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:
Finishing! 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 😉)
Poor 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).
Episodic 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!
Book 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!)
Too 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!
So. 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.
Bad 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.
Filter 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!
Editing– 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!
Perfectionism– 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!