There’s plenty of writing advice out there. But getting tips about the kind of things writers should do to be well, good writers is only one side of the coin. Understanding what to avoid is also important. Mistakes are part of how we learn of course, so you couldn’t (and shouldn’t) try to stop making them entirely. But it’s good to be aware of the red flags about what writers should not do.
1) Try to write like someone else
We all have writers that inspire us. And whilst imitation is the greatest form of flattery it’s not the greatest way of becoming a writer. If you try and write like someone else all that will happen is your work will become derivative and descend into parody. Don’t be the next “insert famous writer here” – be the first you.
2) “Borrow” other writers work
One step up from a homage to another writer is blatantly using their work and passing it off as your own. Doing this with well-known writers won’t get past any gatekeepers, but some people have tried it with lesser know writers. Especially with the wealth of self-published work out there, it appears it’s sometimes too tempting to “borrow” a part of some more obscure work. But make no mistake, you will get caught. Be inspired by what you read but don’t nick it!
3) Harass writers or readers
Wait people do this!? Yes, yes they do. And honestly I don’t believe any of you are going to do that. But there have been cases of writers responding (badly) to reviews, but also leaving negative responses to other writers work, presumably as a way to make their own work look better. But it ain’t big and it ain’t clever. So don’t do it.
4) Ignore the “boring bits”
I’m talking about spelling, grammar, punctuation, writing’s bread and butter. I know some writers like to experiment with this kind of thing and that is a personal choice. I prefer to read books rather than decipher them. But if you’re not doing that then make sure you check and double check these “boring bits” so you’re readers aren’t taken out of your story by a random typo.
5) Give up too quickly
Writing is a continual learning process. Even the most accomplished writers know they will never know everything about writing. They know they won’t always get it right. But they keep going. You’ll get tired and you’ll want to pack it in but keep going. Sometimes those who win are simply those who kept going.
6) Forget about research
Even the most imaginative of fantasy requires research. If you think you know everything or can just wing it, you’ll end up with metaphorical egg on your face. Some of your readers will personally know a lot about what you’re writing about and whilst no-one’s saying you can’t be creative, if you’re completely off the ball, you’ll be called on it. So do it.