Collated Answers from WW interviews
Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make?
|Cheeky Maggot||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
Believing they have written the next big hit. Not being open to useful critique. I know it’s hard- when you have worked on something for years- it’s your baby- but without perspective- you are lost. It is the same with actors. Being defensive and refusing to see another way of working- we all do it- it’s a common fear- but art has to be about more than that- we have to lose the fear in art.
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|David Smith||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
Very talented new writers don’t make many mistakes – they know their talent and they know their craft. Yes, they might still benefit from a certain amount of advice, but their work is basically very sound. It’s the talented writers who haven’t yet developed their skills sufficiently who will make mistakes, such as trying to get away with structural weaknesses, or misjudging the empathy they’re able to establish between reader and protagonist, or dressing up some kind of personally felt confessional as a novel. Perfectly competent writers will nevertheless send us scripts which, they claim, for example, eschew traditional narrative in favour of an internal monologue which lays bare the sense of alienation from society felt by the young hero of this novel, as he leaves University and tries to come to terms with society. Once again, this is unlikely to be a novel, but rather a working through of the kind of late adolescent angst which every one of us over a certain age recognises as such. You need to have a story which you are simply burning to tell. And any novel still rests on the three pillars of conventional, classical fiction: a gripping story, compelling characters, and wonderful writing.
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|Elastic Press||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
I think it’s important to research your market and to buy some of the magazines/anthologies in which you’re trying to sell your work. That’s the only way in which you can guarantee that a publisher is publishing similar fiction to that which you are writing. Like most publishers I receive many stories which are patently unlike anything we would ever publish (we even get sent novels or factual books when a glance from our website makes it obvious that we are only interested in short fiction). Not only that, but the independent press survives on sales. Each magazine/book could be the last for many publishers, and by supporting the publisher the writer creates a vibrant marketplace that eventually strengthens the writer’s position and creates more outlets for their fiction.
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|Five Leaves ||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
Not reading enough. Sending inappropriate material to publishers. Sending material to publishers without that quick email or phone call to see if they are looking for unsolicited material. Failure to read widely will result in bad writing. A few moments on a publisher website will tell you if they are right for you, and save everyone a lot of time - and postage. It astonishes me that people will spend years writing something and a few minutes finding out how the business works. I'd advise any writer to read From Pitch to Publication by Carole Blake (MacMillan, £14.99)
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|Lawrence Bowen ||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
I think quite a bit of self-censorship goes on and too much thought about what might get made rather than what should get made. I think the most startling films of the last few years – eg. American Beauty, The Pledge, City of Gods, Amores Perros, The Last Resort, Sexy Beast, There’s Something About Mary, Tomorrow La Scala - all feel authored and unlike anything else.
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|Sean Costello ||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
Either not thinking about the reader enough (which results in self-indulgence), or thinking about the reader too much (which results in formula). Mind you, plenty of established writers fall into these traps too!
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|Slightly Foxed ||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
In terms of submissions, not doing their research about who publishes what, and therefore missing their target. In writing terms, inexperienced authors – non-fiction authors especially - tend to assume too much knowledge on the part of the reader. They often fail to set the scene, explain who characters are, or make sure that they follow incidents and storylines through the narrative. And often they don’t realize that less is more: one significant and well-chosen incident will tell you more about a character than a mass of random detail.
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|test ||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
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|The Ephemera||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
All sorts of writers - new & old - make all sorts of mistakes. It is important for a writer to be happy and proud of what they’ve written and not to rush underdeveloped work to press for the sake of vanity.
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|Will Kerley ||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
They write dead television instead of live theatre.
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|Writer's Muse||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
From the submissions viewpoint, common mistakes I regularly come across include: no covering letter, no SAE, no details about where the piece has come from, and - telling me that they’ve sent the same piece to several other magazines simultaneously!
Now, I’m really sorry about going into a rant here but one that gets me is receiving something that isn’t even on nodding terms with what we publish. It tells me, loudly, “I can’t be bothered to research what your magazine’s about!”
Being sent dog-eared copy with typing correction fluid and crossing out sprinkled between what could be actual letters tells me that a writer who isn’t bothered to present neat work can’t be too bothered about the content of their piece either. Some mainstream editors wouldn’t even look at it. It’s the literary equivalent of sending your children to school with unwashed hair, dirty faces, and marmalade-encrusted homework (or am I having flashbacks triggered by the catharsis of writing this!).
I can forgive receiving submissions that don’t conform to the convention from people who are evidently new – everyone has to go through that apprenticeship. New writers also sometimes explain they’re new, which is fine. I usually reply, gently pointing out where they’ve erred.
Mistakes new writers make in their work usually consist of repetition, over-explaining points, and telling not showing. There’s also the previously mentioned dialogue that meanders and doesn’t move the plot along. Characters all speaking in the same ‘voice’ is also widespread, as is changing tenses – sometimes within the same paragraph.
You’d also be surprised at how many people (some relatively old-hands included) punctuate dialogue incorrectly. An old ‘rule of thumb’ I used to use when teaching was to write the narrative and dialogue together - as though you were writing normal narrative - then punctuate the speech elements. I think a whole myth has built up around dialogue, convention, and rules, and even some comparatively ripe writers get the shakes when characters open their mouths.
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|Writer's News||Any typical/common mistakes that new writers tend to make? |
Aiming at the wrong targets by failing to research prospective markets properly and firing off unsuitable material. Some new writers fail to do simple research before making submissions and approaching the wrong editors. People waste time and postage sending us their short stories when the only short stories we publish are those which win the competitions in our magazines. Being too serious about it all if there is a belief deep down that writing is going to be more of a hobby than a career. Why be a whinging writer any more than a gloomy gardener or golfer. Enjoy it.
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