Top 7 Beginner’s Mistakes of a Writer

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Details about my books, Writing Stuff
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Well, let’s get this straightened out before I begin my rant. I don’t know if every writer will have experienced these mistakes, but as a writer myself, these are the worst mistakes that I made. I just thought it’d be interesting for some of you to read about my horrible mistakes. (Because I know how funny that is for all of you.)

Mistake No. 1: Not reading any books. I’ve said this many times, but I hated to read. I knew how to write, but there are certain things you can only figure out from actually reading a book. It’s normal. That is, for those of us that aren’t prodigies. I, for one, wasn’t like Mozart, nor even Salieri. (Name dropping famous musicians from over a hundred years ago – strikes off Bucket List )

So, for any young people out there that are wondering if they should read before writing their masterpiece… Do it. It honestly cannot hurt. And, it can achieve two things. It can humble you by blowing your mind with the book’s brilliance… OR, it can give you an ego boost after you read a book you think is quite terrible. It’s rather wrong for you to read a book on purpose because you know it is bad, of course, but at the end of the day, anything that will help inspire you is not really horrible. As long as you don’t make a habit of it.

Mistake No. 2: Ignoring your grammar. Commas. ‘Nuff said. You know that stuff they teach you at school? That can actually be useful. Hey, I’m not a square. I hate diagramming, for example, but it was actually good to know when it is appropriate to use semi-colons, or colons, etc. That type of stuff can really expand your writing style. It really won’t hurt.

I’m not saying you need to love it. It’s just very useful, if you allow it to be.

Mistake No. 3: Not reading your own stuff. This is actually a very heinous mistake that I make (albeit, unknowingly) to this day. You see, whenever I reread my own stuff, I feel terribly arrogant. That isn’t because I’m quite conscious of myself – it’s because of my sister’s constant yammering in my ear about how arrogant I am. But we’ll talk about that next time. So, reread your stuff until you’re sick of it. I’m not telling you to edit it, but rereading it will refresh your memory of it. I mean, one time, I forgot a character’s name because it’d been so long since I wrote about him. I know! Ridiculous. So, rereading everything you write? Can’t hurt. Besides, if you’re as egotistical as me (doubtful), you’ll probably like it a lot.

Mistake No. 4: Arrogance is not Confidence. I tend to fall prey to this mistake quite often. I mean. Whether it’s simply scoffing at the horrible writing of a famous author, or whether it’s ridiculing someone’s attempts at defeating you in writing – it’s not good, man. Once you become arrogant, it becomes harder for you to edit anything you write. “You know… Killing all of the female characters in my book may not sound like a good decision, but my writing really is quite awesome. I’ll keep it.”

You can be confident. Nay, everyone should be confident in their writing. You should always consider your writing good, but always remember that it can be improved. Once I got into the mindset, I improved exponentially. If you think my writing is bad NOW… HAH. If you only knew… HAH.

Like I said, be confident, but not arrogant. Because the temptation to laugh at a famous author’s writing is quite strong… I won’t even mention the name of the author I normally pick on, because I haven’t got the right to do so. This author became successful, and he’s got a good fan base. That’s more than what I’ve done so far… Granted, he’s about a decade older than me. But still, until I become as successful, I haven’t earned the right to do such a thing. Heck, I wouldn’t even do that when I do get that successful (IF, I mean) because by then… I’d probably have realized how hard it was to do all of that.

Mistake No. 5: Research is not lame. Research… It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a supposedly very accurate biographical novel of Abe Lincoln, or if you’re writing a fantasy novel set in a completely different universe, or if you’re writing about talking animals. Research, man. Even if you’re writing about a completely new world, research will not hurt. For example, if you remember the topic I linked about the myths about fights in literature, you’ll know that swords don’t actually make a cool sound when you unsheathe ’em. Topic link is down below, if you want it.

Research makes a world much more vivid – it is especially useful in your fictional universe. Another example. Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, likes to inject real life facts into his novels because it helps make his book that much more real. Really, it’s a lot of fun. In Lullaby, he mentions how the taped audience in certain sitcoms were recorded back in the 1950’s. And that they’re all probably dead. Or the scene in Fight Club where Tyler gives the main character a chemical burn and tells him that vinegar can neutralize the pain. (That isn’t a spoiler since it happens fairly early.)

Mistake No. 6: Don’t get caught up in your research. You’re probably annoyed at me right now because I just said to do your research. Well. It’s important for you to actually, you know, write. And research can and will get in the way of that. If you think about it ,doing research is really easy. It’s easy to forget about the novel, and just get absorbed in your research.

Japanese soldiers in Iwo Jima got dysentery from the sewers? Really? They ate worms after they ran out of food? You know. It can be pretty cool, the research. So, you must remember to actually write. Research is cool, but the actual writing is… I would say that it’s even better, but it’s necessary. Because writing can make you either miserable or ecstatic. It’s a fickle mistress that toys with her lovers. And we still buy her jewelry. I don’t get it, either!

Mistake No. 7: Listen to beta readers, but don’t destroy your masterpiece. Let me tell you. My beta readers have saved my ass on so many occasions that it’s not even funny. (Wait, why should it be funny?) They’ve given me stellar advice, and told me about mistakes that I didn’t notice. I really owe ’em a lot. However, if you get a beta reader that simply insults you, and tells you that something you worked hard on for an entire year is trash… Don’t destroy your masterpiece. Sure, it may not be a masterpiece to anyone else, but it’s yours. You sweated over that! (Probably not… Unless it was very hot when he wrote a chapter.) You bled over that. (How would he have injured himself?) You cried over that. (Now THAT is quite likely.)

So, constructive criticism is awesome, but if your beta reader is not being helpful, don’t simply change everything. Get another beta reader and ask that person what they think. If everyone, as a consensus, thinks your book is bad. Well. Just put it in a drawer, and write something new. Don’t destroy it. I technically destroyed my first book, but I still have a copy on my Mom’s computer. My first book may have been unsalvageable, but its mere existence in the world is comforting. I can tell people that I wrote my first book at the age of 11. It wasn’t good, but I worked hard on it for a year. That’s something. The fact that you worked on something consistently every single day is awesome. It’s a sign that you actually can finish something. So, if you finish a book, no matter how bad it is… Pat yourself on the back and call it a good day.

Those are all the mistakes that I’ve made, but here’s something that I think all writers should do.

Be Nice to other writers. Whenever you meet a writer, be nice to ’em. They’re your long lost soul sisters and brothers, you know? Be nice to ’em just for the sake of being nice until they give you a reason not to be nice to ’em. If they insult you, then you can stop. But consider this: even if the other person is a bad writer… He or she is still a writer. He or she probably went through all the difficulties that you went through. So, it stands to reason that you should give that person the same respect that you would want to be given. 

You know what. I think we should apply this to meeting other people in general. All of you are probably nice enough that you do this unconditionally, but it needs to be said. Be cool with people, and it’ll work out. For one, it’s nice to be friends with writers. You can talk all day about your writer’s block, and they’ll know what you mean. It’s pretty awesome, in all honesty.

I hope this stuff I’ve written helps. Thank you. Like, Follow, and Comment. I would appreciate it very much if you did all three.

P.S: I thought that I should write a post today. I’ve already submitted my story, Radio Silence, but I’ve yet to receive word on whether or not they think it’s good or bad. I think I went over the word limit, so I may have to cut the first chapter in half. Anyways. I hope you enjoyed this post. I’ve made all of those mistakes at least once. And as an amateur writer, I thought I actually knew a little something about it. I liked writing about all of this quite a bit.  Thanks again.

~J.A. Romano

 

Common Myths in Fights: Busted

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Comments
  1. cristaramone says:

    Reblogged this on The Insane and The Impossible.

  2. Wow..what a great post and awesome advice written so I enjoyed reading about the things I’ve done wrong. (commas, ugh!) Thanks for sharing with us!

  3. tktrian says:

    An awesome post! Oh man, grammar…. the English grammar! You wouldn’t believe that both of us actually study linguistics and major in English Philology! K is an English teacher! And yet the amount of grammar mistakes we make, the war on commas we’ve waged…

    Be nice to other writers is also an important point! Except, you know, unless they are a) dickheads b) besserwissers c) both. Of course it’s always admirable if one manages to be nice towards someone they consider an utter git (Jian, is thar why you’re nice to us?). Note that people are remarkably less unpleasant irl than on the webz. Social media is an awesome tool for writers to connect with others, but it’s got huge downsides. On the other hand, for a writer it’s important to hone their written discourse skills. And sometimes even a dickhead has a point: “you own your words.” Think carefully how you conduct yourself online with other writers (or whoever) and be ready to stand behind what you wrote. Strangely enough, we still do despite all the havoc T.K.Trian has wreaked in social media >: D (yes, we are cave-dwelling rednecks, but so is Daryl Dixon and guess what, still not eaten by zombies!)

    P.s. Check out Brandon Sanderson’s lectures on fantasy writing and beta-reading on youtube (just search his name + lecture). Awesome advice!

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Thanks for the tip. Huge fan of Sanderson, so I’ll check it out. Thanks for Liking and commenting. Ha, I’m nice to you guys because you’re pretty cool and you managed to survive reading my unedited book. I thought only blood relatives had that ability. : )

      Everyone knows that rednecks survive the apocalypse, so it can’t be a bad thing to be one, ey? 😀

      I’ve had a long and hard fought battle with commas, as well, and even after all of that, I’m still not sure who won. 😛

      • tktrian says:

        It’s actually quite ridiculous, the comma war, I mean. I’ve read many published, edited novels with punctuation “mistakes.” It’s pretty free in English, I suppose (apart from the rule of joining independent clauses with coordinators which is easy to spot: FANBOYS, for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). In Finnish punctuation is super-anal. Like the capitalization of German nouns. You don’t fuck with that! Too bad it’s also quite different from English, so… confused much!
        – K

  4. J.A. Romano says:

    Ah, that must suck a lot. I speak Tagalog, but I don’t really know how to write in Tagalog, so I don’t have to deal with stuff like that. I only have to remember one style of punctuation. : )

    It must be cool, though, to be able to say, “Well, I write in English, but I can write my book in about two different languages if I want to.”

    I’m going to try to learn another language for that reason alone. xD

  5. dotdotquote says:

    Like I said, be confident, but not arrogant. Because the temptation to laugh at a famous author’s writing is quite strong… I won’t even mention the name of the author I normally pick on, because I haven’t got the right to do so. This author became successful, and he’s got a good fan base. That’s more than what I’ve done so far… Granted, he’s about a decade older than me. But still, until I become as successful, I haven’t earned the right to do such a thing. Heck, I wouldn’t even do that when I do get that successful (IF, I mean) because by then… I’d probably have realized how hard it was to do all of that.

    I disagree with this point.

    Sometimes, I see a fan try to defend their favourite book against a negative review by using a famous straw-man comment against the critic – “Well, if you think you know how to write a book, why haven’t you?”

    It goes for other forms of art as well, but books predominantly and it’s absurd. If you complained when your boiler broke and you called in a plumber who performed a terrible, what would you say if he asked you to do better?

    As I said before, critical analysis and writing a book require two completely different skills. That isn’t to say they cannot overlap and that a writer cannot dabble in reviews (or vise versa), but the two are not synonymous and one may possess only one and not the other. Don’t worry about things like “earning the right to dislike this author’s work” think about why you dislike it and how to avoid it.

    When an author puts his work out either through a publishing house or by himself, he is saying: This is what I have to offer. If he is unhappy with the book’s contents, then he should hone his skill beforehand. No one can write the greatest book ever, but they CAN write the greatest book of which THEY are currently capable. The best writers are the ones who understand that there is always room to improve, while the worst are those who look at their work and think it’s the second coming of Christ.

    • J.A. Romano says:

      You make a valid point. Although, when you’re also a writer, the line gets rather blurred from time to time. That is to say, it’s very easy to get out of control. It’s okay to review another writer’s work, and to not like it, but when you concentrate on the fact that there is an author out there who, you may believe, is an inferior writer and yet is praised by everyone as the greatest of the greatest, it’s easy to get embittered. So, it’s just a mistake that I’m ashamed to say I’ve made in the past, and I wanted to get it out there, y’know? : )

      Thanks for Liking and commenting. I really appreciate the support.

      • dotdotquote says:

        True, but there are (I believe) varying factors in why such writers are seen as the greatest. The Twilight books for example are nothing more than poorly written, poorly characterized self-insert nonsense, so why are they so popular? Well, they’re niche marketed – they appeal to the right audience (although they shouldn’t), they represent a current trend in book publishing — YA paranormal romance — and finally, there is the self-inset part.

        Many are quick to criticize the MC, for her lack of personality and yet the author specifically stated she left Bella Swan as a “blank slate” to allow the reader to imagine herself dating a handsome, albeit disco ball, vampire — which, as I stated above, will appeal to the right audience.

        But Is that lazy writing, or a clever consideration? It’s hard to say.

        Having said that, I understand where you’re coming from. There are appropriate places to give a negative opinion and on a forum/website dedicated to the appreciation of said work is not one of them (giving rise to the phrase trolling, I guess :P).

  6. Erica Dakin says:

    Re: point four, I sort of disagree. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to take the piss out of EL James. (But it’s also true that I’m very bitter about her being a millionaire off the back of her shitty writing. And I don’t mean the plot in her case (even if that sucks too), I mean the actual writing.)

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