Thursday 18 August 2011

Top Ten Mistakes of New Fiction Writers

Top Ten Mistakes of New Fiction Writers

There are thousands, perhaps even millions of would-be writers of fiction the world over who find their stories and text coming back time and time again with those oh-so polite yet soul destroying rejection letters. Needless to say, writing has no set checklist to achieve perfection, but if everything really seems to be in order, it could be that one or more of the following top ten errors are all that stand in the way of unbridled success:

Insufficient Editing – Even the most seasoned veteran writers need to write, re-write and often re-write again. In the case of new writers across the board, there is a misconception that the editing process involves nothing more than a quick read-through for spelling mistakes and grammatical disasters. The best way to look at any writing project is to interpret what appears to be the final draft as nothing more than the first, going over even what appears to be perfect at least one last time with fresh eyes.

Restricted Writing – One of the biggest mistakes new fiction writers make is not allowing their imagination to run riot and instead remaining within the confines of what they think others would consider acceptable. This leads to homogenized story writing that has been done to death by millions of others – all looking to tick all the same boxes. On the other hand, draw up a new list of boxes to tick and standing out from the crowd comes as a certainty.

Irrelevance – It can be tempting to go massively into detail when building characters and back stories surrounding the main plot, but it has to be remembered that particularly in shorter works, it is essential not to take focus away from the main story. Of course, add all of the required detail and elements required, but opt for a subtle ‘drip-feeding’ approach rather than tangents with no relevance.

Language – Something of a balance must be struck here, as there are essentially two enormous mistakes just waiting to be made. On one hand, there are those who lose themselves in the plot and forget to push their vocabulary, while on the other hand there are those who use as many clever words as possible just for the sake of it. Needless to say, both can be fatal and should be avoided at all costs.

Clichés – Avoiding clichés when writing new works of fiction can be quite staggeringly difficult, as doing so not only involves the creation of original storylines, but also the attention required to make sure each and every encounter, scenario and even therein doesn’t simply scream ‘been there and done that’. Don’t rely on tired clichés or tricks to build the mood and environment, just rely on the core inspiration and say what really needs to be said.

Setting the Scene – The characters used in any work of fiction are never simply the result of breeding, but also the environment dreamed up to house them. Setting the scene can be as important to character development as anything else, therefore must be afforded due care and attention. Never be limited to simply describing how a place looks, but also include the smells, the sounds, the atmosphere, the objects around, the temperature, humidity and so on.

Structure – Something of a no-brainer but remarkably easy to stray away from, almost all short stories are most effective when concentrating on a single person in a single situation that spans a short period of time. It can be incredibly tempting to move away from the central plot and become sidetracked, which can be effective in epic novels, but in smaller works there is little to be gained from darting all over the place.

Dialogue – Remember that although the characters are not real, their dialogue must be as realistic as possible to maintain believability. At the same time, avoid fluff and nonsense used simply to increase the word count.
Technical Flaws – Brushing up on grammatical skills every now and then is a hugely important practice as it really does not take long for the odd mistake here and there to become a truly detrimental long term habit. Take a couple of online test or maybe consult a guide or two to see where the strengths and weaknesses lie.

Fresh Eyes – When it appears the story could not possibly be any better, leave it out of sight for a week or so without even going near it and re-read with a fresh pair of eyes – it never fails to be astonishing just how many little additions and tweaks become necessary this way.

"Article courtesy of Christine Connor, who frequently writes on behalf of moving services specialist Upack."


  1. The clichés were quite disheartening for me in the beginning...I've had several ideas for which I later found out were already used so many times that I didn't see the point of continuing (even striking similarities even though I never read the books that use the same idea). Lately I decided to keep pushing it. I'm a different person than that other author and we couldn't possibly write the same book.

  2. Great list and man of those can transfer to painting as well. Especially the fresh eyes one. So important.

    Oh I'll never be a writer. I love to write (not read) cliches too much. LOL

  3. This is all wonderful. And from a readers view, so true. :) Thanks for sharing this.


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