Next to grammatical and spelling mistakes, there are other obstacles in writing that could delay finishing your story. Such mistakes could mean setbacks for your for days, weeks and even months, depending on how big your writing project is.
During NaNoWriMo (What’s NaNoWriMo?) such setbacks can become not only annoying but very stressful. Finishing a novel in one month, this means there is no time for big mistakes and delays. Thus, we have gathered some major mistakes you make by writing that can block your writing flow.
Mistake #1: You give up
This first mistake is already the worst you could make!
Even the greatest, best and renowned author’s experience it: the writer’s block. The cursor is blinking merciless, the page is blank. And you can not move a finger, you can not write a single word. It happened to the best of us and everyone has their own way of dealing with the dreaded writer’s block.
“Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are.
And you do it all one word at a time.”
Yet the worst thing you can do is give up on your story altogether. There are numerous ways on how to beat Writer’s Block. If you came up with a story you (once?) felt passionate about it would be an absolute shame to give it up again just because you are stuck writing. It’s so easy to talk yourself out of finishing your story. It’s way more easy than motivating yourself and pulling through. But when had the easy way ever been the best one?
Mistake #2: You do it alone
Successful books are a team effort. The author, publishers, editors, cover artists, they all work together to get the next big thing into the book stores and, ultimately, onto your shelf. But there are even more people involved, helping to get a book done, to get any story done. So why should you go alone?
Of course you can try, and you can make it. You write, re-read, fix and revise. In the end, you have a story that you can present, a finished story. Yet, is it really the best story you could write? Especially when it comes to big writing tasks like writing a book or a thesis help could become very important. So many different people can contribute to your novel on so many ways. It’s more than just proof reading and critique!
People around you can give you inspiration and a community of other writers can help you with experience and different views of the same problem. Instead of doing research on your own, ask someone who’s familiar with the topic you want to write about, passionate even, and transport this into your writing. Have someone find those spelling and grammar mistakes for you, the logic holes, the loose ends where you missed out on tying the knot… Especially with the internet, it’s easy to find a writer’s community where you can get help and provide help to others.
Most crucially, however, is that the more you share your work with oher people, the more invested they get as well. You can share excitement and success as well as frustration – and overcome it. With such a strong support system, it is easy to stay motivated to finish the whole novel you were aiming for!
Mistake #3: You want to re-invent the wheel
Completely original and innovative, never-seen-before stories are rare. Very rare!
If you had an idea for it, awesome, but then very lucky. Because other than this vanishingly small fraction of ideas, every story had been written before. Yet, new books are published every week, every day even. Why? Because as an author, you are not re-inventing the wheel – you are improving it!
If every story has been written before, make sure to not write it another time. Give it a twist. Disney is, as cheesy as it may come to you, a great example for this. We’re not talking about Pocahontas or The Hunchback of Notre Dame here in which existing stories have been made kid-friendly, even though they have their own twists and appeal as well. A more adaptable approach for authors to learn from is Oliver & Company. It took a known tale of an orphan meeting a gang of misfits – and turned the characters into animals.
Suzanne Collins did the same with The Hunger Games trilogy where she put the concept of gladiators into a post-apocalyptic setting.
Don’t wreck your brain to find something that no one has ever written before, because chances are high that you never start writing if you do. Find a concept that appeals to you and make it yours, give it your own personal twist. That way, you will not realize after 100 pages that you are not only stuck, but writing something that everyone has already read before.
Mistake #4: You overuse symbolism
Many stories work with symbolism and themes that are weaved into the story. Wind, a prophecy, luck – there are so many themes to choose from and, right from the beginning, the author is throwing in hints and symbols for this theme that will, in the best case, become crucial in the climax of the story.
However, as with many things: less is more. Once an author overuses symbolism, a reader gets aware of it very quickly. The little hints scattered in every chapter become blinking lights. They stick out and that’s what hints shouldn’t do. Because once your reader becomes aware of these blinking lights, he or she will not be able to genuinely throw themselves into the story anymore. They go on a hunt for symbolism, expecting it and acknowledging them with a groan whenever they do find them.
Thus, a good author is subtle with hints and symbolism and casually drops them throughout the story here and there instead of cramming one in each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence.
Mistake #5: You write extensive dialogues
Dialogues are important. Characters use them to exchange information, get to know each other, but also to convey backstory and causalities to the reader. Yet, many dialogues drawl out endlessly because they are filled with unnecessary explanations, filler words, and figures of speech that no one would use when actually talking.
Try to keep dialogues short and avoid repeating information in them. If you reader already read through pages and pages of an exciting story, he or she doesn’t want to read through it again only because one character has to fill in another about the happening. Such dialogues can be cut completely and replaced by an explanation of what is actually happening, namely the explaining of what happened.
Of course you should not avoid dialogues altogether. They are important for your characters to express themselves and thus establish a connection with your reader. However, we do not speak as we write. Sentences do not have to be complete and they should not be complex. Write dialogue as you’d say it. If you give each of your characters a distinct voice, a speech pattern, a tone and a certain vocabulary, you will easily find how they should actually talk to each other in your novel.