Top Ten Mistakes New Writers Make

I’ve worked with a lot of beginning writers and I find we all make the same mistakes. I’ve compiled what I consider to be the top 10 mistakes I’ve made and I’ve witnessed new writers doing. We can all break the rules and we should – once we know what they are. Take a look at my list below. Do you see yourself anywhere?

  1. Not using contractions – Do not, cannot, is not; don’t use these in your writing, especially not in dialogue. You don’t speak this way, so why would you write this way? Contractions make your writing sound stilted. You want your writing to sound as natural as possible.
  2. Beginning a sentence with “And” – And is a “joiner” is connects two things like “high-heeled shoes and short skirts” or “Godzilla and Tokyo.” It doesn’t belong at the start of your sentences.
  3. The compound verb is not your friend – Be careful of long verb phrases and long wordy phrases. Instead of “He was not able to find a way to go” say “He couldn’t go.” In general, less is always more when it comes to words. Find the shortest, most precise way to express what you mean.
  4. Pick a tense any tense – Then stick with it! Be sure if you are writing in the past tense to use that tense for the entire story. You can use present tense to tell a story if that is a conscious choice, and again, be faithful to it; have your characters speak in present tense for the whole telling of the story.
  5. Point of View (POV) – Be clear about it. If you’re in one character’s head, stay there for at least an entire scene. Be careful of head hopping (going from one character’s point of view to another) in the middle of a scene. This can be very confusing for your reader. You can switch from one character to another in different chapters or even in the same chapter if you leave a few lines of space between paragraphs.
  6. Use Short sentences – Whether you are describing the landscape or expressing the thoughts or actions of your characters, stick with short sentences. They’re easier for the reader to grasp. They’re also impactful.
  7. Showing vs. Telling – This is a big issue for most newbie writers. Instead of using an adjective like “afraid” to tell us how your character feels, try using body language: “Carol’s breathing was shallow. Her hands were sweating. She wondered if anyone could see her legs shaking as she stood at the microphone.” Body language is very important because it makes the event more palpable to the reader, they can feel this in their own body and it evokes emotion.
  8. A word about dialogue – OK, actually I have more than a word about dialogue because new writers have difficulty with it. The first thing to know is the ONLY word to use as a dialogue tag is “said.” This is because the reader’s eye glides right over it. You want to use body language to convey the emotion your character is feeling.
  9. Adverbs are strictly forbidden – Again, this relates to dialogue. Never use an adverb in a dialogue attribution i.e. “she said vehemently.” It’s the job of the author to create body language that shows what the character is feeling.
  10. Leaving out emotion – Emotion is the MOST difficult thing to get onto the page. Even humor is easier to capture. When your character is going through angst, your reader needs to feel it too. We can’t get to it if you are unwilling to feel it and get it on the page. Don’t worry if this doesn’t happen in the first draft. You may just get down the nuts and bolts of a scene in the first draft and go back for subsequent revisions to add body language, actions and dialogue that really convey the emotions of your characters and evokes them in your readers. When you get right down to it, this is what writing is all about – making your readers feel.

Try these suggestions and see if your writing feels cleaner and more honest. If you’d like to work with me on getting to the essence of your story, you can contact me at CorinneCasazza@gmail.com

Corinne L. Casazza is an international best-selling author based in Boston, Massachusetts. She’s currently at work on her third novel. Corinne believes that through creativity and humor, we all find our own inner light.

Corinne’s best-selling ebook: “Break These Chains of Love: A New Paradigm for Relationship” is available here: http://ow.ly/Brook

Check out Corinne’s Amazon Author page: www.amazon.com/author/corinnecasazza

Corinne’s Facebook Fan Page includes tips for beginning writers.

For more information about Corinne including classes and speaking events, visit her Web site at CorinneCasazza.com

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4 Comments on “Top Ten Mistakes New Writers Make”

  1. sjoycarlson Says:

    Great suggestions. I learned so many of these the long, hard way. LOL


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