I’m not a perfect writer and I don’t know if I will ever be perfect. When I published my first book, I was more focused on the achievement of a life goal than of the quality of work it took to get me there. My books being well-written wasn’t always a priority, but this has changed over time as I have seen the benefits of producing a piece of work I can be proud of. I think that if you invest your time in anything, it should give you an outcome you can be happy with.
With that in mind, I’d like to welcome you to some of the biggest mistakes you can make, and offer solutions on how you can avoid them. And this is beyond the obvious spelling and grammar errors, I want you to be mindful of a few other important points:
1. Comparison – It’s easy to look at other writers and use their work as “proof” that your work is not up to standards. But there are two ways you can look at it. You can either use the magic of what someone else has written to cripple you or you can choose to be inspired by it and allow it to motivate you to do better. Don’t stop writing because you don’t consider yourself as good as Dorothy Koomson of Cecelia Ahern, instead use it to prompt you: what initially grabbed your attention? What did you like about it the most? How do they create believable characters? How did they keep you reading? And use your answers to guide you when you write.
2. Rushing – When we write a book, we are so eager to meet the finishing line and often become frustrated by how long the process actually takes. There is no overnight solution, it takes some time to create a masterpiece. When we rush, we leave out valuable information and our writing suffers from a lack of attention. We don’t convey the message we intended to, instead our readers get a diluted version simply because you couldn’t be bothered to explain it. Be bothered. Take your time. Don’t focus on finishing the word count, focus instead on being satisfied with the quality.
3. Overuse of profanity – I must say, in everyday life, I have a potty mouth and it’s not uncommon for it to crop up in a blog or even in one of my books. But I believe we have to be strategic in our use of swear words in our writing. Use it sparingly. Does it add value to the dialogue? Does it fit the profile of the character? Is it within context? Can you say what you need to without using it?
4. Overkill with capital letters – Have you ever read a whole paragraph of capital letters? It feels like someone is shouting at you, right? At least, that’s how I read it because that is how grammar works. Think about making an impact without overkilling capital letters. The idea is that you encourage people to finish reading what you’ve written, not scare them off!
5. Lack of research – It makes sense to write what you know, right? Research can strengthen your writing, it adds credibility and positions you as an expert in that field. Even if you’re writing fiction, it helps to do a little research so that your story is believable and makes sense to the readers.
6. Self-doubt – It’s all well and good pursuing your writing goals, but be aware that you’ll need a healthy dosage of self-belief to get you there. How can you make your daily word count if you’ve already decided you can’t do it? How will you write that book if you’ve already told yourself that you’ll fail? If you’re reading this, that alone shows me you believe in yourself enough to read about writing, and perhaps it will take you a little further for you to try. Don’t block yourself from your creativity. Tell yourself you will write today and make it happen. Don’t worry about how good it is initially, just get the words written down!
7. Not reading at all – I love books and delved into the magical world of reading from a very young age. Over the years my preferred reading genre’s have changed, but the love of reading has stayed the same. At the time I write this, I’ve got a healthy pile of books to get through over summer. I noticed that my writing improved when I increased my reading. The structure of my writing changed and became more refined. The flow of my writing has improved, which enhances the readability for those who indulge in my work. If you don’t read, your subconscious won’t take in these subtle details and writing a book will seem a bit more of a challenge.
8. Not editing – Do I really need to go into this? Go beyond spellcheck. Top tip: Read it out loud, word for word, to see if it sounds right. If it doesn’t, make some alterations. For other helpful tools, check out this post.
9. Letting people’s opinions shape your work – It’s a huge deal to write anything, even more so to share it with the world. Your writing is going to prompt all sorts of reactions and some of it will be positive, others not so much. Constructive criticism is important, we need it to grow and improve our work. Often, people’s perspective can offer us something we didn’t even think about before, and we can use it to create an even better piece of writing. However, you don’t have to take every single comment on board, not if you don’t want to. Don’t place yourself in the position of losing your style of writing, because that can’t be taught. Not in the way you do it, anyway. So take every suggestion with a pinch of salt, and apply whatever you feel will enhance your creativity.
I don’t mind letting you know that I love what I’ve published so far but I’m not a big fan of the quality. In fact, this is why I don’t promote my books as much as I should. I’ve finished my second year of a Creative & Professional Writing degree and it has opened my eyes. I’ve taken the time to read more, blogs and books alike, and to speak to people about writing. I’ve become a point of reference to those who are new on this journey and using the lessons I’ve gained I’ve helped them to avoid making the same mistakes. So, I hope you find the above information useful.
Tell me, what would you add to this list?
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