There are quite a few mistakes and bad writing habits you can fall into when you first start out. If you find yourself doing any of these, don’t feel bad. It’s all part of the growing pains of becoming a writer. We’ll be going over some of the more common mistakes you might find yourself making and how you can fix them.
And it’s important to remember that all mistakes can be a learning experience. But you can only learn from them if you allow yourself to acknowledge when you’re wrong and need to fix something. If you’re unwilling to learn from your mistakes, you’re stunting your potential for growth. Let’s get into it.
5. Don’t Make Your Story Too Happy
Readers generally don’t want a story where the character’s lives are perfect and there’s little conflict. Or even if there is conflict it really doesn’t matter because the fairy tale happy ending is a sure thing. This overly happy world makes it hard for readers to relate to your characters. The way to fix this is pretty easy; make sure to start things off rough. Have your character go through a hard time doing whatever it is they are doing.
Don’t be afraid to try adding something weird in there to throw things off-balance, either. Real life isn’t easy and conflict generally doesn’t end with the obvious good guy beating the obvious good guy. There needs to be more to it: create drama, intensity, fear, hate, love, anger, joy, go through the whole gamut of emotions. A good story isn’t happy from beginning to end with mild, unimportant conflict sprinkled in. It’s a lot of drama with a sprinkling of happiness thrown in. But don’t be emo either! You must find a good balance.
4. Make Sure You’re Putting Enough Fear Into Your Work
If there is no fear or worry about what could happen to the characters, the reader won’t feel anything for them. This might sound kind of strange, but you shouldn’t shy away from putting death into your stories. You see, killing off a character doesn’t just create drama in your story; it shows there are real consequences for their decisions and what they do in the world they live in.
There are three different kinds of death you can use:
- The physical death. This is when your character’s actual life is in danger.
- Then you have the professional death. This is when your character risks losing their job or career over something like flirting with the sexy secretary or having an affair that can ruin their life.
- Finally, you have the psychological death. This form of death is used a lot in romance where you have a character who doesn’t feel like they can go on without the person they love.
No matter which direction you lean towards, you need to create consequences to engage your readers. Don’t be afraid to tug on those heart strings!
3. Avoid Long Or Wooden Dialogue
Dialogue can easily make or break a story. Each character should have their own unique and easily distinguishable voice. You’ll find a lot of times during your first draft you’ll over-write things—especially dialogue.
What you need to do is compress a lot of your dialogue. We have a tendency to write out conversations the same we write out the narration. But people don’t speak in long flowing sentences like that in real life. The easiest way to find problems with your dialogue is to read it out loud. If it sounds like the character is lecturing the person they are talking to or giving a speech, trim the dialogue down. Usually when it comes to dialogue, less is more.
2. Don’t Make Your Story Predictable
No one’s going to continue reading your book if after the first couple of chapters they are easily able to figure out where the story is going. Predictability is the death of a good story. It takes the thrill out of the reading experience and leads to boredom. It’s like watching a crime thriller and halfway through you figure out who the killer is. It kills the ending and leaves you disappointed. That’s the last thing you want to make your readers feel.
To avoid this, try doing something unpredictable. You need to think of all the different possibilities you can take any given part of your story. Throw a few curve balls in there to keep the readers on their toes.
There’s a couple of ways you can do that:
- Use description to your advantage. Try having one of your characters focus on or notice something unique in a room that could later have a bigger part.
- Use action to change the flow or direction of the story. This could add something that normally doesn’t occur to change things up. Such as a character unexpectedly dying.
- Dialogue can be used to reveal crazy elements as well. Just think about the kid in the Sixth Sense telling Bruce Willis’ character he’s actually been dead all along.
1. Don’t Lose The Passion For Your Project
No matter what, at some point while writing—especially something that takes a long time—there’s a good chance you’ll lose your drive. At least for a little while. Unfortunately, the readers will be able to pick up on this in the final product. Luckily, there are things that can prevent this and help you get your passion back for the work.
First, sit down and think about what your characters actually want. Treat them like real people with real motivations. This will help you figure out what to write and make the writing process easier for you. There are also numerous things you can do to recharge yourself so you can get back into your writing. If you haven’t already read my previous article on writing inspiration click here. That’ll give you plenty of ideas to get you back on the writing horse.
Another great way to get the passion back is to think back on why you started the project in the first place. Remembering what sparked your interest in the story should jump start your drive to finish it. And if all else fails, let a few people read what you have. If they like it, the story is probably worth pursuing.
There’s nothing wrong with putting something on the back-burner while you deal with another project, either. Just be sure get back to it before too much times has gone by. Sometimes that little break will reinvigorate you and give you the time needed to come up with more ideas.
Well, there you have it folks. Hopefully I was able to give you a few ideas on how to avoid some beginner mistakes. We all make them. And no matter how good or talented you are, you’ll make them too. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The key thing is to make sure you learn from your mistakes and move on. There’s always another project in the future.
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