The road toward becoming a successful writer is not without its trail of mistakes made along the way. Making mistakes is part of the process and leads to improvement when handled smartly. However, this doesn’t mean you have to repeat them constantly before improving.
Here are the most common writing mistakes you should avoid to become a better writer:
1. Waiting for inspiration to strike
Just like how lightning strikes fast and true, so does inspiration. But a person can live a lifetime and not get struck by lightning; the same goes for inspiration if you don’t actively seek it.
Finding your inspiration to write is a proactive task, and it won’t come to you if you are simply idle. You can find inspiration from an unlikely source, as the saying goes. Immerse yourself in other forms of media and entertainment or break your routine by going to new places or meeting new people.
The thing is, what you currently have isn’t suddenly going to be inspiring if it’s already failing to motivate you. Instead, do something new that’ll hopefully refresh your creative juices.
2. Waiting for the perfect writing condition
The perfect writing condition is just a scapegoat that writers who procrastinate tell themselves to help them sleep at night. There is no perfect writing condition unless you make it and there’s always going to be some sort of distraction unless you don’t let it.
In the process of writing, there is no ‘waiting’—just doing. Find a comfortable corner where you won’t be disturbed by anyone and just start writing. Once you get inside your head, external factors won’t matter.
3. No time management or schedule
Encompassing the two mistakes above is the mistake of not having a writing schedule and proper time management. Approach writing with the same responsibility and urgency as you would any task. You should have an allotted time solely for writing and a schedule of deadlines and goals for each step in the process to make sure you’re constantly progressing.
4. Neglecting research
Research is the greatest weapon a writer can yield. Without it, you are bound to write the same thing over and over. Having the right material will ensure you’re giving the most valuable content to your readers. It will also open you to new ideas and perspectives outside your knowledge and will branch out your writing to unique avenues.
To form a credible opinion on a topic, read first what others have said before you. Find out what’s factual and not, and what will make your content even more meaningful.
5. Too much research
On the other side of the spectrum is spending too much on research than what’s needed. While researching is good and being an expert in a niche topic is great, but you still won’t have an article unless you start writing it.
Don’t fall into a rabbit hole of your own making. Know the scope of your topic and what you want to tackle and make sure you only gather the resources relevant to it.
6. No comprehensive outline
Buildings cannot be built without blueprints. In the same way, good articles cannot be written without comprehensive outlines.
A detailed outline keeps your article on track and you as a writer in check. It is the stronghold that will keep your content structured and prevent you from going off the rails adding fluff, irrelevant information, and rambling.
7. Info dumping
Now that you have your research and outline ready, will you dump what you know to your unsuspecting readers in one go? Of course not. An article is also a conversation between the writer and their readers, and no one likes a know-it-all throwing terms and information without explanation.
Always reevaluate the information you’re including to determine if it’s valuable to the purpose of your content. While information is always ‘nice to know’ but you need to know what is vital for your readers to learn. Why and how is it important? Focus on these aspects and expound on them throughout the content.
8. Neglecting to edit
First drafts are never good enough for publishing. For most writers, even the most accomplished ones, the real work happens when editing begins. Your first draft should go through many revisions before you even think of publishing it.
Go through what you’ve written after a few hours or days and edit it now that you have a fresh perspective. Afterwards, let someone else review it and give you feedback. This will give you insight on how you can improve your craft and which aspects already work.
9. Having a weak introduction
First impressions last, or in this case, never last if you don’t do it properly. If you write long introductions with boring and repetitive information, you’ll drive the fish away from your hook.
To create a great introduction, highlight the unique selling point or pitch of your article in the first few sentences and make your readers care to learn more. Ignite their curiosity with different approaches—share an excerpt, a story or a scenario they can relate to.
Moreover, use language your readers are familiar with and steer away from complicated prose. Remember to assess the tone your article needs and be consistent with it, both in sentence structure and vocabulary.
10. Being afraid to make mistakes
Almost all writers deal with fear and self-doubt, especially with critics and editors seemingly waiting to jump on the first mistake they see. But as the saying goes, ‘everything worth doing starts with being scared’.
Don’t fear the writing process just because you’re afraid of making mistakes. Take constructive criticism as the best gift you as a writer can receive to improve your writing.
The road towards becoming a successful writer is not without its trail of mistakes—it’s true. But standing at the starting line is a writer brave enough to make them. So, take all the feedback you can get from your mistakes and get to sharpening that mind to start your next piece.