Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
Think of your favorite author. Now think about how much better they are at their craft than you are. Wrong, they’re even better than that (and if we’re honest, you’re a lot worse). Fear not, though. Just because you’re currently a worthless hack who couldn’t write a good grocery list, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a haunt slushpiles for eternity. Even literary giants like Hemingway, Rowling, and Tingle all went through the same growing pains you’re going through. They learned from their mistakes. Now you can learn from their mistakes, too. Here are the most common mistakes new authors make.
[pullquote]If you want to build an audience, you’ve got to do your homework. Get to know your readers by approaching strangers in bookstores. [/pullquote]
Beginning in the wrong place. A lot of newbies have perfectly good stories, but don’t start them in the right place. Where’s the right place? I recommend you begin writing in a nice coffee shop so everybody can see what a busy and creative author you are. It’s the perfect atmosphere to pen the 10,000-word prologue about your protagonist’s great-great-grandparents.
Not knowing your audience. If you want to please readers, you’ve got to do your homework. Get to know your readers by approaching strangers in bookstores. “Hey!” you’ll say in a loud, cheery voice. “I see you’re perusing the erotica section! I myself am working on an erotica novel! Can I run some ideas by you? No need to get the manager, this is market research!” When the security guards inevitably show up, pick the officers’ brains about what they look for in a police procedural.
Doing it for the money. We can’t all be Stephen King. You’re never going to live in a solid-gold house or earn eight figures. Start with a modest six-figure income and work your way up from there.
Not having a distinctive voice. Voice, of course, refers to the voices of your characters. Give them all your distinctive voice so people will know it’s your writing. It’s perfectly fine for every character to say your personal catchphrase. That’s branding.
Not using all of the senses. Writers lean too heavily on sight when writing descriptions. You’ve got five or six senses, make sure to give each of them something to keep them interested. For instance, taste and smell are drastically underused. Babies stick damn near everything into their mouths, so we humans are hard-wired to evaluate things based on flavor. This works great for food and sex scenes. I don’t recommend describing firearms this way, however.
Writing unlikeable characters. Nobody wants to spend four hundred pages with a big jerk. Give readers someone to root for! To make your characters likeable, do what you do in real life; make your character suck up to people, doing whatever anybody asks them to do. Have them pick up neighbor’s dog poop. Make your protagonist wash that pretty girl’s car (yeah, she’s dating that other dude, but she’ll come around). Who couldn’t like and respect someone like that?
[pullquote]Your relationship with your book is like the bond between an island village and its angry volcano god. [/pullquote]
Too much backstory. There’s no good place for an infodump. Instead, put all that stuff into a short story. Give yourself a couple of months to get that into shape, then get back to work on your book. You may accidentally take out too much, but that’s okay; if anyone asks why a character is underdeveloped, you can say, “Oh, it’d make more sense if you’d read the prequel short story. No, it’s not published anywhere.”
And the biggest mistake new authors make:
Believing writing is all fun and games. Fun? Oh please. Your relationship with your book is like the bond between an island village and its angry volcano god. You’ll sacrifice time, energy, friendships, and marriages to keep your book happy, knowing all the while it will ultimately destroy you anyway. If you don’t hate yourself by the time you finish your book, you’re doing it wrong. Now get back to work!
Got any mistakes people should watch out for? Let us know in the comments!
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