Some texts suck us in so completely that we just can’t stop reading — though our eyes may have trouble keeping up, every word is so perfectly placed, and so easy to understand, that our minds are flying. Other pieces of writing are, well, a little trickier. These might require you to read the same paragraph over and over again, leave you wondering what just happened, or tempt you to abandon them altogether as you discover yet another page devoid of substance. Even worse, there might be careless typos, word choices that completely miss the mark, or aimless rambling.
You, of course, want your creative writing to be the kind people simply can’t put down. By avoiding some of the most common mistakes creative writers make, you get a whole lot closer to that aim. What should you look out for in your own writing?
Your introduction is boring
What’s true for people is also true for creative writing — you can only make a first impression once. If people don’t like what they see, and aren’t curious what’s going to happen next, you are at risk of losing them. Just like it takes writers a while to get into the swing of a creative writing project, readers also need to be seduced. To make sure your readers stay with you until the end, hook them with a riveting beginning.
Your pages are filled with purposeless details
Creative writers are continuously told to “show, don’t tell”, but if you take this advice to the extreme, you could easily fall into the trap of filling your pages with vivid and beautiful, but ultimately excessive, details that simply don’t advance the story or message in any way. Good questions to ask yourself when you decide what to cut are if the details show emotion, set the stage, or tell the reader more about your characters. If it’s not relevant, and especially if it’s also distracting, it’s got to go.
The characters in your creative fiction don’t have any flaws
Creative writers who are attempting to write a short story or novel will want their readers to care about their protagonist. That becomes much easier if they create a three-dimensional, human character that people can root for and sympathize with. Flaws, hardships, and pain are essential parts of the human experience, so without them, you risk crafting robots.
Your progression is too predictable
While you definitely want a coherent whole, don’t forget to add some turns and twists to the story to keep your audience on its toes! Nobody wants to see the end coming from miles away.
You’re trying to be someone else
As a creative writer, you are going to have role models — but to be the best writer you can be, you have to find your own voice. Try not to compare your work to the style of other writers whose work you admire, but instead ask yourself if your writing feels authentic.
You don’t edit properly
This is the big one, because there’s so much ground to cover. Beginning creative writers often fall into these traps when they try to edit their work:
- If you try to proofread your work soon after you have written it, your brain is at risk of reading what you intended to write — rather than what you actually wrote.
- You may get so attached to a word or sentence that you find it hard to let go, even though you know that it doesn’t belong in your text.
- You constantly second-guess yourself, and end up deleting passages that were perfect just the way they were.
- You think your writing isn’t sufficiently literary and you go overboard with the thesaurus.
It’s nearly impossible to be objective about your own work, and very few creative writers are able to effectively self-edit. That is why it’s so important to bring a fresh pair of eyes in. You won’t hire a professional editor for every piece of creative writing you craft, but you can at least ask for feedback on a writers’ forum or get a friend to take a look.
Creative writing might be exciting, but it’s also hard work. The good news is that you get better with practice — so keep writing!