There’s a sneaky little secret we writers don’t like to talk about:
And not different mistakes, oh no, we repeat those mistakes constantly. Some of us use the phrase, “I’m only human” but since I’m pretty sure I’m a superhero waiting for powers or an evil genius overlord (I’ll go either way, honestly), I use the phrase: “I’ll fix my mistakes in the next draft.”
So what are the worst (usually embarrassing) mistakes I make when I write?
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1) I mix up “than” and “then”.
You’ve probably seen me mix these up in blog posts. Than is comparison, then is timing. Gaaah! It’s not that hard, really? Is it? (Tell me it is.)
I also mix up things like “venerable” verses “vulnerable”. CONSTANTLY.
2) I end all my chapters with dialogue.
Maybe this isn’t a steadfast rule, but I don’t like reading book that always end chapters with a cliff-hanger statement. Therefore I shouldn’t write them, right?
“No, John! The cake is poisoned!”
“I’m not your father/mother/squirrel, John.”
“I’m going to rule/save/destroy the world.”
Hmm? See? I’m so guilty of this you could put me in dialogue-jail.
3) My humans aren’t described.
Guilty as charged! I don’t describe hardly anyone! I can go into detail about the texture of their tacos, but their faces? I’m so scared of info-dumping or uses the dreaded and cliche “look into a mirror and count my freckles”, that I skip it altogether. This is bad. You have no idea what my characters look like.
4) I make everyone get married or be related.
Because everyone needs to belong, right? No characters with loose ends! That would be so sad. I warn myself I’ll be the next Charles Dickens if I’m not careful… BUT FAMILY FOR THE WIN.
5) I leave my endings loose and free.
You know how most books have a few chapters after the finale to describe what happens to the characters? People usually end up in hospital, say sorry to relatives, go back to school, eat breakfast and take a shower (finally).
My books end as soon as the climax is finished. No closure. No what-happens-next. Nothing. The last book I wrote, I left someone drifting through space. Mildly awkward.
6) I break the 4th wall.
Sometimes I address the reader directly, with phrases like, “you know how it is”. Like my characters are talking directly to the reader. This isn’t necessarily bad, particularly if you’re writing books in letters or in a memoir style contemporaries. But in the average YA epic-adventure book? HOW ABOUT NO.
7) My books have FOOD problems.
For a person who blathers on about food so much…you’d think my characters would be well fed and well adjusted little sweeties, right? WRONG. My earliest betas would tell me to feed these poor darlings. Then Mime would get onto me. And then finally even my agent said, “I suspect you should add in a meal here”.
And because I’m a really awesome author, I decided: Okay then. Food. So now all my characters do is eat. Food everywhere! Three meals a day, snacks in between. I’m a good author, okay?
Oh gosh…imagine me as a parent. No, no don’t. That’s scary.
8) I…um…I use adverbs?
I used to absolutely throttle all the adverbs ever! And now? Well, I’ve come to a happy medium (in my opinion anyway). But I still feel guilty whenever I use “very” or “so”.
9) I struggle with scenery changes.
Unless it’s a Journey Novel, my books can get stuck in the same place. That can lead to intense boredom.
Most of my WIP (work-in-progress) Boybots takes place in the Grandma’s house and the school. I got to 60% and realised we needed a severe scenery change or someone was going to snooze.
In my WIP Wild Things In Your Head it’s bush. Bush bush bush. It got to a point where even I didn’t want to see another flaky Australian tree.
10) I don’t rewrite.
It’s not that I don’t want to (I do want to)…but, as they say: I hate writing, I love having written. I draft books with fury. 2 weeks = 50,000-word book. Easy stuff. But making that book acceptable to the human eye? I just don’t do it.
It’s been 15 months since I wrote my sci-fi book, Six. I’m only now (as we speak) dusting it off and attempting to turn it into something worth giving to beta readers.
Currently, I have over 10 messy manuscripts that need either a) a complete overhaul, b) an edit, c) or incineration. WHY AM I LETTING THEM LANGUISH IN THE DEPTHS OF MY COMPUTER FILES?
I might have written a lot of books, but gosh, I still make the same stupid mistakes. But I know I’m making them — that’s the important part. I can fix this mess! (Just as soon as I bribe myself with copious amounts of guacamole.)
Cait is rewriting. She thinks it’s easier to rewrite than first-draft…but it’s more time-consuming. She actually needs to consider what words she’s using. She actually needs to make SENSE. Her sci-fi book, SIX, is under the scalpel. You know what’s weird? Her character-ships always hate each other. Always. There’s basically zero nice people in this book. Ouch.