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My Top 5 Common Writing Mistakes [2021 Edition]
List 'em to fix 'em!
- E.L. Drayton
We are all the same. We all have certain mistakes we make while writing. And if you've been at this writing thing for as long as I have, then you know exactly what those mistakes are. Not only that, but every year you try to make a conscious effort NOT to make those mistakes on your next writing project. But like an unforgiving scratch, you feel but can't quite be rid of, you continue to make those mistakes. It's ingrained in our brain. Can we be reprogrammed? Maybe. It starts by not only admitting what those mistakes are to ourselves (what good does that do, really?) but with admitting them to the world! Here are my writing mistakes that I really wish I could shake:
Tense - I always start right. I choose past tense and I'm all in. Then, and without warning, I'm writing present tense! I catch myself and quickly revert back (sometimes in the middle of a sentence) to past tense again. And by the time I'm done writing my story I look it over and I'm jumping back and forth from past to present like I'm skipping rope! AAHHHH!!!!
POV - We all know the choice we must make when we start writing: First person / Third person omniscient / Third person limited? I don't consider Second person as an option as that isn't a POV I see used often and I personally would never use it. Writing in first person is "easy" in that it's simply speaking in "I" and who could mess that up? The difficulty is when you choose third person. The whole omniscient vs limited! I mean, seriously? Am I God, a humble writer, or both? You tell me!
Adverbs & Adjectives - I hate them. There, I said it! I mean, to modify or not to modify? That is the question. Or is it, to show rather than tell? We know it's not always bad to tell just like it's not always good to just show. Sometimes an adjective should be allowed to exist and need no adverb modification. Sometimes I just want to tell my damn story without noticing these things after the fact. Or maybe be an adverb savant, describing the who, what, where and why with the same flair of a Rhodes Scholar.
Said, etc. - There is a school of thought that says we should just end all dialogue with the "said" tag. Then there is the other school, the hard knock life school, that wants to throw caution and literary abandon to the wind at the close of dialogues by adding something a bit more descriptive than the mundane "said." Why the warring sides? Well, there are those who feel adding the description would take the reader out the scene and the other side says, depending on the dialogue itself and the surrounding scenes it matters not how descriptive the closing dialogue tag is. Where do I fall? As you can imagine I flip and flop and I think that is far worse.
Description vs Dialogue - When is too much just that, too much? Trying to perform what I like to call "The Dance" a perfect symmetry of dialogue and description into every scene can be nerve wracking to the point of freezing me in a moment in time of a chapter. I walk away. I curse whatever god chose to give me such a passion that would render me incapable of carrying on with it. Then after a few more grumbles I pick up where I left off. I wish I didn't care so much if I have too much of one over the other. But then writing would be so easy anyone would do it!
I have loads more "mistakes" but these are the ones I feel I should be able to either defeat and never make again, or at least not make them so often.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? What writer mistakes are you making that you wish you could get better at not making? I'd love to hear what they are and we can wear these scars proudly together!