Five Common First-Time-Writer Mistakes

Okay so I know a lot of new writers. And I read a lot of Wattpad stories. I admire all the people on Wattpad who are brave enough to put out a story, but sometimes the stories are just so-so. Here’s the top writing mistakes I usually see, the things that turn me away from an otherwise enjoyable story, and the things you can fix.

(1) Said

It’s either too much, or too little. There has to be a perfect balance with this, and most of the time that can only be achieved through practice.

If you use it too little, work on simplifying. You probably have very few dialogue tags, or the ones you do have use over-the-top descriptions. Said is NOT dead, folks! A good old-fashioned said works just as well (or better(!)) than some of your other options out there.

On the other hand, if you use it too much, work on expanding your vocabulary and remember that sometimes, if it’s clear who the speaker is, you don’t need a dialogue tag. The following example is a back-and-forth conversation between two characters. (Evelyn Cort and Jasper Benoit) It’s easy to tell who is speaking, and I don’t need to add any dialogue tags.

“Why not?”
He hesitated, bit his lip. “I don’t want you getting hurt,” he replied softly. “There’s no telling what they’ll do.”
“I promise.”

(2) Italics

Let’s be clear. Sometimes italics are used very well and provide the proper emphasis when needed. When used properly, they provide a very good effect! However, a lot of people use them too much.

If you suspect that you’re over-using the ctrl-i button, stop and think over something you’ve recently written. Does it read like this or maybe is there one of these going on every few sentences? An easy fix is to read it over afterwords, and take half of it out. Practice makes perfect, and if you put a lot of thought into it it’s not that hard to resist. I’ve found that often italics simply aren’t necessary, and sometimes I’ll go thousands of words without using them.

(3) Thoughts

Most characters think about thinks. Some of them do it a lot. With more inexperienced writers, I often see these thoughts put in quotation marks. So let’s be clear.

Thoughts do not go in quotation marks.

Talk about a faus pas! Quotation marks mean a character is speaking. Out loud. For all the world to hear. Once you know the correct format, this is an easy thing to fix. And again, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the more it will become a habit!

(4) Tense

Often first-time-writers aren’t sure what tense to use. It’s understandable, and usually writers have to try it all before they find the one. Sometimes it requires a mix of the right tenses, for a story to be just right. Unfortunately, sometimes writers switch tenses back and forth too often and execute it poorly. This screams armature. It takes a lot of practice, but it’s easy to avoid. Here are the three tenses:

  • present (Allie walks to town.)
  • past (Allie walked to town.)
  • future (Allie will walk to town.)

It’s a little more complicated than that and this is a good article for further understanding. As a general rule of thumb, don’t write each paragraph with mixed tenses, and read what you write out lout.

(5) P.O.V.

There’s pretty much four ways to write your novel. First person, second person, third person, and third person omniscient. Usually when writing fiction, second and third omni aren’t used.

  • First person- ‘I’ am telling the story. The author is limited to one characters head. (Sometimes there are every other or every few versions of this where they alternate between two characters)
  • Second person- the story is told to the audience- or ‘you’ used in pick-your-own-adventure stories. Not very common in fiction.
  • Third person (limited)- The story is about he or she. Most common with a large cast of characters.
  • Third person (omniscient)- Also about he or she. The narrator can ‘get inside’ all characters heads and is privy to their thoughts. (hard to write)

The problem I see is when authors switch P.O.V.s Once you pick one, you are stuck with it. You can’t switch back and forth. The only time this is even remotely acceptable is if the author chooses to switch back and forth with two people. I could talk forever about this, so I’ll just leave you with a few websites for more help: The Write Practice and Jericho Writers and Novel Writing Help


I think that about wraps it up! If you have any questions, just leave a comment or contact me directly and I’ll be glad to help. Remember to like, comment, or share, whatever floats your boat- and have a nice Easter!

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