tea and eggs and stories, one of my daughters said, “You were such a fun mom today.” My oldest gave me a hug and said, “Thank you for being such a nice mom this morning.” My other daughter squealed when I painted her nails later in the day with my newfound energy. And as I kissed my youngest goodbye at her new day care, she completely ignored me, trading my attention for a plastic cup of goldfish. 

No one suffered because I prioritized my well-being. Quite the opposite, in fact. Today, we thrived. 

I Am Brave

I love my one-year-old’s power walk. She cruises through the house, fearless, unstoppable. Because she knows nothing about what could possibly happen. She has no anticipatory anxiety. She simply enjoys discovering the parts of life she now has access to.

What if we were like this?

A little healthy fear to keep us safe is one thing, but crippling anxiety is a different beast. What if we were more excited to discover our lives, instead of worried about potential pitfalls?

I think the longest relationship of my life has been with anxiety. Many of my decisions have been made from a place of fear, and I don’t think this is where we do our best work. But for many of us, fear is not a choice, it is a reaction rooted in trauma.

Even with consistent therapy, it lingers, burrowing deep inside my body, my mind, my spirit. To combat this, I’ve created a mantra when I am paralyzed or panicked: I am brave. I don’t focus on being perfect or right. I focus on being powerful. I focus on believing that I have value, just as I am. I have everything I need right now to be successful. I just need to try.

This mantra gets that sick feeling out of my gut when I believe that all is lost. It pulls me out of hopelessness and propels me forward into my future. Turning a terrifying problem into a beautiful path of possibility.

As Confident As My 3 Year Old

I’m not much for making my own mistakes. I prefer to learn from the mistakes of others. But I’ve gotten to the point in my writing career where application is far more important than theory. I’ve begrudgingly accepted I have to mess up to grow.

And I came to a crossroads: pursue my passion or give into fear? Do I quit because the potential for embarrassment is greater than my desire for fulfillment? I’m really not good at not being good at things. I’m naturally an overachiever and perfectionist. So the idea of continually being wrong to become better has been hard to digest.

And then I looked at this picture of Violet and thought. “I want her confidence.” I want everything she’s exuding in that picture. I want to be strong enough to see a mistake as a learning experience and not a failure.

Because we learn far more from what we do wrong than what we do right. And because I’m determined to see where my dreams can take me.

Covid Kids Back at School

After a year and a half of being home, my kids are finally back in school, and somehow, I’m more stressed out. It has been a rough transition for us from all day everyday with me, to most days with a teacher, but I think we’re finally finding our rhythm. Which means I finally have time to write 🙌.

This is my first year of having children in elementary school, and the uniforms and lunches and homework just bowled me over. My morning writing time evaporated in the race to get the kids up and out the door. And I just kind of melted away, as my writing time disintegrated.

This is the worst possible formula for me: increased stress levels with decreased writing time. I felt more anxiety this month than I’ve felt in a while, which is weird, because my kids were finally in school. My dream since Covid hit.

But most transitions are difficult. I had to find a new routine for my day, while my kids learned to adapt to a more structured environment with new teachers.

Did anyone else struggle? With their Covid kids back at school?

I felt a lot of failure this month. Like I failed my children for not preparing them, my husband for neglecting him, and myself for relinquishing my dream. Then I just kind of gave it up and leaned into the chaos, realizing that my anxiety helped absolutely nothing.

Because the calm will come. Equilibrium will be restored. And although I can’t see it, I can feel it coming our way.