Being a beginning writer is hard. Believe me, I know. I’ve been writing seriously for a couple of years, and the beginning was rough. There’s so much to learn, but you hardly know where to start. You’re not sure what’s right and what’s wrong.
Today, Kellyn Roth shares five bad habits beginning writers often develop that can actually help them learn new things.
Kellyn Roth is a Christian & historical author from North-Eastern Oregon. Kell is a ranch girl, homeschool graduate, proud sister of four, proud auntie of five, and owner of two goofy border collies, two presumptuous cats, and a very active betta fish. Check out her website, for more info.
Hello Bella’s readers!
Kellyn Roth here, and today I’m talking about 5 bad habits beginning writers lean toward … and why it’s perfectly okay to make those mistakes at the beginning of your writing career!
Let’s get right into it.
1. Writing themselves into their stories.
I did this. You probably did this or still do this. It’s a common “mistake” of newbie writers that can actually be pretty helpful if used well.
A lot of writers get stuck in a rut where they write their main character as a perfected version of themselves. I did it (only negative versions of myself), and though I needed to move away from that problem, it was helpful.
You see, through exploring the character in my story, I was able to learn how to portray a realistic character. After all, I’m real! And I was putting my individual personality, strengths, weaknesses, and such into a character.
That’s some good practice character development if you ask me!
EXTRA CREDIT: Do this with your friends’ personalities!
Make it a fun thing when you’re just starting out. A friend and I both wrote goofy, overdone versions of our group of buddies, and it was loads of fun! It also got my friends invested in me as a writer, which was instrumental in encouraging me to write on.
*sigh* This is one especially close to home as I did it for so long without having any idea there was anything wrong with it!
Head-hopping is when you’re writing third person (he, she), from a certain character’s perspective, and suddenly you’re in another character’s head, seeing and hearing and feeling and thinking things only he/she would.
Though some popular authors get away with it, head-hopping is very problematic because it knocks readers about from one character to another. It takes discipline to overcome this problem!
However, in the beginning, it can be good to explore different points of views. Though I recommend trying to overcome this flaw as soon as you can identify it, there’s nothing wrong with starting out a head-hopper!
3. Using all the cliches.
The mentor dies. The rebellion is beginning, and the evil dictator will be overthrown. Does anyone have parents anymore? Oops, that’s a love triangle. But thankfully you’re the Chosen One, so you don’t have to worry about any of that.
It’s hard not to throw literally every cliche into our stories as newbie writers because, well, we’ve seen them done … and we want to replicate the stories we love!
There’s nothing wrong with this at first. As long as you’re writing your best story, your first works can be as cliche as anything.
But eventually you’re going to want to write stories that are original or twists cliches in new ways.
4. Telling rather than showing.
This is one I still struggle with—how to portray situations without outright telling the reader what’s happening.
It’s easier to say “He was angry” than “His face grew warm, and he clenched and unclenched his hands rapidly.”
But over time you will improve and be able to show not tell. Still, it’s a learning experience, and sometimes telling can be good because when you’re first starting out you want to pin down exactly what’s going on before sharpening it up to SHOW it.
5. Writing in an over-dramatic style.
“DON’T EAT THAT! NO! NEVER!” Coryn screamed at the sky. “IT HAS GLUTEN! IT COULD KILL YOU!!!!!” She tossed herself down on the bed and covered her face. Big sobs like waves of sadness rolled over her. “I CANNOT believe ANYONE would eat GLUTEN!!! UGGGGH!!!”
This is a classic example (okay, well, at least it’s an example) of writing in an over-dramatic style. As a writing teacher, I’ve seen a lot of my students do this. They use exclamation points, all caps, and ridiculously flowery wording to get a simple point across.
Rather than causing eye rolls with this kind of stylized ridiculousness, instead gently introduce your reader to the situation and make them feel the emotions through your characters’ reactions.
It’s not easy to avoid beginning mistakes when you are a beginner. You have to allow yourself a lot of grace as you slowly learn the rules of writing.
The good news is, anyone can be a good writer. It just takes practice and determination. Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with all the things you have to learn because where you are is where you need to be.
Keep moving forward—but don’t be ashamed of where you are now.
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Have you ever done any of these things? What did you learn from doing it? Have you checked out Kellyn’s blog?? Talk to me in the comments!