5 Common Writing Mistakes That New Writers Often Make

5 Mistakes New Writers Often Make When Writing Manuscripts

common writing mistakes

Writing a book is a dream that most people have, but only a few accomplish. Current data reveals that even though most people have this dream, only a handful try to accomplish it, and even fewer succeed. Among those who barely finish the manuscript and send it to the agent, 95% are rejected. So, even if book writing does seem simple, it’s a beast to overcome if you’re not careful. One reason publishers often point out the high rate of manuscript rejections is because of amateur writers’ common writing mistakes. 

If you’re a new writer and want to write your manuscript without worrying about the risk of failure, we’ve compiled a list of the common writing mistakes you want to avoid. Not only that, we’ll also offer insight on how to fix them. In addition, we’ll also cover

5 Common Writing Mistakes To Avoid

Before we talk about the mistakes, we want to clarify one thing. We’re strictly writing for new writers who are serious about writing their first book; as writers, we assume that they know how to write, so we’re not going to focus on spelling errors or how to avoid grammar mistakes in writing. 

Instead, we will explore common writing mistakes that new writers often make. So, with that out of the way, here are some mistakes that you should avoid when sitting down to write your first manuscript:

1. Rushing The First Draft

Imagine baking a cake. You wouldn’t throw all the ingredients together without a recipe and hope for the best, right? The same goes for writing a novel. A first draft is like your rough batter; it needs work before it becomes a masterpiece.

Why it hurts your story: Rushing can lead to a weak plot, underdeveloped characters, and clunky writing, which are all other mistakes that we’ll discuss further. 

Fix it: Outline your story, brainstorm character details, and write freely. Don’t worry about perfection in the first draft. It’s about writing down what’s on your mind. But be sure to invest time in it to make the most of your draft.

2. Neglecting Character Development

Readers don’t just want a plot; they want to connect with the characters. They need to care about what happens to them!

Why it hurts your story: Flat characters can make your story feel dull and lifeless.

Fix it: Flesh out your characters! Give them unique personalities, motivations, and flaws. Ask yourself: What does this character want? Why can’t they have it? It’s important that you think about the characters before writing. Otherwise, you could end up with bland characters that you may find trouble fitting into the story.

3. Weak Plot

A strong plot is the backbone of your story. It keeps readers turning the pages, eager to discover what happens next. But, if given a weak plot, they might get bored just by reading the first page.

Why it hurts your story: A weak plot can confuse readers.

Fix it:  Pay attention to plot structure. Ensure your story has a clear beginning, middle, and end, with a rising conflict that keeps the tension high. Don’t keep the story in the same setting. Create challenges, set it up for climax, or introduce unexpected plot twists appropriately to keep the readers engaged.

4. Forgetting About Pace and Readability

Imagine a story that drags on and on or jumps from scene to scene with no clear flow. It’s not exactly a thrilling read, is it? Well, it’s another common writing mistakes new writers make when they don’t know much about story pacing and readability.

Why it hurts your story: Poor pacing can make readers lose interest.

Fix it: Vary your sentence structure and use vivid descriptions to keep your writing engaging. Read your work aloud to check for awkward phrasing or slow sections.

5. Not Proofreading or Editing Before Final Submission

Yes, you finally finished your manuscript! But hold on, the work isn’t over yet. Editing and proofreading are essential for improving writing and making it shine.

Why it hurts your story: Typos, grammatical errors, and inconsistencies can take readers out of the story.

Fix it: After taking a break from your manuscript, come back and revise it with fresh eyes. Catch any typos or grammatical errors. Consider getting feedback from beta readers or a professional editor for valuable insights.

Writing Resources to Improve Writing

Using a variety of resources to refine your craft is generally necessary to improve your writing abilities. Here are some helpful strategies and resources to think about as your writing career develops.

1. Joining a Writing Community

The writing life can sometimes feel isolating. But there’s a secret weapon every writer should utilize the power of community. Surrounding yourself with fellow writers offers a wealth of benefits.

A supportive community can offer a safe space to share your work, get feedback, and celebrate your successes. You’ll find fellow writers who understand the struggles and joys of the writing journey, offering encouragement when you need it most. Within a writing community, you can learn from each other’s experiences and approaches to writing. 

Being part of a community keeps you motivated and accountable for your writing goals. Knowing you have a group cheering you on can make a big difference, especially when facing challenges or writer’s block.

2. Using Tools

Technology can be a powerful asset for writers. Here are some helpful tools:
  • Grammarly and ProWritingAid: These online grammar checkers can help identify typos, grammatical errors, and clarity issues.

  • Plotting Software: Tools like Scrivener or Snowflake can help you organize your plot, characters, and story timeline.

  • Research Tools: Utilize online databases, historical archives, and credible websites to fact-check and enrich your writing.

Remember: Don’t let these tools replace your writing voice and creativity. Use them as supplements to enhance your process.

3. Reading Helpful Books

Books can also help with improving  the craft of writing. Apart from writing masterpieces, authors have also invested their time in helping fellow authors who have just joined the writing business. Take Stephen King, for instance. To help aspiring authors, he wrote a guidebook-style memoir titled “On Writing.” It offers timeless advice on the writing process.

You could also explore books dedicated to your specific genre, providing insights into crafting compelling stories within those conventions. Titles like Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” or William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” offer practical advice on overcoming writer’s block, developing style, and writing with clarity. Consider reading them if you want to learn writing from the basics.

Which Mistakes in Early Writing Are Causes for Concern?

So, apart from common writing mistakes, new writers also have to avoid these mistakes in their early writing period to avoid rejection in the publication process:

1. Insufficient Research Conducted on Publisher or Agent

Before querying agents or publishers, research their needs and preferences. Not all agents represent every genre, and publishers have specific submission criteria. Researching your target audience goes beyond just the genre. 

Understanding what specific types of stories agents and publishers are looking for within your genre will significantly improve your chances of landing a deal.

2. No Knowledge About the Publishing Process

The publishing process can be complex for newcomers. Educate yourself on the different routes to publication, the roles of agents and editors, and the standard submission timeline. There are two main paths to publication:

Traditional Publishing: where an agent helps secure a publishing deal.

Self-publishing: where you take on the publishing responsibilities yourself

3. Not Following the Publisher Guidelines

Every publisher and agent has specific submission guidelines. These guidelines outline the format your query letter and manuscript should follow, along with any specific requirements they have. Following these guidelines shows professionalism and respect for the agent or editor’s time.

Failing to follow submission guidelines can result in an immediate rejection. Take the time to read the guidelines thoroughly and ensure your submission adheres to all the requirements. Don’t assume anything; even minor details like font size or spacing can matter.

4. Giving Up Too Soon

Rejection is a natural part of the publishing process. Don’t get discouraged if you receive an initial rejection letter. Persistence and resilience are key qualities for aspiring authors. If you receive personalized feedback in rejection letters, use it as a golden opportunity to improve your work. 

Analyze the feedback and see if there are areas where your manuscript can be strengthened. Not all rejection letters will offer feedback, but those that do can be invaluable.

Final Note

In conclusion, the road to publication can be long and winding, but avoiding these common writing mistakes is a big step in the right direction. Remember, writing is a skill that takes time and dedication to hone. Investing in your skills, researching the publishing process, and persisting through challenges will increase your chances of turning your manuscript into a published book.

So keep writing, keep learning, and don’t let common writing mistakes hold you back from achieving your dream!