It can be freaky how often writers make mistakes. But hey, we’re only human (most of us), so it’s bound to happen. Many mistakes we make as writers actually make sense considering how our brains work. The best way to prevent these mistakes is to learn about them — especially how to recognize them so you can catch yourself making one and break the bad habit.
1. Telling, Not Showing
Regardless of what kind of writer you are, you’ve surely heard this before. Telling what happened isn’t interesting; it doesn’t create a picture in the reader’s mind. You shouldn’t have to tell the reader how to feel about what they’ve just read; they should pick up on it themselves. If you’d like to further develop your skills in this area, this blog by Ellen Brock gives a great lesson on how to show through your writing, versus telling.
2. Loss of Perspective
When writing, it’s important to maintain a continuous perspective. Otherwise, it’s easy for the reader to get confused. Of course, authors sometimes write from different characters’ viewpoints (often called head-hopping), in which case the perspective does need to change.
However, most situations require you to stay consistent. For example, if you’re writing an article in present tense, stick to present tense. If you’re writing a novel in past tense, stick to that. An omnipresent voice should remain so throughout the piece. Otherwise you’ll throw off your editors and your readers.
This likely serves as one of the easiest traps to fall into when writing. Especially when you’re largely inspired by a certain author or body of work, you must take care not to write what THEY would have written rather than what YOU truly would have written from your own writing core.
You also don’t want to closely imitate another author’s voice. Your voice is what makes your writing authentic; it’s what can help it stand out among the millions of other writers out there. If you spend your time imitating other people, you’ll have a much harder time getting noticed because your work doesn’t seem original.
4. Not Reading
While you shouldn’t always imitate what you read, reading still serves as arguably the best way to improve your writing. It keeps your brain well-versed in words, and allows you to experience styles other than your own. It also stimulates the imagination, which can help you to come up with ideas and plot twists. Remember that reading improves your craft, while keeping you up-to-date with trends and letting you know if somebody else already published your idea.
5. Unrelatable Characters
When developing characters in your writing, it’s easy to try to create the most interesting, fantastical character possible because you have an imaginary universe at your disposal. This can quickly turn into a bunch of completely unrelatable characters. You need to keep some realism in characters so readers can understand their feelings and motivations. This is one good way to get them hooked into your story and wrapped up in the character’s problems.
The biggest danger for writers, quitting becomes addictive pretty fast. If you don’t hold yourself accountable for finishing what you started, it only becomes harder and harder to finish. If you’ve started with a good idea, keep running with it until you’ve brought it to completion.
If you avoid these mistakes, who knows how much your writing might improve?