7 Common Mistakes that Every First Time Writer Needs to Avoid

Writing Mistakes

The journey of writing a book is a largely individual one. No two writers would have the same experience – although there might be some overlaps. We understand writing a book for the first time can be a truly overwhelming process. Therefore,  in this article, we hope to throw light on the 7 common writing mistakes every first-time writer needs to avoid. We will walk you through writing mistakes writers make both at the writing stage and at the publishing stage:

Overwriting

If you keep trying to perfect what you want to say in your word, and try to break it down to the details, chances are your readers would get very bored. You do not need to dominate language by breaking it down to its core. Write in short, clear sentences. While setting up the scene is required, what is not required is to write pages about the place where your characters are meeting. If you feel a word is unnecessary, it probably is. Oftentimes, readers skip over long winded descriptions. Writing crisp, to-the-point sentences is the best way to avoid overwriting mistakes. One of the best ways to ensure that you have not overwritten is to re-read your draft. Our inner editor is oftentimes good at identifying when to drop a sentence or two.

Plot Holes

As a first time writer, it is easy to lose track of what happened in the initial chapters, how certain characters look, their quirks etc. It is important to have all the information written down in a document so that you can consult it when you are in doubt. One of the best ways to keep a track of this would be to use a mind mapping tool.  

Now, a mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. It is usually hierarchical and shows relationships among your characters etc. There are many such tools freely available online. It will surely help you keep your story on track. Two apps that would help you do just that are Scrapple and Scrivener. 

Wrong Dialogue Tags

While some writers think ‘said’ and ‘asked’ are overused tags, and should be interchanged often – you need to remember ‘yawned’, ‘grinned’, ‘smirked’ are not dialogue tags.

You’re an adorable nut,” he smirked – is wrong. It should be, “You’re an adorable nut,” he said, smirking /with a smirk.

If you want to convey your characters are annoyed, show them hitting someone lightly on the shoulder, clucking their tongue, rolling their eyes, or shaking their head. They all convey annoyance.  It is not needed to write, ‘She was annoyed’. You can show it. And the first rule for first time writing is to show and not tell.

Editing is more than running a spell check

When writers finish their first draft they are on a high. They might sit and run spell check through their work. When it returns 0 errors found – we usually celebrate. No book is done after just the first draft. Ask any published author – their first draft has not seen the light of the day. They put the manuscript aside and came back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. Or they hire an editor who would help them whip their manuscript into perfect shape. Self-editing requires a lot of discipline and hard work and a lot of writers do pursue it. We recommend that you let your manuscript sit for a while before you start editing it. If you do it too soon, you would not see the mistakes that you may have overlooked. You have to edit your draft until it is the version that you want the rest of the world to see.

Find a focus group of readers

Sometimes, self-editing is not a writer’s cup of tea. For this, we suggest you find a focus group of readers. In writing communities on Facebook there are often people willing to read each other’s work and give each other solid feedback. This could work for you if you want a fresh pair of eyes to look at your manuscript. It would give you fresh perspective too.

How do you know it’s time to let go?

Completing writing a novel is an exhilarating feeling. But a new writer would understand that there is a world of difference between a first draft and the publishable draft.

For those who would like to go down the traditional publishing route:

Let us not send out query letters to agents and publishers as soon as you type the words ‘the end’. Let your manuscript sit for a while, edit it, and then go ahead and send out your query letters. Remember, publishers and agents get a lot of emails throughout the day. Unless your story stands out to them – chances of hearing back from them are really thin.

But if you plan on going down the DIY route or self-publish your novel:

When you are absolutely sure that this is the story you want to share with the world, start the process of uploading your manuscript, finalizing your book cover, and your book blurb. Because when you choose to publish it yourself, everything is in your hands. You are no longer just a writer, you are an authorpreneur (author and entrepreneur).

Research the publishing options

It would not make sense to send your romance novel query letter to a publishing house known for their thrillers. When you research your genre, and the books in your genre, make a note of the publishing houses. Look them up and see if they accept unsolicited manuscripts, or if you would need an agent. Chances are your books will find a home there since these publications are known for the genre you have chosen to write in.

In contemporary times, as the publishing industry branches out, writers have various options on how to publish a book and different types of publishing to choose from depending on what is more suitable. To know more, read our blog on various types of publishing here.

Good luck with your manuscript! We hope this checklist to avoid 7 common writing mistakes for every first time writer helps you when finalizing your own first draft.

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