Writers can slave for months, even years, crafting stories, developing plot lines and building characters; labors of love, for sure, but ones they hope will pay off. Once they have what they believe to be the perfect draft, they start sending their stories to potential publishers, looking for validation and income. Sadly, most of them never find the success they’ve worked for. After decades of teaching writing, I know many of the most common mistakes that authors (and students) make when writing a book or essay. One is underestimating the importance of an outline.
You will likely write a series of essays [Narrative, Example, Definition, Argumentative, Classification, Process, and Description] required in high school and then again in college. I don’t correct everything on the paper! But my comments will help your writing. –Miss McCulla
People have fascinating stories to tell and vivid, imaginative visions to share. And now with so many inexpensive ways to publish and self-publish, new writers must examine the reasons for and excuses for not using the most important tool in their writing toolboxes.
For a variety of reasons they don’t prepare to write before they start writing. Some writers think that outlining their stories is unnecessary because they have the plot worked out in their minds. Others rationalize that outlining stifles their creative process, that staying open to possibilities is necessary. But the reality is that the story often becomes incoherent without clear direction, and the plot easily becomes choppy, or worse, essential details are omitted, without the roadmap of an outline. There should be some direction to your writing, and a rough idea of where the story will go may be helpful in getting your ideas off the ground. But an outline is much more than that. Problems in the story can be worked out in the outline. Keep adding details; it’s fine to expand the outline and thus the story. But the outline keeps the plot lines consistent and leads to a natural ending.
Another common mistake made by writers is not hiring someone to proof and edit their books. Even the best writer can make mistakes that they simply overlook when proofing their own work. When reading something you have written yourself, your mind can fill in what you meant to write, instead of the seeing mistake that you actually wrote.
Another most common mistake that writers make is to overlook promotion and publicity. If no one is aware of the amazing piece of literature that you have produced, how will they know that they need to buy it? Think back to the days of Homer, and the way his stories were spread from town to town by word of mouth. It doesn’t work that way today. Failing to have a publicity plan in place is just asking for your book to be ignored by buyers.
There are certainly many factors that will decide the fate of a book, but these are a handful of the avoidable ones. Take care that you are spending your valuable time writing your novel or non-fiction book, and ignoring these pitfalls can jeopardize your career as an author. The publishing world can be quite unforgiving, and even the slightest misstep can spell disaster.
Learning how to tell a story is a powerful skill. Make the best effort to be successful.
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Miss McCulla is a retired English teacher of 32 years. She has mastery of the grammar and mechanics of English, and has taught expository composition, fiction writing, poetry, and rhetorical skills to thousands of students and aspiring writers throughout her career. She has written/edited/self-published five books, and currently manages and edits a writing blog called The Underground Tutor where she writes/gathers essays, articles, entries, papers, manuals, profiles, criticisms, and analyses of literature, just like those asked of students and writers in the university and publishing houses. Then she guides you through the perils that lay ahead.
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