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5 More Common Mistakes New Writers Make


A few weeks ago, I introduced you to five mistakes that new writers often make. The response was so great that this week, I’m bringing you the dramatic sequel, with five MORE mistakes!

 

It’s important to understand that I’m not trying to shame anybody when I talk about mistakes. Please don’t get legalistic with these posts—this isn’t the Ten Commandments. Nothing is engraved in stone here, and I don’t want you using them as a checklist for what tips you are or are not following.

 

However . . . I also think it’s important to understand that certain things can undermine your productivity, creative inspiration, and growth as an author. And since I’m on a mission to help writers reach their full creative potential so they can impact and inspire readers, I wouldn’t be doing much good for you without bringing a warning.

 

 After all, in the words of my favorite author, Flannery O’Connor, “Do what you can get away with . . . but nobody got away with much.”

 

Let’s check out five more common mistakes new writers make so you can squelch any bad habits before they creep up in your writing process.

 

Not Having a General Game Plan

 

It’s popular now for writers to talk about being “plotters” and “pantsers”—people who meticulously plan out their projects versus those who work best with the freedom to write by the seat of their pants.

 

This concept can be helpful for determining your general writing process, but I’d caution you against using it as a hard and fast rule. This is because both tactics in balance are necessary for writing that exercises both creative freedom and efficiency.

 

Jumping into a project with only a vague idea of where the story is going can often lead writers to become distracted, hit frustrating walls, and eventually get so lost that they lose track of the project altogether. It’s a common scene, and it's where many new writers unwittingly capsize. Sure, you might stumble upon some hidden gems along the way, but chances are, you'll find yourself lost, going in circles, or worse, hitting a dead end.

 

This doesn't mean you need an ironclad outline that strangles creativity or boxes you into a corner. No, far from it. Writing is an art, and there's beauty in the spontaneous twists and turns that emerge as you weave your narrative. However, having at least a sketch of your plot’s contours and the trajectory of your characters’ growth can be the difference between a story that meanders aimlessly and one that sails smoothly to its destination.

 

Think of it as drafting a treasure map; you know there's gold at the end, but the path you chart can still surprise you with unexpected detours and discoveries.

 

A game plan could be as simple as jotting down key plot points, sketching out your characters’ arcs, or envisioning the climax and working backward. Whatever form it takes, this preliminary compass will guide you through the fog, keeping your story aligned with its true north.

 

It allows you the flexibility to explore, but it also ensures that everything serves a purpose for propelling your narrative forward and ensuring that you will produce a first draft that provides a good starting point.

 

 Not Understanding the Rules

 

Diving into the world of writing without grasping the fundamentals is like attempting to cook a gourmet meal without knowing how to boil water. Innovation and breaking the mold are celebrated, but there's a fine line between pioneering and plummeting.

 

A solid story is underpinned by certain non-negotiables—consistent point of view, a balanced mix of internal and external character development, and a clear, coherent plot structure. These aren't just stuffy rules set by literary gatekeepers; they're the scaffolding that supports your story, ensuring it doesn't collapse under the weight of its ambition.

 

Some emerging writers, dazzled by their creative freedom, may decide to toss these conventions out the window, believing their tale too unique for such constraints. However, this is akin to a novice painter ignoring the basics of perspective—it might yield something interesting, but it’s unlikely to resonate on a deeper level with viewers.

 

Picasso is a good illustration of this. While he’s known for his experimental, surreal painting style, his early work shows little trace of this. It shows him practicing the fundamentals of his art form. It was only after understanding the techniques of sound art that he could stray off the beaten path with success. Strong craft and technique always undergird good storytelling.

 

Just as understanding the rules of language helps us communicate more effectively, knowing the foundational elements of storytelling enables us to connect more profoundly with our readers. From a place of knowledge, we can most effectively rebel, crafting stories that defy expectations while still delivering the satisfying narrative arcs and emotional journeys that readers crave.

 

Disregarding Good Feedback

 

Honest feedback is the bitter pill we writers must learn to swallow with grace and gratitude. Showing your writing to people for critique can feel like wandering through an emotional minefield. But here’s the rub: without this vital input, our growth as storytellers stutters, stumbles, and often comes to a grinding halt.

 

Gratefully receiving honest feedback demands a certain steeliness, a readiness to sift through the chaff to find the kernels of truth that will feed the soil of your creativity. It's understanding that not every critique is a veiled attack on your talent but rather, when offered constructively, a lantern illuminating the path to refinement.

 

A big mistake writers make is assuming that people who provide constructive feedback don’t “understand” their work. This might be true sometimes. Not all feedback is created equal, and there will always be noise—comments and opinions that, though well-intentioned, might not align with your vision or serve the essence of your story.

 

But suppose someone offers you a suggestion that you immediately push back against and reject. In that case, you could be spurning a vital opportunity to improve, rejecting an important truth about your writing that you desperately need to hear.

 

In my work as a professional writer, I’ve discovered that when I aggressively push back against a suggestion, it’s usually a sign that I need to sit up and listen.

 

In the grand tapestry of your writing journey, every piece of constructive criticism is a thread that strengthens the weave, adds depth, and enriches the colors. It challenges us to look beyond our biases, question, refine, and sometimes, boldly reimagine aspects of our work we thought sacrosanct.

 

Neglecting Characterization

 

Characters are the lifeblood of any story. They're the voices that whisper secrets to us in the dead of night, the figures that linger long after the final page is turned. It's through their eyes that we experience the world we’ve crafted through their triumphs and failures that we engage our readers’ hearts.

 

And yet, in the whirlwind of creation, we sometimes skimp on giving these pivotal players the depth and complexity they deserve. Instead of compelling, fleshed-out characters, we produce cardboard cutouts and stereotypes.

 

Creating a character isn't just about assigning a name, a job, or a quirky hobby. It’s about diving deep into their psyche, understanding their motivations, fears, dreams, and pivotal experiences that shaped them. It's about recognizing their flaws—the chinks in their armor that make them relatable, vulnerable, and, ultimately, human.

 

A well-drawn character can elevate even the simplest narrative. They can make a familiar plot feel fresh, breathe life into a stagnant scene, and create a connection that transcends the boundaries of the fictional world. Neglecting this aspect of storytelling is akin to inviting guests into a house devoid of warmth; it may be beautiful, but it's not a place where stories live and breathe.

 

Characters demand patience. They require us to listen, observe, and sometimes let them lead the way. By investing in their development, by allowing them the space to be flawed and fabulous in equal measure, we don't just create characters; we create echoes of real life. And it's within these echoes that the true magic of storytelling resides.


Treating Writing as a Hobby

 

It’s okay for writing to be something you enjoy on the side. After all, you have to start somewhere, and this can be a good way to test the waters and see if it’s something you enjoy.

 

But here's the thing—treating writing as merely a dalliance undermines the depth, the passion, and the sheer tenacity required to truly flourish in this art. Writing can start as a hobby, a way to unwind, or let those buzzing thoughts escape. Yet, writing demands a fiercer commitment to evolve and sharpen those narrative skills to a gleaming edge.

 

Think about it. Without regular practice and work, you wouldn't expect a garden to thrive on sporadic attention or a musical instrument to yield beautiful melodies. Writing requires the same dedicated approach. It's about carving out time from the whirlwind of daily life, setting tangible goals, and facing the blank page even when inspiration plays hard to get.

 

While the path may be demanding, the rewards—the moments of breakthrough, the stories that touch hearts, the personal evolution—are immeasurably gratifying.

 

Need Some Help Overcoming Your Writing Challenges?



 It’s a new month, and my schedule is wide open for booking a complimentary Virtual Meetup!

 

This free 30-minute Zoom meeting with me will give you an open forum to discuss your writing challenges, share a story problem you’re dealing with, and ask any questions on your mind.

 

It’s like sitting down for coffee with a professional writer—and you don’t even have to pay for a latte.

 

Click the button below to grab some time on my calendar!




 

 

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