There are three mistakes that fall into this area: accidental typing, scene breaks, and new chapter beginnings.
Accidental typing occurs when you accidently
Hit a key like the return key while you are typing your prose, causing the sentence to be divided as shown in this paragraph. Sometimes the computer may duplicate the section you type or move what you were typing to another part of the scene. This has happened to me frequently on the lap top computer that I am using at the moment because my palm is above the built in finger controlled mouse. The solution of this problem is to read your manuscript when you are finished to find out if this has happened on the current project. Use of spell and grammar checking software will not identify the errors.
Scene breaks appear to be an ever increasing problem with new writers. They seem to think that the scene break is made skipping a line between the single line prose. I don’t know if it is something that is being taught to them in an academic setting or passed on by their peers who do not know how and why to do it in proper manuscript format. Scene breaks are used if any one or more of three conditions exist. 1) If there is a change in the point of view character. 2) If there is a passage of time between scenes. 3) If there is a change in location. If these conditions do not occur, then what is written is a continuation of the current scene and the need for the scene break is eliminated. Scene breaks are shown as three ellipses, equally spaced on a new line with a blank line above it and a blank line below it. It is a typesetter convention used to indicate to the typesetter to put in a line without type at that location.
Another convention that was passed down to me is to start a new chapter on a fresh page. This is not a hard or fast rule. I have seen printed books where the printer had left three blank lines and wrote chapter # and begun a new chapter. Since books are printed in signets (bundle of sixteen pages or two full sized sheets folded in half twice and printed on both sides) and then bounds with other signets into the book’s cover. In a two hundred fifth six page book would have sixteen signets; it is highly unlikely that the printed pages of the story would actually end at the end of a signet. Thus this effort to save paper is in vain
There went three items in this section that seemed to be causing problems for new writers. These are 1) hooks, 2) pronoun antecedent and 3) dialog tags. There are two types of hooks: the main story hook and the cliff hanger or end of chapter hook. The purpose of the main hook is to draw the reader rapidly into the story. It must be shown on the first two or three pages; some writers claim in the first two paragraphs or so. Once the reader is engaged (hooked) in the story, he will continue reading to the end of the scene or chapter. The cliff hanger or end of scene/chapter hook has the purpose of enticing the reader to continue reading the next scene or chapter. For those of us who are the war baby generation can remember the serial films which had weekly segments. These segments ended with someone in danger, like the heroine hanging off a cliff by her finger tips. Thus the name cliff hanger was coined.
Pronouns are used in place of nouns previously named. For example: Fred went to the aquatic center. He changed into his suit in the men’s locker room. When he climbed into the swimming pool for his pool therapy, the instructor gave him a foam tube to do some of the exercises. The pronouns he, his, him are substitutes for the antecedent noun Fred. The antecedent is the gender noun appearing immediately before the pronoun. With new writers, they do not have a clear antecedent ahead of the pronoun. There are four classes of pronouns: male (he, him, his), female (she, her), genderless (it), and plural (they, them).
Dialog tags keep the reader informed as to whom is talking. There are two tags types: action tags and speaking tags (also called dialog tags). The speaking tag has the form of “John said”. Some new writers needlessly use a tag on every piece of dialog. The word said is largely invisible by itself. But the new writer use synonyms for said like yelled, shouted, questioned, exclaim, whispered, etc. These words are quite visible to the reader and are known as saidisms. Saidisms should be avoided. Action tags are preferable as they have the character doing an action that advances the story. Sometimes, the writer combines a saidism and an action. Only one should be used, preferably the action tag. Never use a saidism if it duplicates a punctuation mark. My pet peeve is “How are you feeling? asked the nurse. The punctuation shows that the character asked the question, thus the verb is unnecessary. If the preceding character addresses another character by name, the reader knows that he next speaker will be the character addressed. Likewise, in a two person dialog, the reader knows that the two characters will have alternating paragraphs of dialog, making the use of a saidism unnecessary. Never separate a character’s dialog from his actions.
Verbs: The best verbs are the strong Anglo-Saxon action verbs. The verbs should be past tense except in dialog where they could be either present tense or past tense dependent of the situation. Avoid verbs ending in –ly as they are adverbs and are normally unnecessary. If used, they are verb modifiers and should be replaced (example: Slowly walked is equivalent to stroll.) Also, avoid the –ing endings, they are usually preceded by the verb was; use the past tense in its place (example: was singing should be sung). The forms of ‘to be’ should be used sparingly as they are passive and rob the story of action and tempo.
Use all five senses: The five senses are seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling (touching), and smelling. They enrich the story by making the characters appear human. Professional writers use all five senses in every two to three pages.
Setting description: Just as humans, the fictional characters live in settings. These setting and descriptive details should be shown or else the reader will paint the scene based on his own assumptions. When a different setting detail is shown later in the story that differs from the reader’s assumption, the reader is pulled out of the story. The writer acts like a painter in that he paints the setting in the mind of the reader.