The Top 10 Mistakes New Writers Make

By Phoebe Yu

So you want to write but don’t know where to start? The journey to becoming a published author is a bumpy ride with lots of ups and downs along the way. 

As a new writer learning the ropes you will inevitably make some mistakes. That’s okay, but here’s a list of common mistakes (in no particular order) that will help you avoid them.

1. A Weak Introduction

First impressions are everything. Often, writers will start with a long description of the setting, or a mundane event like waking up from a dream or talking to themselves in a mirror. 

Not only are these clichés, but we don’t learn anything about the story or the character.  

Readers will keep reading when you make them care about a character and their motivations.  Who are they and what do they want?

That’s why the first paragraph – no, the first sentence – is important to hook your readers right away.  For more tips on writing introductions, seehere.

2. Too Much Backstory

Some backstory is good to introduce your character.  But save some for the rest of the book.

Whether you’re writing a thriller, romance, YA, or any other genre, some detective work on the part of the reader is what keeps them curious. 

Besides, too much backstory in the beginning derails the story when it should be moving along.

Give your readers time to get to know your characters and fall in love with them.

3. Lack of Research on Genre

Different genres have their own set of conventions about word count, character ages, etc.Some new writers end up with a manuscript that’s too long, too short or a premise that doesn’t clearly fit into a category. 

Genres exist to make it easier for publishers to market a book and for bookstores to know where to shelve a book.

Even if you’re doing a cross-genre, clearly decide under which category your manuscript falls under.  It will likely fall under one genre more than the other.

If you want to reinvent the wheel and do away with genres, realize the risks you’re taking.  Alternatively, you can always self-publish if you don’t wish to go the traditional route.

4. A Weak Plot

Plotting is one of the most challenging aspects of crafting a story.  No plot = no story. Sometimes writers make the mistake of thinking a series of events equals plot. 

A plot has a beginning, middle and end.  Think back to your high school or creative writing classes regarding the elements of a plot: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. 

For more tips on how to outline a plot, see here.

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