7 Rookie Writing Mistakes (and 7 Ways to Improve)

A Writer's Path


by Phoebe Quinn

7 rookie writing mistakes:

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Just a Thought…

Thursday, February March 1st, 2018

With all the traffic in a city of 8.5 million people, there should be more bumper stickers on cars to keep one entertained. It would help to get to know the person next to you while you’re stuck in traffic. Also, it’s an opportunity to express yourself.

“Hey, skullhead! How about this traffic, huh?… No, I said skullhead, not dickhead!… No, I was looking at your skull bumper sticker!… Don’t kill me!”

Or maybe, with all the easily distracted drivers out there, that will lead to more accidents and even more traffic. Maybe even more hate crimes because a lot of us don’t respect each other.

Forget it.

3 May 2017: 2:30 AM

It’s 2:30 AM on a Wednesday and I’m lying down on the sofa in my living room, wide awake, swyping this entry on my phone. I’ve been suffering from a cold since Sunday evening, and have had a fever since yesterday afternoon. My head, my eyes, and my jaw are in pain. My nose is runny and dry at the same time. And I’m burning up even while wearing only boxer briefs.

Can I please get back to sleep?

My body aches after working alone for the past two days, trying to finish my basement renovation. I’ve been living down there with my girlfriend since last November and we’ve been renovating since March 7th. It’s been a drawn out and exhausting process. All our belongings were covered in this white dust for nearly two months while working on the walls, and now they’ve all been scattered around upstairs for almost a week, needing to make room to fix up the floors.

I’m hopefully five days away from finishing.

It’s dark down here except for the dim light coming from the next room, and up the stairs to the hall light. A clock ticks. It’s 2:46 AM. It takes too long to create a post via phone. But I haven’t written since March 1st. I’ve been so busy. Time flew by. My nose is running and I irritatingly squeeze the mucus out with my dry, scaly fingers. An aquarium filter runs in the dining room and water splashes. Weird to have a smelly aquarium in the dining room. A cat sneaks on by after kicking around dust in a litter in the vestibule.

I think about all the problems I’ve had to deal with this spring. And now I realize my resume sucks, a few weeks before graduation.

I think about how inconsiderate people are, not staying home when they’re sick. It’s really irritating. I’ve been easily irritated the past couple of days.

I think about how much mistakes this swyping has been in the twenty minutes writing this post. “More efficient typing”. Yeah. No.

I think about my abilities to give advice, train, and teach. My cousin failed her road test a month ago, and yesterday, she passed. She’s the fifth person I’ve practiced with.

I think about suppressing my urge to urinate because I’m in so much pain.

Seriously, this swyping sucks!

From 8 March 2017: Productive Day

I never got the chance to finish and upload this entry from 8 March 2017…

It’s 4:53 PM and I’m sitting in a public library in Elmhurst, New York. It’s a new library and looks clean and modern. From across the street, you see an all-glass enclosure on the second floor. There was an Asian girl sitting on a chair, reading. I’ve never been to this place yet. It looks more like it could’ve been an art gallery with its modern, glassy design.

It’s been a productive day today. I had to mail out a guilty plea for two traffic tickets I received 15 days ago. Today was the deadline to send it out. I would’ve done it online, but it’s not in the records yet. Filling out the traffic ticket was frustrating and stressful. $190 for beating a red light. $50 for disobeying a U-turn sign. Yes, I admit it. I was wrong. But $88 each ticket for a “mandatory surcharge”? Where does this go, I’d like to know.

Got a haircut. A proper one. One that I like. It seems like that every time I get a haircut, it’s hit or miss…

1 March 2017 Entry: The Blair Witch Project / Character Development vs. Situational Storytelling

Last night, I rewatched one of my most favorite horror movies: The Blair Witch Project, a movie whose (Can I use “whose” when referring to inanimate objects? Always learning!) scariness is debatable, but has influenced other movies, such as Paranormal Activity and REC. Debatable, indeed! My girlfriend who had never seen it didn’t think it was scary. “These characters are stupid,” she said in the middle of the film, when one of the characters, Mike, revealed that he had kicked their map into a river the day before. I tried explaining to her, but I’m not good with words.

These were normal people who had lost their sanity, and most importantly, their trust in one another. The map that was supposed to guide them out of the woods was useless either way because they were never going to get out. Something supernatural was causing them to walk in circles, keeping them in the witch’s territory, even if they followed a compass going all the way south.

I was 9-years-old when the movie first came out in 1999. Imagination was still intact. Cellphones and the internet weren’t as accessible. The world was more closed and mysterious. Film documentaries were all too real. From what I remember, The Blair Witch Project did a great job fooling people that it was real through campaigning. Remember the missing posters? It was years later when I found out that it wasn’t real, thanks to the internet. Oh, and it made $250 million on a $60,000 budget. It’s considered a landmark film because of its success and influence.

But my girlfriend, like many, didn’t like it.

I understood while watching the movie in 2017 that it looked outdated. Scenes were choppy. But it was supposed to be a movie put together using “found footage”. The female protagonist, Heather, did too much screaming while I had the Bose sound on (so to hear the cackling in the night). But the “acting” seemed to be genuine. Heather was too proud and Mike was too stupid. But one wouldn’t think something was wrong at first, and the loss of sensibility was a progression. Loads of “buts” that could deem it a bad movie if the audience isn’t flexible enough.

So why do I like it?

Last semester in Creative Writing class, Professor John Weir, author of The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket and What I Did Wrong?, asked his class, during a practice workshop, if the piece of writing we were discussing had character development. “Did it have character development? Or was it more situational?” It was something he never expanded on, but it gave me ideas on what created effective storytelling. Throughout the semester, he touched on characters starting somewhere and ending up elsewhere. “Did the characters change someway?” He didn’t say explicitly, but, of course, he was talking about character arcs. Some of my fellow classmates whose stories were situational felt like their stories tried too hard to impress, to the point that they sounded contrived.

The Blair Witch Project gives us three normal people in the beginning. They experience supernatural events. As a result of those events, they deteriorate psychologically. Cause and effect. The film is so deliberate in this aspect. Every night, things get worse and worse. They first react with questions and confusion. Then, they become frustrated and angry. Then, they turn on each other. Then, there’s screaming and crying. Then, there’s surrender. Three people, the woods, and a hidden antagonist that makes it even more psychological. What was stalking them? In my mind was a floating woman wearing a black, tattered cloak, her eyes constantly watching them. Why did she leave rocks outside their tent? Even she has to have motives. Was it to taunt them?

My girlfriend likes the movie Hush better, a movie I find to be okay, but lacking character development. To me, like many lazy horror movies, it’s more situational storytelling. It’s about a woman who lives in the middle of the woods (cliché) and is attacked by an intruder, but with a twist: she’s deaf. It reminded me of Home Alone, a movie with an identifiable character arc (Kevin is a scared little boy in the beginning, but then becomes brave enough to protect his own home). Hush has a “cool” concept, but that’s just it, and I didn’t find myself caring too much for the protagonist.

So what’s up with character development? The characters become much more real. The story becomes a bit more personal. There’s a chance that you’ll care about these people – empathize – and you’ll put yourself in the story. And when you put yourself in a horror story, that will make it even more of a horror for you.

Speaking as a student of psychology, I think The Blair Witch Project is one of the best psychological horrors out there, considering the fact that they did so much with so little. And, at one point, it was real. All too real.


2 February 2017: Interests of a Scatterbrain

Happy Groundhog Day, WordPress! Cheers to six more weeks of winter! I missed three weeks while vacationing in the Philippines so I don’t mind!

Listen to this. Apparently, I require 45 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Queens College. Taking into account the classes I’m currently taking this semester, I have 43. What an idiot I am for dropping a workshop because the professor’s syllabus didn’t cater to my commitment issues! (“Four absences and you will be asked to withdraw.”)

I have until the 5th of February to register for a class. It’s a good thing I realized this now, or else, I’d have to take a summer class, or worse, graduate in the year 2069. (My ex-stepbrother once said that to me and I was irritated by him.) After going through every class department, I’ve had no luck, or rather, no interest. As an English student, I’m sick of English classes. Having a Psychology minor, I can’t find any more interesting Psychology classes. I took them all already. I was going to minor in Physical Education (Queens College’s website lied that they offer that minor), and some classes interested me, but I need to be a Health major in order to take them.

So, what now? (I realize that writing and ranting about my problems will often lead to resolution, so bear with me.)

If I wasn’t interested in psychology, I think I’d probably do some sociology. Psychology is the study of how individuals work, right? Sociology is the study of how society works. (Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I’ve come to discern the two.) I’ve had some interest in sociology ever since I took Urban Studies in LaGuardia Community College, instructed by a James Walker, who I mentioned in an earlier entry. What I can recall from that class is crime, gentrification, racial makeups, and the professor asking me, “Do I look like someone you can fuck with?” (Sorry. I find it amusing.)

While looking through sociology classes, I found a class called Crime and Juvenile Delinquency. Sounds interesting! It’s closed at the moment so I have to keep watch for an opening.

Crime and Juvenile Delinquency.

I’ve written two screenplays, some short stories, and I have ideas for novels and films, but the one story I want told, my future chef d’oeuvre, the one that will sort of be like an autobiography, that incorporates people in my life – people who are, sadly, dead to me – will be a crime drama involving young characters.

What am I doing taking English classes, Psychology classes, and maybe, a Sociology class? I’m gathering ideas for this one story that I want told.

I see it now. Resolution.

When I’ve found a writing job, in publishing perhaps, and I’ve accomplished my dream of telling that story, then maybe I can put that knowledge of psychology to good use when I return for a master’s degree.

Unfortunate Update: I need Sociology 101 in order to take the class. My search continues. So much for resolution.