THIRTY COMMON WRITING MISTAKES AND HOW TO AVOID THEM (from Creative Writing Course)
Introduction: This article was based on a book titled 'The Twenty Nine Most Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them'. The book was written by Judy Delton and published by Writers Digest Books in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. I've changed the style a bit and added a few more points of my own. This piece is in point form, as I've already elaborated (nice long word 'dat') on most of these things. Thanks so much, Judy for sharing your knowledge and insights, which I'm passing on in the form of this article!
Put on your Nikes and let the lesson begin (to the roar of trumpets and the Star Spangled Banner)...
1. Don't procrastinate - do it NOW. Warm up, write about anything you want to.
2. Don't talk away your story to other people, instead of getting down to writing it.
3. Don't try to write the best article or story in the world. No one should seek perfection - at least, not as you take your first steps in writing. Just get the words down on paper. However, as you gain confidence, you can strive for excellence.
4 Don't wear blinkers. See life through the eyes of a writer. Easy, now you are one. A philosopher!
5. Don't edit as you write - it breaks the flow. Don't stop to admire or criticize your work. Only revise and rewrite once your work is completed. Then you can view it as a whole.
6. Don't generalize - use specific images. They add meaning and vitality to your words.
7. Don't tell: Rather SHOW. Use dialogue and incident rather than a long narrative to get you from point A to point B.
8. Contrast and compare regularly.
9. Don't depend on adjectives. Rather use strong verbs. "The old man's eyes raked the nubile young thing. "Lecherous old "bugger"!
10. Don't use cliches and overdone words. Still remember any?
11. Don't overdo punctuation (what we learned at school!).
12. Don't forget your theme.
13. Remember: You need a beginning, a middle and an end to your article or story.
14. Keep to the point and don't digress. Must remember that one, as I have a wandering mind and tend to waffle on. Read my "whacky" books to find out. But I do try to entertain.
15. Don't self-express and communicate your own self to your readers (unless you're writing an autobiography or that's the intended purpose of your writing). Why not?
Because you're telling a story through your characters. I disagree with Judy slightly on that one.
16. Don't get too personal, but be universal. Mildly disagree. What do you think? Let me know your opinions, should you wish.
17.Don't preach or opinionate. Let the reader discover the message for themselves. Yes.
18.Research, but don't overdo the story with unnecessary facts and figures.
19. Don't use all "I" and "me" - use the third person form of writing.
(must heed that one!)
20. Rewrite ...and rewrite. Very very important. Was that bad to use two 'very's'? You learn by practice.
21. Don't be obsessed with trivial concerns. Ask yourself: Is it necessary to include in the story? In my novel THE NEW RAINBOW, my 'wife' Marie asked why I included the Jewish couple the Greenbergs because they had a minor part in the plot. However, my purpose was to deliberately include a Jew in the spectrum of the diverse "Rainbow Nation" of South Africans. Jew has played a very important part in the economic development of that country. I included it as an experience from "my world". For once "the big boss" didn't get her way and kick me in the "goodies"!
Why I don't talk with a squeaky voice.
I'm in the "whacky" mode of writing after just finishing rewriting
DROPPED OUT IN GODZONE.
22. Find the right markets for your work. Ask yourself: Who is your article or book aimed at (bad writing, Craig - don't end a sentence with a "preppie"!).
23. Then don't want (nor expect) everybody to read your book because as writers, we should accept
that you can't please everybody all of the time... or even some of the people some of the time. I know too much of my "wacky" style will "piss some people off", so I change it in other more serious works.
I'd be interested in what you think of it... because I have a long book
STEPS TO SUCCESS, PROSPERITY, AND HAPPINESS. About 450 pages of it.
24. Don't listen to opinion and criticism of your work from family and friends. Nor take it too seriously to heart. They're sure to be quite subjective of your literary "talents". My good friend was most disparaging about my travel book, HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE, a tale of our European adventures in which he featured quite prominently. He was most probably jealous that I had a written a book first, or perhaps he was right about the "crappy" content. Judge for yourself! But could they do any better than you...or even the critics.
I believe some critics are failed writers just trying to "make a crust", like 'yours truly'... otherwise those who haven't had the gumption to try writing themselves. It's far harder creating than criticizing. But some are pretty astute in their assessments. Sitting on the fence as usual - you "chicken"!
25. Don't think a literary agent will solve all your problems in getting published. I can assure you they don't. They are harder to get than diamonds (definitely harder than publishers). They seem to only take on new authors and manage you once you are
already rich and successful (the old "Catch 22" situation). I find UK agents generally very encouraging of my writing, and the South African ones extremely discouraging (no sense of humor these "arty-farty" types)... and a few let me down very badly. So I
wonder if you need one then!
No only joking, it's not that bad!
26. Don't forget the five questions of good journalism:
HOW, WHO, WHAT, WHERE and WHEN? In summary, write smarter not harder.
27. Don't be taken in by the "get rich quick" myth. Like me, living in a plastic bag above the toilet (thanks, Monty Python), most writers are extremely poor.
Very few make real big money, like the John Grisham, Stephen Kings, Micheners, Frederick Forsyths and Jeffrey Archers of this world. And how many thought-provoking writers of REAL-GOOD books make big money. So don't give up your job to make a
"killing", like I tried to do - it's not likely for a long long time...if ever! But after those words of discouragement... and bringing you back to earth with a great big thump, I still have my dream of making it as a writer... five years later...and you can too, writing
far more sensible than me (and on more appealing topics).
28. Whatever you do, don't give up! Remember: PERSEVERANCE is usually the difference between a published and an unpublished author.
and finally...and most importantly,
29. Don't be afraid to fail. Failing is not being a failure. It just shows that your ways aren't working... and there is always another way to do things, another avenue, a new gateway towards success.
says stubbornly he after knocking his head against a brick wall for five years; but the writing journey has been great and it's been great fun writing this lesson.
IF YOU'RE NOT HAVING FUN, YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT.
Must then have done something right - for a change!
30. Believe in yourself: your talent and what you are trying to do. I sincerely believe. God gave each one of us unique gifts and talents to use to the fullest. Enough religion!
So BELIEVE in your potential, THEN YOU CAN DO IT.
Live your dream of becoming a writer and thoroughly enjoy the journey of being a writer.
Craig Lock (Eagle Productions)