1. learnedhand
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    learnedhand New Member

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    common mistakes

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by learnedhand, Dec 14, 2009.

    A question for the experienced (and not so experienced) writers on this forum: what are some of the most common mistakes new writers make? Although the issues a new writer faces will likely depend on the genre, are there certain recurring problems that new writers face?

    On a related note, I'm happy to have found this forum. What an informative resource!
     
  2. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    Well, I'm far from experienced but I do know a couple:

    Overuse of adjectives and adverbs.
    Improper formatting(Especially when pasting to forum.)

    That's all Ive got for now, someone will bring up some others.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Misused words, especially words looked up in a thesaurus.

    The dictionary definition may look just fine, but if the word just doesn't belong in that context, the writing will look clumsy, or worse.

    For instance, one definition of flounce (from the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary) is "to go with sudden determination."

    But it would be a poor choice here:

    The soldiers flounced into hand to hand combat with the enemy.
     
  4. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    But it sure brings up an interesting picture, doesn't it?

    I always loved the bit about poorly used commas. This one sticks in my mind.

    Let's go eat grandma.

    Let's go eat, grandma.
     
  5. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, I'm not "experienced" but one problem that was clear when I took a creative writing class last year was that the prose of many of the stories were terribly dull. It's like the writer was in love with his own words, but he forgot that he's got an audience that needs to be sold on his story as well. There were a few talented writers, though, that just had this voice right off the bat that captured your attention.
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here's my Top 10 areas that new writers, writing for publication, should understand:

    10. Understand the industry distribution system. How much of the cover price of a book does a bookstore keep? 45%. How much does the book wholesaler keep? 10% So, a publisher is trying to manufacture, advertise, ship and pay for unsold returns out of the remaining 45% What else comes out of the 45%? Publisher profits, Literary agent cut (10%+) , and of course, the author’s advance and royalty checks. Your job, as a writer, does not end with the selling of a book to the publisher. Quite the contrary. Then, you must participate in promotional work...book signings, radio interviews, internet blogging, responding to reader questions (email, etc). Writing is the creative part. All the rest is the “work” associated with building a fan base.

    9. Patience. Rejection is not personal. Learn from it. Learn what? Both persistence and open-minded consideration for suggested improvements. Many great writers suffered dozens of rejection slips before being “discovered”. You will too.

    8. Understand the editing process. Editors are not your enemy. They know their markets intimately and will help you shape your story for the best possible reception from critics and the public. This doesn’t mean you can’t resist changes that you feel fundamentally flaw your story, but be prepared to “listen” more than “tell” the editor.

    7. Know your market and target readers. When you’re looking for a literary agent, you need to have a clear understanding of your potential market. A literary agent will be more receptive if you can articulate why you feel your writing “fits” with his or her writer-client list.

    6. Avoid blending genres unless you are exceptionally talented AND you already have a reader following. Think of it from a literary agent’s point of view. How is he or she going to “sell” your lovely manuscript to a publisher when he/she has to say, “It’s very much like the Romance that you specialize in, but it’s also a great Sci-Fi story.” Then your agent calls a sci-fi publisher, “I’ve got this fabulous sci-fi writer who incorporates most of the Romance genre character development in a wing-ding of a sci-fi tale.” It’s a tough sale when both publishers already have lots of genre-specific manuscripts competing for attention.

    5. Kill your darlings when necessary. “Darlings” are favorite bits of writing that you come to love and become emotionally attached. But, if that scene or paragraph or inspired bit of trivia is not essential to the plot, then you’ve got to be prepared to “kill” it.

    4. Research your story thoroughly so as to make it as plausible as possible...even in fantasy, get your “facts” straight. I don't think a vampire with a suntan would pass muster.

    3. Impose good standards from the beginning when writing. Self-editing will be the biggest time investment in producing a finished product. Why make it unnecessarily tedious by writing sloppy in the first place?

    2. Study other best selling authors in the target genre. Success breeds success. If you become familiar with the writing styles, general content and format of leading books in a genre, then you are well on your way to joining the “club”.

    1. Work ethic/set goals. Daily, weekly and monthly goals lead to finished projects. Many, if not most, new writers lack self discipline. They become discouraged and frustrated. There is only one solution; work ethic. Develop it...or get a government job.
     
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  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    fancifying one's writing with convoluted sentences and big words, in trying to sound 'smart' or 'literary'... which always results in the opposite...
     
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  8. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess one of the more obvious would probably be the saidisms. Trying to use every said tag except said. When Said is perfect in just about every case.
     
  9. Delphinus
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    Delphinus Senior Member

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    I read this as 'sadisms', which brings up an interesting point. Don't start bullying your characters around to make them follow a pre-defined plot, or try and whip them back into shape if they stray off the beaten path. It sounds hopelessly schizophrenic and is one of the clichés I most despise writers explaining with, but let your characters speak to you, get to know them like a lover, and then throw events at them. Hopefully the rest of your story should follow; if not, tweak it until it's good.
     
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  10. In Antarctica
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    In Antarctica Banned

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    The variety of responses here brings up an important issue: what are you writing for?
     
  11. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Harmful practice. "I can clean it up later," etc.
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thinking that the reader cares as much about your character's / world's background story as you do.

    Thinking that the world needs any more vampire novels. ;)
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    And thinking that your reader has the same background and frames of reference as you, so subtle jokes, interests, and settings are obvious *hangs head at remembered past sins*
     
  14. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    One mistake I've observed here is that new writers think they need to come up with the one story idea in the world that nobody has ever written a novel about. If you think about this logically, it is nigh on impossible to do. What is more important is to write your idea with originality and to make characters that jump off the page.

    There's no point in having the most original concept ever if you don't know how to convey drama and write believable characters.

    I also think it's important to treat creative writing like a subject of study and commit to learning about it as you would any other study. Learn from the best and take advice.
     
  15. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Yeah, and I've always figured, "the most original concept ever," is bound to be strange. Might just be shooting yourself in the foot with that goal. It's actually a personal concern of mine. Some of my novel ideas are a little "out there," especially my favourite one. Originality doesn't count for much when there's no market for it--assuming you want to publish, and sell more than a handful of copies.
     
  16. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Being impatient and sending out a manuscript before it's ready. In the big scheme of things, waiting a week and going back to proof one more tme won't make a difference in the submission process timeline (unless there is a deadline). A writer generally only gets one shot per publisher with each project. Make it the best shot.

    Yes, it is a balance. A mansucript could always be 'improved' but only up to a point. But glaring errors are often overlooked/missed (more than a typo or two) when a project is freshly completed and reviewed as opposed to having time away and then reviewed.

    Terry
     
  17. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Anything taught in schools, especially when they say not to use said. There's also using too much description.
     
  18. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    NaCl, great post.

    Everyone's said anything that comes to my mind.

    PERSEVERE!!!!
     

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