Guest post by Savannah Cordova
WRITING IS AN ART in which you have to make mistakes in order to learn. Indeed, as all of you writers out there probably know, you learn just as much (if not more!) from what you do wrong as from what you do right.
However, you can’t exactly learn from your mistakes if you don’t even know that you’re making them. That’s where this post comes in: it’ll help you identify all the places where you might be compromising your writing, and troubleshoot them so that you can reach your full creative potential! From mindset to technique to setting, here are 7 common writing mistakes you probably don’t realize you’re making.
Mistake #1: Writing from start to finish
Just to clarify, you do need to have a start and a finish in your writing; as we all know, “beginning, middle, and end” is practically the first day of writing school. But in terms of your own process, you can (and should) draft your work in whatever order you like!
Many writers (including myself) naturally resist out-of-order writing, thinking it’ll result in organizational chaos. But it’s genuinely one of the best ways to overcome first-page jitters and the pressure to start a story perfectly. When you begin writing in the middle, you don’t have to worry about hooking readers or providing the perfect level of exposition. You can just write. And by the time you do return to that intro, your creative muscles should be all warmed up.
Mistake #2: Not working from an outline
This may seem contrary to our previous tip about throwing chronology to the wind, but when writing out of your story’s intended order, it’s actually incredibly helpful to have an outline for reference. That way, you can fit each individual piece into the overall puzzle, staying on top of what you’ve done versus what you still need to do. Your outline doesn’t need to be super detailed, but it does need to provide some sort of guidance! Without an inkling of this direction, your project will become unwieldy and overwhelming before it’s even gotten off the ground.
Mistake #3: Only writing on a computer
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a “limited Internet” policy is one of the best things you can do for your writing. However, even working on a computer with the WiFi turned off can be distractingly tempting — which is why I advocate for writing longhand from time to time if you don’t already. In addition to the productivity benefits, physically writing out your ideas slows you down and gives you time to process them in a more focused, thoughtful way. You may even untangle a plot knot or two!Embrace your mistakes, accept feedback, and you’ll end up a much-improved writer. Click To Tweet
Mistake #4: Editing meticulously as you go
Of all the mistakes on this list, this is the one that I struggle the most to conquer. Case in point: I just rephrased the previous sentence about five times before I felt happy with it!
But while a bit of editing is good (you don’t want your first draft to be completely incoherent and riddled with errors), too much editing massively impedes both your efficiency and your creativity. So if you, like me, have trouble ignoring your inner critic as you write, try challenging yourself not to look back at your work until you’ve produced at least X number of words. You can also try writing exercises like the Pomodoro Technique, where you write as much as you can for 25 minutes straight — no exceptions.
Mistake #5: Trying to imitate other writers
This problem is mostly seen in beginners, or writers hoping to alter their style to sound more “literary.” There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from other successful writers, but excess mimicry will cause your own writing to ring false. So instead of outright imitating, try synthesizing instead: gather all the best elements from your favorite authors and combine them with your own natural voice. As Neil Gaiman said: “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write as only you can.”
Mistake #6: Writing about the same thing over and over
If there’s a particular subject or theme that calls out to you, that’s great! However, writing about the exact same thing time and time again not only bores your readers but also hinders your development as a writer. It prevents you from exploring new territory and trying out stylistic techniques outside of your comfort zone.
Luckily, the solution to this one is simple: write about something else, even just as a brief exercise or a journal entry. If you can’t think of anything particularly inspiring, you can’t go wrong looking through a few writing prompts to find a winner. And who knows? This new topic could be the basis for your next major project!
Mistake #7: Not showing your writing to anyone else
Yes, this one is technically more of a post-writing mistake, but it can be just as detrimental to your writing as any of the above. As hard as it can be to invite criticism on something so personal, you need objective feedback to make you a better writer! Remember how I said you learn more from mistakes than successes? Well, this is the ultimate testament to that. Embrace your mistakes, accept feedback, and you’ll end up a much-improved writer overall.