Mistakes I Used to Make When Writing

When I first started submitting my work to the public for critiques, I made a lot of amateur and completely fixable mistakes. I’m sure I still do, and will someday reflect on my writing from today with embarrassment.

Still, I write better now than before I learned not to do the following:

Writing Purple Prose

Ugh.

There was a time when I thought big words were the mark of good writing. I don’t know why I thought so; I never could get through any Faulkner.

And while I love words, and love English, and believe almost every word has a time and place to shine, I now know there is no need to showcase every word the English language has to offer in one sitting.

I spent a lot of time describing people in ways I thought made them seem elegant and beautiful; i.e, “he leaned his form against the stairwell.” I used annoying language like “flesh” and “lashes” and “tendrils” for hair. Shit almost gives me goosebumps when I see it, now.

I’ve since learned less is more, and “fancy words” have more impact when used in moderation.

Using Too Many Adverbs

I used to love me some adverbs. I felt the more description I could wring out of a sentence, the better the reader could imagine it. And while I suppose this is partly true, I didn’t seem to realize I could just use fewer but better words to get my point across more palatably.

I’m sure more sentences than not contained an adverb for every verb.

She smiled softly. He walked slowly. She cautiously reached for the flower and quickly plucked it. I cringed cringily.

Interrupting Action With Exposition

This is a more recent issue I’ve tried to correct in my million drafts of my current novel, though it still happens from time to time.

The novel requires a sense of setting to understand. There are things in the novel which are not things in real life, and it’s pretty tricky working in an explanation in a way that feels natural. I’ve found people do not like when the action is interrupted by a record scratch so the narrator can explain what’s going on, and the history behind it.

And I don’t blame the people who pointed this out in the early critiques of my novel one bit! It feels rather rude to be enjoying some literary violence, only to be plucked from the scene of flying viscera and deposited in a long-winded explanation as to how said violence came to be.

Perhaps this is why I can’t seem to get more than a few pages through the Silmarillion.

What are some mistakes you used to make in your writing?

17 thoughts on “Mistakes I Used to Make When Writing

  1. I completely understand!! When I first started writing everything was pretension and over the top. I loved Pride and Prejudice so everything I wrote was in that sort of archaic language. It worked for Austen because she was writing in the 1810’s, but writing that way today just sounds pretentious.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi there,
    I started out doing a lot of this too. I still love words, so use them where I think they will enrich rather than detract. I think the hardest point is your third, getting the balance and placment of exposition is tricky. And I, like you i suspect, learned so much writing the first novel which took me ages! But it’s all worth it in the end, and a great pleasure. It’s a great idea to listen to talking books when you simply don’t have the time to do much reading.
    Knowing your own tendencies is key, isn’t it?
    Thank you for the follow and i’ll be catching up with your blog regularly. Blogging? Another big learning curve!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for checking out the blog!

      You’re certainly correct that cutting out exposition is tricky. Anything that involves a change in writing style is often harder than omitting words or simplifying.

      I’m glad I’m not alone in taking ages with my first novel.

      Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had to transition from marketing writing to more creative prose and article writing. It took a while to get rid of the sales pitch. I think I’ve made lots of progress, though.

    I often write very quickly. Ideas/sentences flow without break from my head through my finger tips. Sometimes I really have to go back and edit my work, for careless grammar and spelling mistakes and disjointed thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was super interesting to read, because it actually helped point out mistakes I’ve been making in my own writing too, particularly my over-usage of adverbs. It sure is hard to break a habit that you don’t even know you have LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice reminder. As i work on rewrites and edits I am surprised at how many sentences in the same paragraph begin with the same pronoun. Taking the time to reword those sentences always makes them stronger and the action more vivid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now there is a great tip I didn’t even think to include. I do the same thing; I realize I’ve started six sentences in a row with “I” or “she.” Thank you for the reminder!

      Like

  6. I don’t write but these are things that definitely put me off. I mean, showing off with fancy words, especially when English is not my native, would I really spend half an hour to look them up?

    Liked by 1 person

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