10 Mistakes I’ve Made in My Writing
Firsts in Fiction
10 Mistakes I’ve Made in My Writing:
- (Aaron) Writing with a thesaurus. My first draft of The Bargain was a very showy affair, a real, “look what I can do!” type of a novel. This kind of flashing neon light pointing to the author is distracting and irritating. I had to learn to be invisible.
- (Alton/Pops) I wasted five years of prime learning and writing time because I let someone else discourage me. Looking back over it I can see that it wasn’t one mistake, it was several. I wrote a book without first learning something about the business. Ignorance led to impatience; impatience compounded my ignorance. Fortunately, a writing hero pulled me out of the mire. (The sad tale. The book became my first novel By My Hands. There’s more to writing than putting words on the page.
- (Aaron) Writing about me. Most beginning writers make characters who behave like they do (or they way they WANT to) rather than developing a complex character with their own motivations.
- (Pops) Taking too long to develop the courage to questions myself about my knowledge, technique, and skills. Only after I learned that there is always a way to get better, do better, be better.
- (Aaron) Borrowing too heavily from established setting and turns of phrases. This is simply a kind way of saying my writing was cliched and characterized by cliches. This is a hallmark of new writers. It’s easy, and therefore typically the road we like to take.
- (Pops) Falling in love with the trappings instead of the work. Book signings, “You’re a real author?”, thinking that by writing a book I would find riches and fame. I had to learn to love the work. Only then could I produce good work not just passable work.
- (Aaron) Lack of worldbuilding/specificity. Establishing a clear, tangible setting is paramount in fiction. Too often I tried to make things “universal” by not giving specific details. Instead, it is a heightened attention to detail that allows us to write about more universal themes.
- (Pops) Listening to the drumbeat of other people’s drummers. Every writer has to find him/herself, style, desire, etc. The comparison game is unwinnable. Writing is self discovery.
- (Aaron) Everybody Loves Raymond. I often write about characters that are “too good to be true.” That is, they seldom do anything wrong. Everybody loves them (except for the school bully). One of the ways I got around this is by asking myself this question: “What is the worst thing my character has ever said?” I avoid easy answers like, “I hate you!” or “I wish you were never born!” and look for more subtle, cutting remarks. This helps me understand what a character loves enough to do something unsavory. It helps me pinpoint their motivation.
- (Pops) Listening to advice from people who have no idea what they’re talking about. I had to learn to learn from the best. Study their work, analyze, challenge, draw conclusions. Steal technique from the best, then use it so someone else can steal knowledge and skill from you.