Backspace and delete. These two keys will become your best friends when editing your draft. But wait! You’re not there yet. You’re just trying to get started on a writing project in the first place and you want to know what to look out for. Great place to start. Here are three mistakes to avoid when writing:
Writing without a plan
What’s that you say? Oh, you’re a pantser. That’s okay. You still need to have some idea of where you are headed. Freewriting is fun and has many good uses. If you don’t know what freewriting is, that’s the kind of writing where you completely wing it: no plot, no setting, or no outline and no thesis. Just pure, spontaneous word vomit.
Use that when you have writer’s block or need to come up with the first few pages for a story, essay, or just about anything. Don’t keep going that way though, unless you’re really good at picking sense out of it all later. If you have no idea of where your project should end up, then you’re likely to end up with a poorly constructed document. If you’re a fiction writer, you especially need to keep this in mind. Because your writing lends itself to limitless imagination, it’s very easy for you to end up with a huge, unwieldy story that makes sense to no one but you.
You non-fiction writers aren’t off the hook though. Writing without research and some kind of outline (and a method for keeping track of your sources) will result in disaster and could even get you in a lot of trouble for accidental plagiarism or inaccurate reporting. Besides, do you really want your work to read like a boring encyclopedia of random, disorganized facts?
I edited a book once that had me reeling. There was so much repetition and so many inaccuracies because the author simply wrote without any rhyme or reason. It took me months to sort it all out, and even then I was hesitant to be named as the editor, because I was barred from making any content changes, so much of the content still left a lot to be desired.
Not hiring an editor.
You may be an English major or even worked in a publishing house for years. Maybe you edited a newspaper back in the day. That’s all well and good. You’re also human and more than likely to miss your own mistakes. Editors themselves hire other editors for their works. It’s just the way it is. After working on your manuscript for days and weeks, you will become so familiar with your own writing that you no longer notice any of your errors. Find someone to read the thing over and give you their honest feedback (if you don’t have anyone, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org). It may surprise you how confusing your “clear” writing is to someone else. Don’t be too proud to ask for thoughts.
Doing too much at one time
Turn off the TV and the phone, put on some music and focus on your writing. You can’t be on Facebook, while Snapchatting and replying to tweets if you want to get your daily word count in. I don’t care what kind of mastermind multitasker you are–it simply does not work and you will get less done than you could have if you stayed focus.
If you don’t intend to get much writing done or you’re having a chill day, then by all means distract yourself, but if you want to put in serious work as a writer, then you will have to learn to treat your writing time seriously. It can’t be something that friends, family and other elements of life simply barge in on and steal time from at will. Put your writing on the same pedestal that you would a day job or something you could miss or be late for.
It isn’t possible to do your best work when many other things have your attention at the same time. Even if your spelling and grammar don’t suffer too much, you won’t get the best out of your thoughts if you’re trying to have many conversations going and have to jump from one line of thought to another. Focus, and then set the work aside when you’re ready to socialize or do other things. You’ll see the difference when you read your work over the next day and your thoughts are coherent, rather than mixed up and all over the place. Your editor will thank you for it.