21 Mistakes Most Writers Make

by , Thursday September 18, 2014
21 Mistakes Most Writers Make

Even the pros aren't perfect.


Creative writing is a tricky art to master, and putting your ideas on paper can sometimes be a struggle. So it’s not surprising that it can be tempting to take a few short-cuts. Here’s a list of the top 21 sins even seasoned authors commit.


1. Forgetting to jot down good ideas straight away

Inspiration can strike anywhere, and unfortunately most of the time you can’t just summon the Muses when you’re sitting at your desk. So wherever you are, when you get a great idea, make sure you make a memo on your phone straight away. Or go old-school and always carry a notebook in your bag. Spare yourself the agonising pain of squandered genius and get scribbling!


2. Trying to cram too much in


Most good writers have worked out more of their fictional world in their heads than they ever let on to the readers. Believe it or not, this is a good thing. Sure, your work needs to make sense, but schooling your readers on all the complex ins-and-out of your backstory gets confusing fast, and becomes a chore to trawl through. Exercise your reader’s imagination and let them think for themselves!


3. Making the protagonist too perfect

A good protagonist is one of the hardest characters to write, they need to be likable, but make them too perfect and they’ll be hard to stomach. The cleverest girl in the class, who also happens to be great at sports, a total sweetheart, and has all the boys crushing on her? Yeah, she doesn’t exist.


4. Relying on a ‘crutch’ word

Absolutely everyone does this. You find a word you like, use it a couple of times to dazzling effect and then it won’t leave you alone! It ends up cropping up all over your story. Repetition is dull, so proof-read diligently.


5. Trying too hard

Reinventing the wheel is a bit unrealistic, so don’t try and be clever for the sake of being clever. Write what comes naturally to you, we promise you’ll sound more intelligent.


6. Relying on clichés

Some plot devices, metaphors and sayings are a bit old-hat. Is your villain’s heart as cold  as ice? That’s boring! Think outside the box.



7. Copying the style of another writer you adore


It’s great to be inspired by other writers, but there’s a fine line between letting another author influence your work and plagiarism. Take centre stage and create your own unique authorial persona.



8. One word: adverbs

Legendary horror writer Stephen King  hates these. Describing how an action is carried out can be useful, but often they’re nothing but filler. To quote the great man himself, ‘ask yourself if it really needs to be there’. If the answer’s no, bin it.


9. Trying to do everything at once


Brilliant as you are, you only have one brain, which can only do so much. It’s better to pick on aspect of your story to really concentrate on, rather than lots of half-baked parts. So take it one plot development at a time.


10.  Sacrificing believability for convenience

It’s been done  a thousand times. Your character is in a sticky situation and happens to stumble upon the ideal solution in a barely plausible scenario. Maybe there’s a robbery happening in a shoe shop, and your protagonist conveniently finds a raygun in the flipflop section. It might be ideal for propelling the plot forward, but it just doesn’t happen.



11. Writing what you don’t know

If your story is set in New York in the 1920s, it’s probably best to know a thing or two about this era. You probably can’t get your hands on a TARDIS, but dedicate time to some serious research.

12. Getting unreasonably attached to characters

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. So don’t be afraid to throw hardships at your characters, or even kill one of them off if it serves your story. We’re not saying you have go full-on George R. R. Martin, but remember that not everyone has to get a fairytale happy ending.



13.  Relying too much on your own life

Drawing from your lived experiences is a fab idea, but don’t forget to let your imagination run riot. If a character is just a substitute for yourself, consider changing their gender, age or cultural origin. Variety is the spice of life!


14. Being too serious


Don’t get too bogged down in the darker side of life. Even if your story is a weepy, the ability to draw light-hearted moments from the depths despair is one to be coveted.



15.  Relying on cheap thrills

Everyone loves a bit of drama, but make sure it’s believable and relevant to the plot development. A bloody punch-up or knife-point robbery that has no emotional consequences for your characters will just frustrate your reader.


16. Being unable to let go of a story

This doesn’t just apply to poorly written sequels–sometimes authors just can’t stop writing the same formula. If you find you’re repeating character types or plot devices from previous works, it’s time to step it up!




17. Running out of steam before the ending


The confusing twist, the mystery that’s never solved and, worst of all, the ‘it was all a dream’ narrative. All examples of lazy endings. Hopefully, you’ll have your ending sorted before you start drafting your story, but writing is strenuous work, so if you’re struggling with the final push, take a break and come back to it. You deserve it.



18. Ignoring feedback

Love is blind. So it’s always a good idea to get a trusted proof-reader to look over your story. Their objective eye can pick out any glitches that you might have missed. So swallow your pride and listen to them!



19. Letting feedback totally dictate how you redraft your story

On the other hand, you should also trust your instincts. Your story might not appeal to everyone, and that’s fine. There’s plenty examples of books that were panned upon release that are now regarded as classics. Maybe your work is just ahead of its time, so let your freak flag fly!



20. Rushing the editing

We get it. You’ve made it through the hard part, and now you’re dying to unleash your story on the world. But don’t neglect the editing. Unless you’ve already made it in the literary world, or have bucket-loads of cash, you probably don’t have an editor to do this for you. So take the time to polish your work. Your readers will thank you for it!


21. Losing yourself in the work


It’s awesome to be committed to your writing, but staring bleary-eyed, hunched over your keyboard for hours on end isn’t the best idea. Get outside every now and again, and use your experiences to inject your story with some fresh ideas.


Are you guilty of any of these? What’s your pet-hate when it comes to writing mishaps? Have a good old moan in the comments!


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