Saturday, October 1, 2011

STOP! Don't Make These Writing Mistakes




We've all done it. We've made a mistake that's horribly embarrassing. Maybe nobody else saw it, or maybe only our critique partners saw it. Or maybe we sent that mistake out into the big, wide publishing world.

Let's have a therapy session, shall we?

Last February we helped each other by adding tips to the post Writers: take a tip, leave a tip (if you haven't visited that post yet, read the comments for some brilliant tips from fellow writers). What do you say we list some of our biggest blunders, hoping other writers will avoid the same mistakes?

I'll start with two of my biggest boo-boos:
  1. I wrote a middle grade novel that included an adult's point of view. Yeah, don't do that. That book had many faults, but that was the biggest. Really, when you were a middle grader, did you care about the adult's point of view? Me neither. *hangs head in shame*
  2. That same middle grade book started out okay in the first chapter, but the second and third chapters were exposition and backstory. Yep, as each character was introduced, I went on and on and on about who they were and what their home life was like. *snore*
Hey, that's what practice books are for, right? At least that's what I tell myself! Needless to say, that book will collect virtual dust on my hard drive forever. But I learned from those blunders, so that book was not a waste of time and effort.

Ok, your turn. What's the biggest writing mistake you've made, and how can the rest of us learn from your faux pas? Don't be afraid...we've all made some doozies!

32 comments:

  1. Repetition of certain words, like 'and,' 'but,' and 'just.' Now I know how to search for words in my manuscript - search and destroy!

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  2. My biggest writing mistake was not knowing my target audience when I wrote my first novel that I spent an entire decade on before it was published. Then I had to spend another 2 years afterward rethinking who my audience was, because the one I originally had in mind hated it!

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  3. When I wrote my first book, I wanted it to be a happy story without any conflict (ha!). I soon learned that story is conflict. The more conflict, the better the story ^_^

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  4. Same here, I had two protagonists in my first MG ten years ago and one was the headmaster. Mess of a book but I love the story. Wish I could commission it out to someone lol.

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  5. Now the question is, WHICH mistakes to I list.

    My characters "smiled" all the time, I used "further" when I should've used "farther," when my mc's life was on the line, she was being awfully pensive (completely ruined action), oh and my mc never had a denouement. BORING.

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  6. I was determined not to use 'said' at all costs, so my characters exclaimed, burst out, yelled, whispered, sighed and who knows what else!

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  7. Yes, I'm the "smile" queen, of course I catch it in the edits, but it's so annoying.

    Also, when writing historical stories, refrain from using current slang. Yes, I admit, I squeezed some in there, not thinking too clearly at the time. Ugh.

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  8. Well, in the first things I ever wrote, at Age 8 or so... I had no clue what paragraphs or quotation marks were. XD

    More recently... I worry that I fall into cliches at times. My conflicts tend to feel a bit small. One of my stories involved a whole chapter of explanation between two of my characters. XD It was baaaad...

    And then there's my tendency to write long. XD *must learn to write tight*

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  9. Mistakes? What mistakes? He he he YEAH RIGHT! I have too many to list. But the biggest? Probably jumping the gun on querying when I started. *hangs head* If you could see my first query letter to a huge agent... OY.

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  10. I started a first draft with almost fifteen pages of backstory once . . .

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  11. These are good ones! Let's see, my biggest writing mistake when I first started writing was to switch POV's constantly, like within the same page. It was awful, and terribly confusing!

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  12. My most embarrassing moment was my first workshop with an agent where I presented the query for my first 200,000 word count YA MS that had a 22 year old MC. I can still feel the red flush of embarassment on my face.

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  13. My first ms was so bad I never revised it. I didn't know where to begin.

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  14. When I first started, my characters kept addressing each other by name...endlessly. We don't do that in real life, do we Julie? Know what I mean, Julie? I mean, come on, Julie, who talks like that? Oh yeah, characters in bad books;) *hangs head in shame with you*

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  15. Dialogue tags. Everywhere. With actions added to most of them to make them more interesting. *shudder*

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  16. Wow, I had so many. Backstory and POV probably being the two biggest. And comma control. I way over use them.

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  17. I have such an arsenal of mistakes to choose from LOL. But my worst mistake ever was making my protagonist passive. Boring. SHE DID NOTHING TO CAUSE CONFLICT. Everything just "happened" to her. Bad Luck Betty. And the word HAD. It loves me. Sticks to me like glue.

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  18. BRAND VOICE! I write quite a bit of copy at work and it's important to remember to write in brand voice.

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  19. I used to use too many cliches. I wouldn't realize it until I read over what I wrote and then I was horrified, LoL!

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  20. Ha, thanks for your honesty! I remember my early novels having a HUGEOUS slather of adverbs. I mean, like a dozen on a page. Heh-heh. Live and learn. I hardly have a dozen in my entire manuscript, now!

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  21. Hmm? Let me think...
    One thing that springs to mind is originally I thought to identify my vampires with the pronoun "it" rather than he or she. It was quite distracting. I know what I was going for, but it really did not carry over well at all.

    -Jimmy

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  22. I keep starting sentence with 'So' in my mind, it's the way to move the story forward but now I try to catch it.

    Thanks for a great post.

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  23. For me, it was the character more reacting to events that happened rather than her making choices and dealing with the consequences.

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  24. My high-school decided to do a literary magazine, and I submitted a story. Somehow, I imagined there would be a sort of selection process. There wasn't. They published everything, including my way too long and pointless short story. By the time it came out, I had enough distance to recognize how terrible it was.
    That wasn't my biggest mistake though. My biggest mistake was letting that humiliation cripple my writing for years. I wouldn't let anything out of my sight unless I was convinced it was perfect.

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  25. Oh gosh, there's too many to list, like NOT starting out with conflict & having too much backstory in exposition. But my CPs found everything & I fixed all those mistakes, so I'm not willing (yet) to accept that one as a "practice" book. Of course, I might have to change that in a year or so!

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  26. repeating words like "and" and "but", like the first comment. Tons of typos and querying to early. I could go one, but you get the idea. That happened in the first few "practice books" LOL. *sigh*

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  27. Julie, where do I begin? Dreams, waking up, first day of school - I've done the worst!

    Don't feel bad for your faux pas. I recently read an established author who did the same thing. I didn't want to hear from the adult and I'm an adult!

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  28. I keep adding sentences like "I managed to..." and "I decided to..." and "I figured..." and...insert I-sentence here. really? just do it, girl. :)
    erica

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  29. Second Angelina and Nancy - no conflict. I loved my characters too much for anything to happen. *rolls eyes*
    Also chapters that went nowhere.

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  30. If writing in 1st person watch out for every sentence beginning w/ 'I'!

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  31. Oh man I have had to learn so mch from my mistakes! Where to start??

    I think for me purple prose was one of my biggest mistakes. And overusing similes. A crit partner once told me, 'Angela, it's like you took a bag of similes and dumped it all over your manuscript." Tough words, but a much needed lesson. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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