Everyone has to start out somewhere, and most of us, even those with disgustingly unfair amounts of natural talent don’t start out with professional quality work. But fortunately, you don’t have to have any natural talent to write a professional quality story.
If you are getting discouraged because no matter how much you read, write and edit you are still turning out things that come across as amateur, you are not alone. I have made all of the mistakes below and I’m willing to guess most other fictions writers have too (some published ones still do).
Here are my top five things to look for in your own writing that will improve the quality of your work and make your work stand out as that of a seasoned writer.
No more Mary Sue
Who is Mary Sue? Well she’s only the sweetest, prettiest, smartest, most talented girl (or boy) you’ve ever met, and on top of that, she doesn’t even know it! Everyone tells her, the hottest guys are in love with her, and other people hate her irrationally because they are soooooo jealous, but she’s so humble and sweet and unaware of her magic powers/super talents/overwhelming good looks that she never understand what the big deal is about. Amazingly enough, sometimes she bears startling similarities to her creator, the author.
I cannot stress this one enough as it seems to be the most prevalent problem for some writers to overcome. Mary Sue is more than over represented in published fiction already no one likes her. She’s boring. She’s too perfect and she is ruining your book. Scar her, Flaw her, or kill her, but don’t let her remain as she is.
Too much Backstory (too early)
This is one I still struggle with! During my creation phase, while I am getting to know my characters, their backstory reveals their lives and personality to me. Then I have these really neat details in the first chapter that I don’t want to let go of because they are so important to who the character is.
Important to me. Not to my readers. Not then. Not when they’re trying to figure out what the story is about. Backstory is distraction, boring and jarring. I have seen it done well, but in your case and mine, lets just cut it out or at least slice it down to a few sentences if it’s really important.
I don’t know why this is such a big deal! Some people really don’t like it! They say it should be used sparingly in dialogue or it seems like the character is always screaming!
You probably already know this one but it is a hard habit to break. Cutting and replacing them with active verbs in the editing phase makes your writer stronger and easier to read. It is well worth your time.
Lack of Research
Whether your plot takes place in 1984 Panama City or a Galaxy far far away, you need consistency and facts to bring it to life. Making up your own technology and history is just fine but it needs to be rooted somewhere. Got a teleport? You still need to have a fair idea about the science behind it, at least enough to make it logical. Putting werewolves into 16th Century France? You better have a firm working knowledge of titles, lands, customs, fashions and life of the time. Anything otherwise screams amateur.
*Worried you might have a Mary Sue on your hands? This awesome test will help you figure it out