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What do you feel are the most common pitfalls in amatuer writing? If possible, can you provide any simple tips or solutions?

Hello Carly -

Here are the most common pitfalls I have found in years of mentoring apprentice writers (I am aiming at writers who want to sell their work one day):

1. Almost to a person, apprentice writers fail to realize how much time, effort and hard work it takes to learn to write well. "I didn't know there was that much to it," they often say.  
2. Almost to a person, apprentice writers overestimate the quality of their writing. Like a homeowner pricing her house for sale, they assess the value of their work based on how they feel about it, rather than what the buyer will pay. An apprentice writer's ego is his worst enemy.
3. Almost to a person, apprentice writers due to their ego involvement become defensive if anyone suggests their work can be improved. This blocks learning completely, and practically ensures they will never be published.
4. Almost to a person, apprentice writers are weak in their grasp of how a book should be put together, how plots should be arranged, how characters are developed, how description should be handled, how to choose a setting, etc.
5. It is common to find in the work of apprentices writing that is flabby, confusing, extremly confusing and totally incomprehensible. People who write that way generally think that way, and extra care must be taken to teach them how to correct their errors.
6. Many apprentice writers, having apparently slept all the way through school, are weak in the basics: punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, paragraphing, etc. They do not know how to number chapters or pages. They're not sure which font to use, or whether they should write in longhand or put it directly on the computer.

The only solution to these issues is to read, investigate and write. Reading  (particularly of the "classics") shows you what good writing is and does - it is not supposed to be static on the page! Investigating (doing research) can answer such questions as what is an essay, how many rejection slips should I collect before I give up (never give up!), how other authors have dealt with the loneliness of writing, etc. If you are a young writer, "investigation" includes taking classes, studying "how-to" writing books and looking at things with a writer's eye. Writers "write" - every day or nearly every day, applying the principles learned in their investigation, trying out different techniques.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 280+ questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at http://pygmypress.com, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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