Top 10 Story Issues: Learn What to Avoid #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

This month, I’m going to focus on what I’ve learnt from reading first drafts.


As the CEO of Fictionary, I read a lot of draft novels, and it’s one of the great pleasures of my job. It’s also an amazing learning opportunity.

Today, I want to share the top 10 issues I find in manuscripts in hopes that you can learn from them.

Here we go…

1. Word Count — Doesn’t follow the genre requirements

Inappropriate word count is the issue I see most often. For example, a 200,000 word mystery novel means the writer doesn’t know the expectations for the genre.

I also see random scene lengths, instead of scene lengths used to control pacing. Scene length can be shortened to increase pacing and lengthened to decrease pacing. This is an often underutilized method.

Learn more…

2. Point of View — Confused, inconsistent, unbalanced

A scene is told through a character’s eyes. That character is the POV character for the scene.

I often see a lack of control when writers change POV characters within a scene. This is called head hopping, and it’s jarring to a reader.

The order the POV characters appear, the number of times they appear, and consistency within a scene are all important. If an author hasn’t put enough thought into who has the POV for each scene, the novel can appear disjointed.

Learn more…

3. POV Goal — There isn’t a clear one

A character goal is simply what a character wants. The goals will drive the story forward.

The POV goal is what the POV character for the scene wants.

When you know the goal, you can start thinking about all the ways the character will fail at achieving the goal, what obstacles you can put in the character’s way, and how the character will feel about failing.

A scene where the POV character doesn’t have a goal will lack tension. And without tension the reader gets bored.

Learn More…

4. Purpose Of Each Scene — Isn’t clear

The purpose of the scene must relate to the overall story. If the scene is not driving the story forward or developing your characters, then ask yourself why the scene is in your novel.

If you don’t have a reason for the scene to be in your novel, think about cutting or rewriting the scene.

Learn More…

5. Scene Anchoring — Without it the reader is lost

A writer can be too close to their story and not “see” that the reader is lost. The mistake is to not anchor the reader in the point of view, the timing of the scene and the setting.

You know who has the POV, where the character is, and the timing of the scene because you wrote the scene, but does your reader? If the reader can’t figure out the POV, timing and setting within the first couple of paragraphs, you may lose them–the reader I mean and not the character.

Learn More…

6. Scene Entry And Exit Hooks — No exciting hooks

The beginning and ending of each scene is a chance to keep the reader engaged. This mistake is to ignore having entry and exit hooks for each scene.

When creating a scene entry hook, consider:

  • Starting in media res (opening in the middle of action)
  • Foreshadowing trouble
  • Using a strong line of dialogue
  • Raising a question
  • Not wasting words on extraneous description

The exit hook is the magic that will keep your reader wanting to begin the next scene. Types of Exit Hooks:

  • Cliff Hanger–perhaps your protagonist’s life is at risk
  • Revelation–show the reader something that will change the course of the story
  • Setback for the protagonist or antagonist–one of these characters should be very unhappy about the latest event
  • A secret revealed–you can either reveal a full secret or only part of a secret
  • A question left hanging–this will tease the reader, making them want the answer
  • An unexpected plot twist–this will keep the reader guessing

Learn More…

7. Tension — Not enough

A lack of tension in a scene may mean the reader puts your book down.

It’s important to know the difference between tension and conflict. I often see a lot of conflict but not enough tension.

Learn More…

8. Backstory — Too much, too early

Backstory is the story that happens before your novel begins. Sometimes during the story, you need to inform the reader of something that happened earlier in a character’s life. You may have files upon files of information you store elsewhere that you use to develop your characters, but what we’re concerned with here is what the reader needs to know.

Too much backstory early on will bore your reader. Don’t risk it.

Learn More…

9. Timing — Confusing timelines

This issue occurs when a story jumps around in time — meaning the story is not told in a linear fashion. This can be great, but only if the reader can follow it.

Learn More…

10. Story Arc — Key scenes are in the wrong place

I’ve read many manuscripts where the story arc is not followed. When the author rewrites the story and move the key scenes to the correct place, the story goes from mediocre to good, or good to great. Who doesn’t want that?

Learn More…

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary will help you address each area listed above. You’ll be able to focus on problem areas in your manuscript and improve it quickly.

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories?


39 thoughts on “Top 10 Story Issues: Learn What to Avoid #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

    1. Hi JM. Thanks for stopping by. If you have any questions about Fictionary, I’m happy to answer. We have a lot of blogs on that talk about editing a draft – just in case you’re looking for more resources 🙂


  1. These are all great tips to writing a story, Kristina. Thanks so much for sharing them–and for the links for more info attached to each tip. I agree with many commenters. #6 is definitely something I struggle with–especially with my memoir about attending college as a mother of 5.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m going to put some serious thought into exit hook variation when I start revising (next week, probably, seeing as I’m 4 days away from finishing the first draft, yahoo!). My entry hooks, those are varied as all get-out, but the exit ones…not sure. 😛 Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was very informative! I struggled with numbers 1, 3 and 8 in my last project and I’m happy to say they have improved a lot in my second novel. I’m still working on number 6, however. Do you have any more information on genre? One of my goals during my current project is to get more familiar with subgenre categories. At least for me, it’s not always obvious when I’m reading (or writing for that matter!) A particular subcategory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Christy, Genre is a huge topic. Do you have something specific your interested in learning? There a thousands of sub-categories, so be careful you don’t get lost in it all. I think is important to know your main genre and then look at a couple that might be part of it. For example writing a thriller could also be romantic-suspense if there is enough romance.


  4. I was head hopping real bad when I thought I was getting better in my writing. With advice from Paula Munier in a Writer’s Digest workshop, I do believe I got better.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great insights into manuscript problems! POV is something I definitely struggle with, especially head hopping. Tension is also something that’s so tricky to master, especially the difference between conflict and tension that you point out. Thanks so much for sharing!


  6. Thank you for this helpful list of tips! I love the focus on goals and scenes because it’s true. I’ve stumbled on filler scenes before or the purpose doesn’t reflect the over theme of the book and it is very disruptive.


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  8. An excellent list! I’ve just finished reading the first draft of a manuscript that scores 9 out of 10 (the timeline is very clear!). Now to write the manuscript assessment letter …

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m working on scene-by-scene revisions right now, so tip number 6 is extremely helpful!

    I also need to make sure that each scene has a purpose — I’ve already deleted a couple! Thanks for this excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your checklist is a good one. I clearly have strengths and weaknesses among the items on the list. Scene entry and exit is one for me to focus. I don’t think I capitalize on the opportunities to add tension, suspense, etc. as much as I should.

    Liked by 1 person

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