Writers' Treasure Creative Writing Tips Common Mistakes Made by Creative Writers

Common Mistakes Made by Creative Writers

Creative writing is a difficult art. We learn and we improve, yet we often slip up and make common mistakes. These mistakes are so common that everyone is tired of them, no one mentions them anymore. And as new writers come along, these mistakes are made again and again.

Are these mistakes really unavoidable? No, not at all. By avoiding these mistakes, your writing will be better, and you will see that by not making them, you became a better writer.

So to solve this problem I created a list of creative writing mistakes to avoid. By being conscious of the mistakes, you can be careful and not make them in your fiction, articles, reports, etc.

Don’ts of Creative Writing

  1. Are you reading other writing? If not, you are in big trouble. Read. If you want to become a better writer, it goes without saying that you need to read to see how it’s done. If you are a novelist, read novels. If you are an essayist, read essays. If you are a poet, read poetry. And so on… but if you don’t read, then suffice to say, your writing will not be professional.
  2. Are you plagiarizing your writing? It sounds easy enough, to copy paste someone else’s writing and pass it off as your won. It is easy enough. If you are clever enough, you could even reword someone else’s writing and pass it off as your own. But why would you want to? It won’t gain you any credibility or readers. It’ll just harm your reputation.
  3. Are you using big words and complicated flowery prose? There was a time when all the books written used flowery and complicated prose, and readers didn’t seem to mind. That was long ago, though, and as attention spans keep shortening and the rise of short form media such as Twitter have changed the mindset. Now, people don’t want to read flowery prose. They want to read short, simple and punchy sentences. They want short, not long paragraphs. They want something good but short.
  4. Are you copying someone else’s writing voice? Writing voice is unique. Every writer has his own writing voice. To test if your writing voice is unique, simply read it aloud and you will know if you compare it by reading aloud a different text. If you copy someone else’s voice, your story or work will not be as good as it will be if you used your very own writing voice. It takes time to develop… but it’s worth it. Just practise writing as you like it; don’t try to copy famous authors’ writing voices. (More resources about writing voice: here and here. Have trouble finding your writing voice? Then read this post).
  5. Are you using too many adjectives and adverbs? This is kind of from the previous post. If you rely upon an overused adjective or adverb to do the description work and don’t use a strong verb, you don’t paint a picture of your writing in the reader’s mind. Adverbs like “suddenly”, “simply”, “painfully” etc are overused. That’s not to say you can’t use them; do use them but don’t rely upon them for too much description.

Now you know all the mistakes. You can avoid them. But if you still aren’t satisfied with your writing? Don’t worry. Some more tips and tricks are found below:

Dos of Creative Writing

  1. Write as much as you can. This is also pretty well known advice, but just in case you only tried the advanced tips, remember that beginner tips work very well too. Have a regular writing schedule. Some popular writers say that you must write every day. That’s all great, but writing is a mental job, and you can’t expect to have new writing ideas in your head every day. So write as much as you can, but tweak your schedule according to your needs.
  2. Try to make your openings as compelling and grabbing as possible. If you begin at the beginning, don’t use well known openings such as first day in school, packing for new house, etc. Grab the reader with compelling openings. In fiction, your opening chapters must be as interesting as possible. For more, read How to Write Compelling Opening Chapters in Fiction.
  3. Hunt for new writing methods, processes and advice. It’s all very well to follow a given writing method, a given process, and some given advice. But after some time, when you feel your writing getting stale, it’s time to step out of your boundary a little bit and hunt for everything new. Where? Anywhere, of course. The Internet is a big resource. Then there are creative writing books etc etc.

And that’s it for this post, and the end of the Creative Writing 101 series. Feel free to share feedback and advice about the series. Did I explain everything well? Was the series blah-blah and boring or did it contain some great advice? Have your say in the comments section below.

Want to read more about creative writing? Then subscribe to Writers’ Treasure for free today.

52 thoughts on “Common Mistakes Made by Creative Writers”

  1. Enjoyed the article “Common Mistakes Made by Creative Writers”…ironically, I found a few punctuation mistakes. In the Dos and Don’ts, you’ve placed a possessive aapostrophe in the header “Do’s”. Should be “Dos”.And in the page header, “Writers Treasure” SHOULD be possessive, should it not? Either “Writer’s” or “Writers'”. If it’s not possessive, then I’d ask you to finish the sentence… writers treasure what?

    1. Thanks for the comment and feedback. Wow, I just learned that “Dos” is a word! (I’d seen it before, thought it was a spelling mistake by other people, it doesn’t really look like a word). As for the site header, yes I’ve also thought about that in the beginning. Writers’ Treasure is fine, but I didn’t know that “Writers Treasure” was wrong until you pointed out the reason. I’ll change it now.

      Wow, you are the first person to post a comment on this blog! Thanks very much.

      1. Idrees,
        You are such a humble person. The way you received constructive criticism is really applauded. I teach creative writing at my University and in fact I stumbled on your article as I prepare to give a training to would-be writers in Cape-Town this weekend. Good work!

  2. Honestly, I don’t think anyone but an editor would notice. It’s the most common mistake there is, especially when, as you pointed out, it just looks awkward without. That’s why people write “back in the 60’s”. When I can, I avoid the issue by writing “sixties”.

    Yesterday, before I posted here, I was watching a show on the History Channel with my son. There in the intro, big as life, the header read: “UFO’s–Fact or Fiction?” Of course I yelled, Apostrophe abuse!” My son just groaned, “Can’t you give it a rest, mom?”

    And, btw, I noticed several mistakes on my post…the second after I hit SUBMIT. Yeesh.

    1. Of course I yelled, Apostrophe abuse!”

      You missed out the opening quote mark. Sorry, couldn’t resist. 😉

      Thanks anyway.

  3. Touche. These little comment boxes are a bite in the shorts… I have a hard time seeing errors until it’s up, and then it’s too late. An edit option would be great!

    BTW, I got to your site through the Writing Forward site. How are you associated? Is Writers’ Treasure your blog? Is Idrees your handle or your name? I’m interested to learn more.

    1. Hmm… the contest asks you to fill out a form, and in the very first field “I’m a/an…” I don’t classify for any of the options in the dropdown menu. I’m in India and here we don’t classify things such as high school junior and such… and I’m below even the lowest classification. Any ideas?

      By the way, yes, Writers’ Treasure is my blog and Idrees is my real name.

      If you are looking for more articles, you could check out the other articles in the Archives or you could subscribe for new ones.

  4. Well, I guess these contest are for US residents? You could find out by emailing the organizers. Do a google search with a number of different combinations…
    “writing contests for teens worldwide” “writing contests for teens” etc.

  5. These are great tips! I am glad to see “read” at the top of the list — I think that is the most important thing for any writer to do — yet it’s also the one thing many writers neglect.

    Kathleen, Writing Forward is my site and while I’m not affiliated with Writers’ Treasure, we are certainly writing about similar topics.
    .-= Melissa Donovan´s last blog ..Creative Nonfiction: Biography =-.

  6. Kathleen – Yes, I will do these searches. I’ve always wanted to participate in a writing contest, but either it’s not in my country (in India there are few writing contests) or it has an age limit. I don’t believe there are any teen writing contests in my country. It there are suitable ones worldwide, I’ll certainly look into them.

    Melissa Donovan – Reading is so much important, but as it’s such a beginner tip and many other writers have covered it succinctly I was almost ashamed to put it there. Glad you think otherwise! Thanks for visiting.

    As for those wondering how Kathleen came to this site through Writing Forward, I’d better explain that I linked to Writing Forward and WordPress automatically sends a trackback to posts you have linked to. I guess Kathleen saw the trackback in one of her posts. Correct me if I’m wrong, Kathleen.

    Thanks, both of you, for being the first readers of this blog.

  7. That is a challenge, Idrees, on the few searches I did I ran into problems with location. Many sites are US based. I’m curious, do you have teachers or mentors where you are that might have insight to help you?

    I did find an interesting contest, I believe it’s over now, but the jury includes some very successful Indian writers. Perhaps you could contact one or two of them to ask their advice?

    http://www.sulekha.com/penguin/jury.htm

  8. No, I don’t have any personal teacher or mentor who might have any insight. School ones do encourage my writing… but as for any help regarding contests… I don’t think so. But I’ll keep searching.

    That link looks interesting, but how do I contact any of the authors? As far as I saw, no contact information was given on their bios. Oh well, someday I’ll enter a contest…

    For now, I’ll just keep writing. Next up is an article on concise writing. Who knows, if after some months I have a popular blog I may just attract the attention of somebody big… ;-). Or not.

  9. Did a little searching, found this…

    Sushila Ravindranath
    Editor sushila@epmltd.com

    She might be able to connect you with contests. I was trying to find Anita Nair’s address, no luck, but if you do a search you could write to her publishing house. If you just ask for information, I’m sure they could help you find resources!

    1. It’s not that you should sign up for a contest when you get good in writing. Well, you should, but there are other ways of having fun and receiving rewards. Like running a blog, for instance… 😀

      Hope you find a good contest and best of luck!

  10. I can relate to all this, being an aspiring writer myself. I started blogging (mainly short stories) a few months ago as a way to improve my writing, make myself write more and try out new things more often and because it is a great way to interact with an audience. That is something you normally don’t find when you’re the kind of solitary figure writing in private, like I used to be. I feel it has really helped me get better.

    It is especially the mistakes of using too many adjectives, writing flowery prose with long, complicated sentences that I used to make very often and still make today, though I try to avoid it. It’s something I see everywhere and with every, especially every new, writer I come across. This can’t be stressed enough, because it is so wide-spread. Younger and newer writers should really see that note mentioned everywhere, so they become more critical of their own writing and do their best to be “more to the point” (something I generally don’t do in comments ;)) and learn to “kill their darlings”, which must be the hardest thing there is to writing.

    Anyway, to cut a long story short, you compiled an excellent list here.

    1. Great comment, thanks! Concise writing is, indeed, an art form. Take for example, the articles here at Writers’ Treasure. I get an idea for an awesome post and make a note to myself: “make this one short”, preferably under 600 words. Then I start writing. Before I know it, it’s 600 words and the post hasn’t even got to its middle. It makes me mad!

      Those who write short write awesome, but you can’t just expect to do it if you’re a beginner. People like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan have mastered the short post, but each to their own, I personally prefer longer articles which are more meat-packed!

      Man, rambled so much already! So just let me finish with this quote:

      “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

      ~ attributed to Mark Twain and others

      Thanks again, really appreciate it!

      1. Hi Idrees,

        thank you for your reply. I just took a look at your post about concise writing, it looks very useful as well and does what it is about 🙂

        But I know the feeling, it’s getting better with the longer stories because I really block any attempt of them getting longer than 5 pages (spacing included), but I still need to make wording smoother and shorter.

        And unfortunately, I’m not a beginner per se, I have been writing for my entire life, and I still make these mistakes now, so something really must be done…

        Thank you for the links and that quote was very interesting. Then again, it is from one of the Greats in literature, so no use arguing with that…
        However, less is more, I guess:)

        Take care,

        Stories Inc.

        1. I know, it’s kind of frustrating when you still make the same errors after a long time. As with all other cases, of course, practice makes perfect.

          The point you made about the wording is one that needs to be emphasized more for writers. Too many writers get their wording wrong. For me it’s good because I don’t use any big words. (Why? Well, because I don’t know any. ;-))

          I have to say, your comments have impressed me so much that I’m going to check out your blog now… (I like stories since I was a kid, so it’s all good!).

  11. Hi Idrees,

    How are you? I was just wondering if you’d had any success contacting Sushila Ravindranath at the email above. Any response?

    1. Hi, long time no see! Well actually I haven’t contacted Sushila Ravindranath yet because I forgot, and I was really busy in the last few months because of school work. 🙁 However, I will email her in January, and let’s see what happens then!

      Where were you all these months? I’m fine, but was missing you just a month ago, reading all these comments. Thanks for being the first commenter of Writers’ Treasure back in May!

      (Wow, this post has got the largest amount of comments yet in this blog! 26 of them… I didn’t even dream of such a high number!).

    1. Thanks! Didn’t really understand the last sentence though. “Most people will approve with your website…” Could you explain a bit more?

  12. Nowadays there are various good tools available for duplicate content detection. Using plagiarism checkerplagiarism checker is one of the smartest ways to check duplicity. Main benefit of using plagiarism checker is that it consumes very less time and easy to use.

  13. Salaam Idrees. i spent hours today, reading your creative 101 piece and other relevant things and comments that people made. the way you wrote was really succulent yet easy for beginners like me. i never read any guideline in the past regarding creative writing, nevertheless all your wrote are, i suppose, pretty much spot on not to mention many people commended the way you laid it out. i am really impressed to know that u were only 13 when you wrote this piece. i wish you all the best , good luck. i really look forward to read more on your blog.

    1. Walaikumasalam. Wow, thanks for the nice comment! I don’t really know what to say in reply to it, but comments like this give inspiration and a great feeling. Once again, thanks, and keep commenting.

  14. Hello! I’m a teacher and I am teaching creative writing in high school this year. I’m so grateful you have this blog. Your work has really made my work seem stress free. You do explain the topic very clearly. I’d like to ask if I can use your notes on Creative Writing 101 in my class. My students and I will benefit from your topics since I plan to write together with them. Thank you and God bless!

  15. Hi! I am going to University next year and am thinking of doing an English Literature and Creative Writing Degree. I love reading and am currently in the process of writing my first ever book however I don’t have much experience writing in the creative aspect and have only written 5 chapters, around 3,000 words as I find it hard to fit it in with my studies. I am worried that due to my lack of experience I will find this degree very hard. Do you have any advice for me? Thank You 😀

    1. I don’t have any experience with creative writing degrees, however if you really are serious about handling all the work and assignments then by all means go for it. Experience doesn’t matter as much as the desire to learn does. I’m stuck doing an undergraduate degree on management (not that bad though). As for not finding the balance between studies and creative writing, that’s also a very common situation. Even though I’ve been writing for six years, I still haven’t even managed to complete a single novel myself. Maybe next year?

  16. True, it was a long time ago that “readers didn’t seem to mind” long flowery prose, but “as attention spans keep shortening” should creative writers become accomplices and subject themselves to the terror of tweet-sized paragraphs? Creative writers are in the unique position to counter the continuous attack on attention spans by modern media and help readers redevelop the skills of paying sustained attention to interesting lines of thoughts.

  17. Idrees, nice suggestions! I also think that reading different writings is one of the most effective ways to embrace your creativity. You can compare and combine fresh ideas, but be very careful not to copy someones thoughts. I believe that people sometimes even don’t understand that they copying other writings and it’s a big disappoint when you find mostly the same text as yours. Plagiarism is the worst thing that can happen with a creative writer((( So I surf and found a great article about plagiarism checkers http://www.teacherswithapps.com/teaching-with-technologies-a-list-of-the-best-plagiarism-checkers-for-educators/
    Some of them are not so popular but very easy to use. Now it’s the first thing to do after I wrote my post-to check it for plagiarism!)
    I hope it would be useful,cheers))

  18. Wow! Such a great article and it kept me sticking till the end, through all the links and pages. It was simple, clear, with proper links and each part of it was as relevant as it could be. People like me, who are novice writers, will definitely appreciate the help. Good job and thank you.. 🙂

  19. This is (shivam dubey). I am an enthusiastic writer. While surfing the internet, I found your site – (writereasure .com) that seemed to be very interesting and informative.

    I would love to discuss an opportunity to create an article for you. My article would be custom made for your site and would be helpful for your readers.

    Please let me know if this is something you would be interested in.

    I look forward to your reply.

    Best regards,
    shivam dubey

  20. Assalam-u-Alaikum Patel Bhai,
    I am writing first post for blog “Tips for self Taught Photographers”, meanwhile I googled for Dos and Don’ts of creative writing. I have to revise my words to make the article flowery prose.

    Wasalam

  21. You explained everything well. The main thing I’m taking away from reading this article is that it helps to read other people’s writings and copy some of their styles without actually copying their work.

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