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Err Necessities

March 15th, 2019

Because I write about writing mistakes, many writers assume I’m either a mistake shamer or deeply ‘anti-mistake’.

But I’m not. I’m ‘pro-mistake’. Go ahead and make them! Write the mistakes out of yourself. Err and learn. There is no mistake so bad that you can never recover from it. You can always redeem yourself. Don’t be afraid.

I’m by no means infallible. Even after two decades in the business, I too make mistakes. Probably more than I imagine.

For example, I’m vaguely aware my writing has some quirks — frequent and possibly inappropriate use of dashes, for instance, as you witness here — but I hope this is an affectation which editors don’t mind, and I can’t envisage them rejecting me for it. I suspect my English also retains some ‘second language’ hang-ups, given that I learned and spoke Italian first as a child, but again, I would hope it’s nothing a sub-editor can’t swiftly and elegantly modify.

My point is that my mistakes aren’t stopping me doing what I want to do, which is to write, and be paid for it.

Are some of yours stopping your ambitions?

They might be, and that’s the theory that forms the backbone of my Mistakes Writers Make guides, which are aimed at helping you identify the mistakes which could be holding you back, and guiding you towards approaches which may bring the success you want.

Here’s the thing. Some mistakes you can quickly identify and correct yourself. Some mistakes you can make repeatedly until you stumble across a different way, which turns out to be right. Trial and error can and does work.

But … others you may be blind to. Doing the wrong thing often feels exactly the same as doing the right thing. How can you ever correct that thing without feedback?

And that’s where the Mistakes series come in. The books reveal the most common errors writers of non-fiction make that they themselves struggle to identify, and then offer possible solutions.

Are there some which are particularly common? I think many newbie writers struggle with ideas, and often come to the depressed conclusion that they don’t have any or are unable to think of good ones. This is untrue — you have dozens and dozens — but knowing how to tease them out may be something you need help with.

There’s also a natural tendency to ‘look’ solely in your own brain for these ideas. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — ideas do ‘live’ there, after all — but there are millions of other brains on the planet … go look in some of those too, by talking to people, interviewing them about themselves, especially their past.

And read more too. Reading allows you access to the output of some of the best writerly brains out there. From their ideas, your own will come.

What are you waiting for?

Alex Gazzola is a freelance writer specialising in allergies and food sensitivities, as well as writing advice. His books 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make and 50 More Mistakes Beginner Writers Make are newly available in paperback through Amazon, and as eBooks too. A third book will be published later in 2019. He blogs at www.mistakeswritersmake.com

 

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