If you write, you make mistakes. If you make bad mistakes, you’re probably a bad writer. Can’t simplify it further.
That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.
To Writing All Wrong: What are some common mistakes that I can avoid making as an aspiring author, especially when it comes to mechanics?
—Michael Alan Mitchell, Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
Easy. Just stop writing. Won’t make any mistakes that way. Oh, you mentioned mechanics? Drat.
I think I’d be more willing to lend mechanical advice to an aspiring grammarian or someone aspiring to pass English 101. Buy a grammar book. Take a class. If you’re iffy about mechanics at this stage, then I’d stop aspiring to be a writer and start getting cozy with the dashingly boring technical details of the language. Good luck.
Let’s fast forward and assume you’ve done this already. I’m sidestepping it anyway. As I conveniently ignore your inquiry into the mechanical nature of everything, I’ll be happy to address your question.
Common Bad Mistake #1: Redundant Redundancies.
This should make sense, right? Right. If it were easy, everyone would do it. And everyone does it. Whether it’s the unnecessary multiplicity of word within paragraph or unintentional lamemphasis (“They couldn’t see within the thick dark. It was so dark, it made all other forms of dark look like sunlight, such was the darkness.”), weaker craftsmen tend to drive home an idea with a dim-witted hammer. Writing isn’t made excellent by force alone. Other examples include:
“a dark night” – as apposed to a light night.
“raging tempest” – fantasy writers, raise thy hands in guilt.
“a quick bite” – never heard of a long bite, not even in my vampire fiction excursions.
“fat loser” – self-explanatory.
“exact same” – they mean the same exact thing.
“kneel down” – tried kneeling up once, to no avail.
“poorly-written Christian fiction” – you can just say Christian fiction.
“wicked stepmother” – your readers assume they get a bad rap anyway.
You could also look up “tautologies.” If you have to look that up in a dictionary first, you’ll be forgiven.
Common Bad Mistake #2: Circumventing Redundancies.
Oh, you thought the use of “charming cottage” was clever? Not when I catch a mention of “cozy cottage” dozens of pages later. Your thinness of image betrays you. If you’re going to stick with the image, either stick with it or make your point and move on. Don’t be slick in trying to change it up to avoid “sounding” redundant. Heed Admiral Ackbar’s advice: don’t trip into this readily available pitfall. “Spacious house?” Better not call that sucker a “sprawling house.” “Bristly beard?” Stay bristly my friend, because we’ll bristle at mentions of a “prickly beard” three pages later. Skilled speaker, “silver-tongued?” Don’t turn him into a “golden-tongued” anything. That’d be weird.
Common Bad Mistake #3: Using Clichés
If it’s not wholly original, it’s a cliché. Don’t use it.
Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and lightly seasoned with kosher salt and rubbed sage.