Mistake 18: Playing Out Your Personal Demons on the Page

Publish date:

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer's Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: Many psychologists and counselors advise
their patients to keep a journal. To record their day-to-day activities
and the way they feel about what happens. To delve into their life and their past and record events and their feelings about those events.

Image placeholder title

Unfortunately, too many people consider this to be a novel. They write a story about themselves and then think the rest of the world will be fascinated. The problem with this is that everyone has his own story. Why would he want to read about someone else’s story?

The other problem with writing your story is that you are fictionalizing fact. You are in essence writing what I call the fictional memoir. If your memoir is so important, then write it as memoir. If it needs to be fictionalized, then it probably isn’t that important to start with.

Another problems with fictionalizing your memoir is that when you get editorial feedback you will resist changing anything, using the infamous comment of “but that’s not what happened.” And the editor will say: “But it’s a novel, so you can change anything you want.” And you will reply: “But that’s not what happened.” And around and around it will go.

The solution:
If you have to do the personal demon novel, write it fast, get it out of your system, and unless it superlatively written, throw it in a drawer and move on and write a book that is outward oriented.

Once more, this is a case of thinking about the reader and not the writer. Your goal as the author is to entertain and inform the reader, not to burden the reader with the trials and tribulations of your life. Frankly—and this is one of the things that agents and editors have to bite their tongues to keep from saying during their one-on-one sessions during conferences—most people’s life stories are not interesting enough to fill out a novel.


Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!


20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.


Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.


Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.


Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.


Capital vs. Capitol (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use capital vs. capitol with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.