Things I Learned Writing My First Book – My Writing Mistakes (and Some Successes!)

am writing

Sooo a lot of us wannabe writers/aspiring authors/*insert other title* types, like to talk about all the great things we’re writing and how we’re having a whale of a time. And that’s fine- but I’ve never been all that good at having a “fake it till you make it” mentality. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not perfect 😉 Inspired by a video I saw ages ago about things I learned writing my first book, I thought it would be fun if I talked about what it was actually like being (more of) a baby writer- especially now that I’ve moved on from a lot of these projects. Now, I have included a couple positive things I learnt, so it’s not all me flinging banana peels at myself, buuuut it’s mostly gonna be about having a laugh at my expense 😉 And as you can imagine, this is by no means a complete list- I’m sure I’ll come up with plenty more in years to come! For the time being, here’s some of the things I learnt as a newbie writer:

that's all folksFinishing! Let’s start with a BIG FAT positive. One thing I’ve been lucky with when it comes to my writing is that I’ve never had a problem finishing. To be fair, I put a lot of this down to being bored in biology (turns out that’s a great time to draft something as a teen… not that I would ever advise doing this 😉)

not a great planPoor research and planning– I don’t know if I ever mentioned this, but I started out as more of a pantser and less of a planner. Way back when, I got asked to write a serialised story for a school newspaper (I know, so professional 😉). I just went for it and didn’t plan much of what I was doing. The result was… interesting. And even when I decided to finish the story, I just had a bunch of bullet points to go off. Many things suffered from this- but especially the world building. I went with the well known technique of make-it-up-as-I-go and the it-doesn’t-matter-it’s-all-magic method- with mixed results. Hopefully, this is something I’ve improved on, at least a little (though, given I prefer soft magic systems, I’ll never say it’s a strong suit).

think pen writeEpisodic writing– as I mentioned, the first thing I ever completed started out as a serialised story, so this makes sense. What I learnt as well is this is a nigh on impossible problem to fix in revision… but ah well, you win some, you lose some!

are we there yetBook wandering syndrome– yeah, I’m resurrecting this term I made up– the way I defined it was: the art of getting so lost in your own story that plot, character and everything else is forgotten in favour of random adventures. And I definitely did this first time round (in fact, I managed to do it again in a much later book- oops!)

 

actionToo much action– I feel like newbie writers fall into two categories: too little plot and too much. I was in the latter camp. Because in case the episodic nature of the story didn’t make the story jolty enough for my poor guinea pig readers, this definitely did the trick! There was A LOT going on. I just jammed in all the action I could think of (which, to be fair, at least made it a fun experience 😉). Thankfully, I’ve moved away from the OTT adventure story and (hopefully) have learned to tone it down!

dramaSo. much. drama. Another newbie mistake, my first couple of books were VERY melodramatic. I think (hope) I’ve toned that down as well, but *wow* those first books were rough going and angsty.

 

 

funny-facepalm-gifBad dialogue– you know how mums are supposed to be all schmoozy and tell you your work is perfect? Yeahhh mine told me on the first draft of my first book that my dialogue was stilted and terrible 😂 Which may give you the complete wrong impression of my lovely mum… but seriously, I’m so grateful to her for *not* being the kind of person that tells me work is perfect when it’s not. Because she was completely right!! (I don’t want to give an example of the kind of stiff, horrible dialogue we all think belong in fantasy as teens… but I’m sure you can imagine it!) And though admittedly this may never be my strong suit, I’ve become better at making my characters sound less like they’ve got a stick rammed up their butt.

whoopsFilter words and repeated words– oh man, I was reminded of this for the millionth time recently when I watched Alexa Donne’s video (seriously love that channel!) Not a great thing to admit, but I was watching and thinking *oh yeah that’s me*. As much as I would like to say I’m immune, like a lot of people, I have my crutch words. Funnily enough, this is something that has gotten worse, not better! Truth be told, while blogging has made me write a helluva lot more (and made me less precious about what I put on the page) the downside is I’ve gotten lax about catching those weasel words!

thumbs upEditing– I want to add something a little more positive towards the end of this list and that’s the fact I’m not afraid to brutally edit my work. Sure, I may have difficulty killing off the odd darling sentence or unnecessary character, but I usually come around- especially if I’ve executed a whole chunk of that story anyway!

writingPerfectionism– of course, the downside to this willingness to edit is that I can get stuck on a perfectionist train of thought. I can easily work and rework something to death… literally in the case of some books I’ve shelved! But ultimately, I think that’s a positive anyway, because you learn along the way to be less sentimental about keeping ideas alive that have gone stale. Better to move onto something else, I say! (just provided I don’t do this forever! 😉 )

And that’s all for now! Do you share any of these bad writing habits? What were your first writing mistakes? Or successes? Let me know in the comments!

44 thoughts on “Things I Learned Writing My First Book – My Writing Mistakes (and Some Successes!)

  1. I LOVE THIS POST! Especially since I have decided to start yet ANOTHER new writing project. Gosh, I am making so many mistakes still, I could relate to this entire list. I wish I had finished more than 1 out of 5 projects so far, but the one I am working on is a contemporary, so my hopes are up that this one will actually get done (unlike my fantasy and scifi WIPs). If I had to pick positives about my writing, I would say that I am pretty decent at dialogue, but I am really overly dramatic and angsty sometimes and that won’t ever change!
    I am just waiting for you to actually publish a book one day, because I am pretty sure there’d be a lot of people who would get that book – no questions asked!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! Oh that’s awesome!! Ahh I get what you mean- I often feel like I recycle old writing mistakes and somehow manage to find new ones 😂 (writing myself into corners, for instance, was one I discovered in my last WIP 😉 😂) And I definitely have projects left unfinished (don’t we all? 😂) Oh that’s great! Ahh that’s awesome you can write good dialogue. hahaha I hear you about the angst!!
      Aww thank you! You’re very sweet!! Same for you! I loved everything I’ve read of yours so far 😀 ❤

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    1. Ah I do understand- while I’ve finished other projects in the past, I’m struggling at the moment too. I wish I was able to use this time effectively, but I find the circumstances a bit overwhelming, so I’m just finding it hard to be productive too. But I think now’s the time to just be kinder and more patient with ourselves- because it makes sense that we can’t all be creative right now. I’m sure you will find your way back when the time is right!

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  2. Oh I definitely recognise book wandering syndrome! And melodrama. And poor planning. And bad dialogue. Aaand… well, all of them lol. They must be writerly rites of passage!

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  3. Hats off to you on pushing through and completing the project! Thank you for sharing all the insights you picked up along the way.

    Most people can’t wing it, planning and plotting is key. I believe Carlo Collodi made up Pinocchio week by week as he submitted it to the paper, but that doesn’t work for everybody.

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  4. I love this post! My problem is that I leave things half-written and can’t find the heart to finish it. I’m doing a whole lot better now and am nearing the completion of my first project. It’s wonderful that you have no problem with finishing your projects and I do admire how you’re able to keep your mind calm enough to lay out your mistakes though I wouldn’t blame you if your mind was flaming throughout the entire thing! Hopefully with more practice, we’ll gradually improve!

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    1. Thank you! Ah I am lucky in that area- although I have had ideas that didn’t have any legs beyond the idea stage. It sounds like you’re nearly there, which is fantastic! Hehe thank you- I’ve got to admit it was a challenge to write this post and I was really nervous about it- but I’m glad I did, cos writing it helped me and I hope it will help other people! Absolutely!

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  5. wow, that’s great post. I wouldn’t mind too much action in your book. 😉 I’m no writer so I don’t fall in any of these. I only write reviews and I know I make lot of mistakes. Adpositions are my weak points and I have habit of eating (I mean omitting) words (not intentionally, of course).

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    1. Thank you so much!! hahaha! Oh don’t worry, hahaha! I hear you- I make *loads* of mistakes in blogging as well! (I’m just less harsh on myself there 😉 ) But I wouldn’t worry- I’ve never seen any mistakes on your blog! 😀

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  6. Major kudos to you for being able to finish!! 😀 That’s a major accomplishment in and of itself. My main problem as a writer is finishing. I start so many stories but it’s rare that I finish one. Given the whole climate of the world now too, it’s even harder to focus on writing. I’m trying to get back into the swing of it! Great post and I’m sending good writing vibes your way!!

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    1. Thank you!! 😀 Ah that’s fair- sometimes it can be a challenge, but I especially wouldn’t be hard on yourself right now! It’s just a tough time and we have to be kind to ourselves ❤ The writing will happen in good time. Thank you! You too! ❤

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  7. Yeah, I am definitely guilty of perfectionism which is why my novel is endured over ten redrafts. I’m also guilty of not putting nearly as much thought into world building as I should have and paying for it during the redraft process when I have to flip back and forth through the chapters multiple times to fill in all the plotholes!

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  8. Oh boy, I still have to combat book wandering syndrome to this day. I end up writing a lot of deleted scenes or just letting myself daydream for hours on end so that I have the satisfaction of the random scene that doesn’t fit. They’re so much fun, even if they’re completely unnecessary, and while I definitely have gotten better at not actually including them, I still find myself writing them, haha.

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  9. Congrats on your book! I have written a guide book and a book about my travels and my downfall is editing! I paid someone to edit and then I edited it again at least twice. In the end, I had to stop otherwise I would have been editing today! The best part if getting it finished!

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  10. Great post! I think I’ve made every single one of these mistakes while writing my first book haha. I’ve definitely suffered from wandering book syndrome (adventures are just so much fun!) and my planning was somewhat limited. At one point I did a detailed outline, but I never went back to consider plot holes or questionable character arcs/development decisions. You live and you learn. Writing’s hard LOL

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  11. Thank you! These are all too familiar.

    I wrote a book recently. Bit of a stinker. I had it relatively well plotted out, but I find things really come to life and the best ideas land when I’m writing. Plotting, by comparison, is cold and abstract. This meant that the book I finished was not the one I started. It also meant what I thought were great ideas stood out clumsily in the text like bricks in porridge, or became inexplicable, lengthy asides.

    I’m plotting another book now, trying to do it properly this time, and running a story blog which is a good way to try ideas, get things out of my system and force a little discipline. In theory anyway.

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  12. I’m going to play devil’s advocate here with one of your points. Too much drama. How do you know if something has too much drama? Don’t get me wrong. There are is some awful writing out there. But I would think that some people would love drama and can’t get enough of it in their writing, whereas others feel even just a little bit of drama is too much. Some people love the ‘melodramatic’ and ‘angsty,’ wanting it in heavy doses. Others want it in small doses. Some don’t want it at all.

    It’s why with writing you aren’t going to please everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hehe well I’m not too bothered by your defence, since it was my writing mistake 😉 But basically, I’d say it’s not giving enough time for the action (and its consequences) to settle down- it’s kind of having a plot that goes at breakneck speed (and yeah, as a reader I’d definitely prefer that to something that feels too slow, but it’s still not great… though of course there are exceptions- I just wouldn’t say my shelved WIP is one of them 😉 ). And that’s true! I do agree with you that no story can please everyone (and there were people who were very happy to read my old work) but I also have to admit that I was never anywhere near satisfied with it, and I think that’s more of a problem (at least it is to me personally). Though I do really appreciate your take! It’s actually really kind of you to play devil’s advocate here- so thank you!

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