I have to admit this title is a bit flashy, because I don’t believe in mistakes while writing in any given way; whatever you write – it’s great, and everything’s just fine. Also, while preparing for this article I consulted a number of videos (on this topic), read at least 10 other articles and 2 books, and I can tell you that it’s all nonsense. Each and every of these advices are quite limited and in my opinion could make any begginer-writer go crazy, plus some of the biggest names would easily deny each and every single one of these mistakes. Therefore this article is completely different, and won’t to dare say much more relevant, but definitely written with good intention, approaching this topic with much caution, so it doesn’t hurt the fragile souls of usualy hypersensitive writers.
During first week, I was talking about why are you writing, then examined inspiration as such, but now we’ll discuss the mistakes – with the main goal to understand that writing is a process and as such has certain phases and certain beliefs (eg. for writing, one shall need an inspiration or a talent). Of course people can learn everything, even writing; you need to practice, and that means to (yes!) write. Still, last week’s task had gone pretty bad, because it required you to write (and write and write), and you on the other hand would like to write only when inspired and in some ideal conditions, which does all sound great. In order not to break your heart in pieces, I’ll simply tell you right away – that’s not a real picture. To be a writer you have to write and, to learn how to write you have to make mistakes.
If you still do write (or want to write) you’ll realise that mistakes are a big part of learning, and that it’s ok to be wrong. If you’ve never fell off a bike you’d never learn to ride it. The same thing goes for witing. The mistakes are there for us to learn from them, and bad writing is just a step that leads you to good writing.
Of course the “mistakes” in writing, as I said at the very beginning, are quite a relative thing. Therefore here I’ll deal with some imposed mistakes (I repeat, no one actually makes mistakes), the ones that can be easily corrected (revised) so that your writing is nicer, cleaner and very pleasant to read.
Here are some common writing mistakes:
1) Not reading through your writing and not allowing it to ripe
The most common and serious challenge for all the writers that actually just requires some patience.
- Re-reading – over and over again. Once written, a text should be read at least 3 times (minimum). Solution? Read your text several times and make any corrections necessary.
- Allow it to ripe. Your text needs to wait! And again: once written, your writing has to be allowerd to ripe! Solution? If anything bothers you in your text, just leave it to rest for about a week, and then go back through it and correct any mistakes.
- Text that is corrected too many times. Of course, as the result of too much reading through, it can easily happen to modify your writing in a way that it loses its whole given form. Solution? Find balance between too little and too much. If you don’t like it any more after too many alterations, write it out of you sole memory, without looking and returning to the original.
2) Idea VS. Style
Style and topic should (usually) dance togther well, but it often happens that one is quite opposites the other…
- Well written with no idea. This is such a great challenge for those poetic souls who know how to express themselves, but aren’t really sure what they wanted to say. Solution? At the very end, think about what you’re trying to say. Focus on the facts and go easy on the peacock feathers.
- Great idea with no style whatsoever. You have an idea and you’re having it down on a paper with no looking back. However, when you stop and read it through, it all sounds like a fact attack and it sounded much better in your head. Solution? Write descriptively to develop a personal style, or switch to screenwriting.
3) Writing too much, or too little
There is no way you’ll ever express your ideas this way.
- Writing to tight (underwriters). Not letting your ideas come out from you out of fear, or just because they sound stupid is immature. A paper is a paper (or a screen), it does judge any thing or any one, plus everything can be easily solved with a delete button or a simple tear of a paper. Solution? Go skinny dipping. If that doesn’t work, take a paper and write whatever comes to yout mind and leave it to settle for about 3 weeks (without any deleting). Write with as many details as possible as and don’t erase them.
- Writing too long (overwriters). Too many details that affect the flow of the story. Oh, poor Levin, scythe and scythe… Yes, it can be considered as a work of art, but only if you’re Leo Tolstoy himself. Solution? Go through your work and cut things, just like Levin cuts the grass. Be ruthless with yourself and your writing. Save discarted sentences in a separate folder, for colder days.
4) Showing teeth at criticism
I can give my life that anyone of us thinks they are doing their best, and artist’s vanity is perhaps more specific than in average Serbian desk clerk’s, who had to cut her 3-hour coffee break short for you. I know it’s not easy to hear that something you’ve done is not perfect, but it’s for your own good, and for the good of your own writing. In the past, the very nature of my job was to point out some flaws and suggest corrections, but what happened to me a million times is that I had to listen to someone explain to me why something should stay here and there, and how some really important idea is behind it, or worse, listening to someone who takes a strong defensive stance. Solution? Work on yourself as a person, and then on your writing.
Introduction to the task
First of all, what it means to you, to make writing mistakes? Let me be clear, mistake is not a chosen topic or grammar or you as a writer. What are the rules you write by? Try to specify your own writing principles, but detach the things you like or dislike or from what’s according to the “rules”. I’m sure you write by your own rules (quite possibly without even knowing it), but remember writing against these principles can also teach you something.
The thing is that we as writers (and people) very much rely on what we know, or what we think we know. In order to be better writers (and people), we have a lot to learn, but we have a lot of rules to forget too, because some of our assuredness are based on what we have experienced or read. As we read and write more and more actively, our writing mutates and becomes newer, more mature, and our frame of reference (that is a set of rules) becomes more complex and dynamic.
Exercise: Where do I make mistakes?
Type of exercise: requests feedback
Length: 500 words
Imagine that you are a very fulfilled and successful writer. Present your whole life’s work in 500 words where you present your work and books. Suppose you had a very successful career and that your readers are many and propitious (what I wish for you from the bottom of my heart). Knowing how much you’re appreciated and loved by your readers, this is probably the only chance for you to be completely honest, so write a short text explaining to all of them – all of your weaknesses. In the last paragraph indicate which are the lessons that can be passed on to young writers, who are just starting.
Aim of the task
Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to tell yourself the truth. Describing our own flaws contributes to developing writer’s sincerity, and it’s also necessary for development of one’s integrity.
Expect another Creative writing lesson next Wednesday, and by then practice this one in the comments below. Of course, after writing, rate someone else’s writing, and help this wonderful virtual course to flourish. Also, feel free to share and like, comment, or simply take the author of this article on a trip to Maldives… as you wish. Here’s me on Instagram, and this week there’s 3 posts on a blog, so feel free to subscribe for free (top right corner) to see which interesting things I’m preparing.
To keep everything in one place, here’s the whole online course here:
INTRODUCTION: Why Do I Write
FIRST PART: Screw Inspiration
SECOND PART: Common Writing Mistakes – it’s this text 🙂
THIRD PART: Surprise Your Reader
FOURTH PART: Enemies & Allies Of Writing