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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Are there too many people in your bedroom?

Oh, I mean your scene!  Did I get you?  The question got me when I read it in Jack M. Bickham's book, SCENE & STRUCTURE.  First, let me say I highly recommend this book.  I thought I knew how to edit, until I picked up this book and realized I didn't have a good grasp on all the common errors to look for in my manuscript. 

Since I was 'in the dark' I am guessing some of you may be too, but you don't even realize it. Mr. Bickham has a list of common errors in manuscripts, which I'm going to share with you. I will not elaborate on them because I could never do the topic justice here, and you really should read Mr. Bickham's take on how to fix the errors because he is the expert, after all. But I suggest if you read this list and any of these common errors surprise you, or make you want to learn exactly what he is speaking about, you should run and purchase the book.

I'm in deep edit mode on my latest manuscript, and the very first error on Mr. Bickham's list was in the first two pages of my manuscript. The scene had been bothering me for some time, but I couldn't figure out why until I read this list.

Common Errors in Scenes
1. Too many people in the scene.
2. Circularity of argument.
3. Unwanted interruptions.
4. Getting off the track.
5. Loss of viewpoint.
6. Forgotten scene goal.
7. Inadvertent summary.
8. Unmotivated opposition.
9. Illogical disagreement.
10. Overblown internalizations.
11. Not enough at stake.
12. Inadvertent red herrings.
13. Unfair odds.
14. Phony, contrived disasters.

Hope this list helps you! Do you recognize some mistakes you’ve made? Is there anything on the list that surprised you?

Happy Witting!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem


  1. I may be guilty of overblown internalizations. I know at least one agent out there thinks so. LOL. It's something I've tried to be more conscious of as I write.

  2. Sounds like a good book, Julie. Thanks for the recommendation. I really have to work to keep enough at stake.