Mistakes New Writers Make and How to Avoid Them
I’ve been a writer on various platforms since I was 14. That’s 8 years now. I feel so old! In that time, I evolved from a fanfiction writer to someone hellbent on creating their own fiction and standing out. I moved from fanfiction.net to Archive of Our Own. Then Episode Interactive and Chapters. Now, I’m getting ready to (hopefully) build up a readership over on Wattpad. Of course, I was also an avid reader and a reviewer whenever I could be. With all of that experience reading and avoiding writing I have under my belt, I feel like I’m qualified to speak about the mistakes that new writers make.
Believe it or not, but new writers on all of my platforms make a lot of the same mistakes. It can be so easy to think that you’ve got this whole writing thing sorted when you start out. In fact, it’s usually the less experienced writers who believe they know everything they need to know to start writing. That’s what’s known as the Dunning-Krueger Effect and it can seriously affect how quickly you grow as a writer. Don’t let that happen to you. Be aware of the mistakes that the newbie writers out there make. Be aware of them so that you can beat them! You’ll have a much better time for it.
So here are some of the biggest mistakes for you to consider and how you can avoid being the typical newbie writer.
Mistake 1: Poor Grammar
This one gets on my nerves. So many new writers make the mistake of thinking they can ignore the grammar side of things if their story is good enough. I’ve said this way too many times before, but that kind of logic just won’t stand for very long.
You see, bad grammar comes with so many issues for you to think about. For one, there’s the fact that it makes you look lazy. I’ve said time and time again that grammar is the one thing in your writing that has a correct answer. There is no “right” way to write a story. You won’t find any good answers on whether you “should” write in the first or third person. Any good advice blog or book will tell you that things like that really depend on you as a writer. When it comes to grammar, though, you’ll find that you can usually find out if you’re doing it in the correct way.
Then there’s the fact that your readers need to understand your work in order to actually read and enjoy it properly. Sometimes, a small mistake that you find easy to understand can be really tricky for someone else. Don’t take that risk. It’s simply not worth it and it can really harm your story.
Still not convinced? Check out my post on why you need good grammar for the full list of reasons.
Mistake 2: Ignoring Other Writers’ Work
A lot of these apps and communities are made up of writers just like you. They want to share their work and build an audience! They have stories to tell, too! So one of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a writer is forgetting to read other people’s work. Not only does it make you seem rather selfish, but you also come across as an untrustworthy writer. Who wants to support one of those?
You see, if we all forgot to read other people’s work, there would be no real community. It would be a bunch of people writing stories with very small audiences. You’d get less helpful critique or praise from other writers. And forget all about building friendships! It just won’t happen! So you need to keep up your side of the bargain. You want people to read your work, too, don’t you? Well find some stories you like and have a peruse of them. Not only does it show that you care about the community, but reading other people’s work makes you a better writer, too!
That means no ghosting people in read-for-reads. If you feel like you’ve taken on too much and you can’t read them all, let people know! Close up shop and only advertise your story if you feel you’ve caught up with all the other reads you need to do. Or don’t do read-for-reads at all! I don’t! I don’t think the audience you get from it is very good. They’re only reading your work because they want theirs read, which isn’t the point of this. You should read what you love, not just anything. Find stuff that appeals to you and read that. Who wants readers who are only there out of obligation? They don’t stick around.
Mistake 3: Reacting Badly to Criticism
Criticism is one of your best tools in this writing game. It will help you grow both as a writer and as a person! The problem is that so many new writers make the mistake of shunning it. In fact, this isn’t just a complaint about the new writers. Popular ones seem to be just as bad when it comes to this. But being new or popular doesn’t give you an excuse to be a jerk when someone tries to help you out here. As much as your story might be your baby and you might hate the thought of people saying bad things about it, criticism is one of the fastest ways for you to improve your work.
You see, readers are going to see things about your story that you can’t. You’ve spent way too much time planning (I hope) and writing the story. That means that you might overlook some things. You have the benefit of knowing the things you choose not to put in the story. The readers don’t! And they matter. They’re the ones you want to appeal to! So getting suggestions on how to make reading your story a better experience really isn’t the end of the world.
That doesn’t mean you need to take every single piece of advice you get on board, though. Some of it will help you. Some of it won’t. There’s no right way to write a story, after all! But it is a good idea to really consider the advice and take it seriously. Plus, make sure you’re nice to the people who are only trying to help. It’s easy to get defensive, but then you might scare them away!
But I won’t go into too much detail here. Check out my post on why criticism is important!
Mistake 4: No Planning
A lot of new writers think they can just jump headlong into their story without stopping to plan the thing. Some jump in with just an idea of what they want the story to be like. Just a prompt. This mistake can make you seem pretty bad as a writer.
Stories with no plan often go off on huge tangents. I know from experience! You want to pack your story with hundreds of interesting points. You get so excited on a new idea that you forget to tie up plot threads. These are things that can cost readers. Who wants to read a messy story that doesn’t go anywhere? So you need to spend some time planning out your work and making sure that you know what it’s going to be about.
One of the biggest issues you’ll find with a poorly planned story is bad pacing. You might spend 5 chapters on that random mean girl and then gloss over the big fight with the main villain in 1 or 2 paragraphs. Bad pacing makes the story drag when it’s not supposed to and feel rushed when the reader wants to enjoy what’s happening. Think of the last season of Game of Thrones. They tried to wrap up so much of the story in so few episodes that it ended up seeming like the characters teleported all over Westeros. And Dany’s madness seemed to come out of nowhere!
Your best bet to solve that is to have a rough idea of how many chapters you want the story to be, working out what happens and in what chapter. It doesn’t need to be set in stone. Things change. Some of us plan more than others. But having that initial plan will save your story.
Mistake 5: Thinking Fame Will Happen Overnight
Most of us want success. Before Episode booted me off the app for a reason they still haven’t disclosed, I planned to write a new version of The Queen of Freaks (the old one sucked) and build up a fanbase who wanted to read my tips and tricks over here. Maybe even support me on Patreon! Plans are good to have. They keep you motivated, which keeps you writing.
But a lot of new writers make the mistake of thinking that they can get big super quickly. They plan to have hundreds, or even thousands, of followers the moment they release the first chapter of their story. That’s just unrealistic. You really shouldn’t bank on that kind of fame. After all, there are thousands of stories on these apps. Not being discovered doesn’t mean you’re bad. It just means you haven’t been noticed yet.
When writers get too ambitious with their goals and start to expect too much, it means they lose hope way too quickly. They upload 3 chapters of their story and then give up when they see that they only have 20 readers. But when you give up, you lose the chance to ever get famous from your work. All of those big writers out there didn’t get where they are by giving up when they fail. In fact, Harry Potter was turned down by loads of publishers before Bloomsbury took it. I bet they’re all kicking themselves now!
A writer who gives up is someone readers can’t trust. So give yourself reasonable goals. Instead of saying “I want 100 readers by chapter 2”, make the goals things that you can do like “I want to write 2 chapters by the end of the month”. That will keep you happy and on track!
Mistake 6: Advertising Too Soon
I see this mistake in all kinds of writing! It doesn’t just apply to stories! I’ve seen way too many websites for writing help that lead to nothing more than a homepage. Where’s the help? People jump the gun too soon. They get excited and want to show you their new achievements when there really isn’t anything worth showing yet. This mistake can cost you a lot as a new writer.
Most people like to read stories when there’s quite a bit there for them to sink their teeth into. No one wants to fall in love with chapter 1 of a story and then find out that the writer isn’t going to update anymore! And while there’s no way of being 100% sure who’s going to abandon their story and who isn’t, more chapters means the writer has stayed on for longer. That means you can have a little more trust in them that they aren’t going to up and leave any time soon.
So when you advertise too soon, all you do is waste people’s time. They go to a website with nothing but a homepage after being told that there’s going to be lots of writing help there. But no. There’s nothing. Eep! Not a good look! They probably aren’t going to come back any time soon. I know I feel cheated when it happens to me.
The same is true of writing. You might advertise a story about a girl who finds out she’s the hunter in the Red Riding Hood story, but if you’ve only got the first chapter, you’re advertising a plot that isn’t even there yet! So take some time to write a good amount before you hype people up with your amazing plot. That will build trust!
Mistake 7: Only Using Forums to Advertise
There are so many awesome ways that you can advertise your story in this day and age. One of my favourites is appealing to people on forums. Why? Well, if you go to the right place, they’re all there to talk about reading and writing, anyway! Like on the ShanniiWrites Forums or Wattpad. However, any writer who is only going on forums to post adverts to their story is making a grave mistake. Not only do you look spammy, but you don’t have a good presence on the forums!
The best way to advertise yourself is to be an active member of the community. Help people when you can. Give advice where you see fit. Definitely keep your grammar up so that people have faith that your story will make sense, too. Make a name for yourself. Talk about your story when it comes up in conversations. That way, you won’t look like a bot and you’ll show that you aren’t just trying to use the people on the forums to get reads. We all hate those pop-up ads that just won’t go away, right? So don’t act like one! Build a name for yourself and the readers will come. They might start asking you for your story name or link on their own!
Make sure that you always keep learning as a new writer. That is the most important thing! Take the time to grow as a writer and maintain a great community. That way, you’ll get true fans and not just casual readers.