Attempting a double backflip on the trampoline. Getting that pet llama. We all make mistakes, but writers never want to discover blunders in their writing. Some mistakes, like typos or grammar goofs, must be removed and corrected. But at Writer’s Relief, we know there are some mistakes that don’t have to end up in the trash. In fact, some writing mistakes can actually become surprising opportunities! Here’s how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Writing Mistakes That Are Really Opportunities
Having more characters than needed. Maybe your multiple POV story isn’t turning out as you hoped, or you created characters who don’t move the plot forward. Don’t kill your darlings yet! Instead, spin these characters off into their own tales! Your writing will be more focused and tighter—and instead of having just one story, you may now have two, three, or more!
Adding too many flashbacks. Too many flashbacks or references to your main character’s backstory can bog down the narrative flow. Readers don’t want to wade through a lengthy explanation about the source of your character’s fear of spiders if it isn’t important to the plot. Cut any nonessential flashbacks from your story and save these for new work. You might consider writing a prequel to your current story!
Including poetry stanzas that don’t work. You finish your poem and are thrilled that it contains one of the most eloquent and impactful stanzas you’ve ever written. There’s only one problem: That stanza doesn’t work with the rest of your poem. Perhaps it breaks the flow or doesn’t fit the theme or the message of your poem. Take it out of your current work and save it to use as the basis for a new poem.
Another option for your standalone stanza—consider its potential as a flash poem! Many journals will publish flash poetry.
Weaving overly complex plots. You started with one great idea, but now you’ve got a myriad of plot lines in what is supposed to be one story. Determine which story arc works best for the piece you’re writing, then break off the other plot lines into their own short stories. You’ve already got the essentials: the characters, the setting, and the storyline. All you have to do is flesh out the details, and voila, more stories! Best of all, your original story will be more straightforward and fluid.
Remember that word counts are increasingly important to literary journals, and too many plot lines (or even poetry stanzas) will make your work run longer. If you feel all of your plot lines are necessary, consider turning the story into a novel or novella.
Creating flat characters. If your characters seem flat or unrealistic, take this opportunity to breathe life into them. Using direct and indirect characterization will make your characters seem more real. Physical attributes, hobbies, and flaws will give your characters and your story more depth. And a story with more depth and realistic characters has a better chance of intriguing readers and getting published!
And A Writing Submission Mistake That’s Also An Opportunity…
Once you’ve turned these writing mistakes into opportunities, don’t make the mistake of sending out only a few haphazard submissions. Give your short story, personal essay, poetry, or novel the best odds of success: Trust a tried-and-true submission strategy with years of expertise behind it! The submission strategists at Writer’s Relief can help you find the best markets for your work and boost your chances of getting published. If you’ve sent out only a few scattershot submissions, turn that mistake into an opportunity—submit to our Review Board and learn how we can help!
Question: What writing mistakes have you turned into opportunities?