1. Too much Talking, Not Enough Writing!
Aspiring authors love to talk about writing, which is great! I see lots of writers talking about their craft online: talking about the courses they’ve done, the craft books they’ve read, the authors they’ve sought advice from. All of which is wonderful (and necessary) to progress as a writer. However, no course or talk or book will advance your writing unless you spend time actually writing. Writers write.
2. Overcomplicating the story
The best stories have a strong, simple premise. When someone asks, “What’s your story about?” can you answer in one or two sentences? If not, your story premise is probably not strong enough. (For tips on writing a strong premise see my Instagram Mentor Monday video: Story Premise)
3. Overapplying the “rules”
Writing rules are very helpful, and aspiring authors should make sure they take time to learn about writing basics. However, many of us get into trouble when we insist on sticking to the rules 100% of the time. Writing is an art as well as a craft, so don’t be afraid to be a rule breaker every now and then! Learn the rules and then experiment with what works for you.
4. Taking advice from the wrong people
Before you take advice from any “expert” check their qualifications and suitability to advise you. Lots of people are happy to give out writing advice, but you need to consider their qualifications and whether they are the right person to advise you. Some questions to ask before taking advice: If the expert is a writer, how many books have they published? Are they currently published? Does the writer know about the genre you write in? If the expert is an editor, what are their qualifications? Who have they worked for? Do some research: read a book that the writer has written (or the editor has edited) before taking advice from them. This is especially true if you are paying for advice.
5. Not being open to feedback
This is a tricky one! In the end it is your story and you need to be happy with it. It is great to have confidence in your work. However, all writers (no matter where they are on their writing journey) can benefit from feedback. Some writers are so attached to their creative vision and so resistant to feedback that they are missing the opportunity to elevate their work to the next level. You certainly don’t have to take all feedback on board, but if you are getting similar critique from several sources, it might be time to revise your manuscript. Likewise, if you have sought advice from an agent, editor, or other industry professional it might pay to listen! (Caveat: see point 4 above!)