As an official judge for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, Joel Schwartzberg has seen his share of cringe-worthy essays. And, in his latest piece for mediabistro.com AvantGuild members, he says there were a few glaring errors that kept them from being potentially powerful stories.

“The biggest mistake essay writers make is finishing a piece at three in the morning, deciding it’s brilliant and, without getting any feedback, sending it to The New Yorker,” said Susan Shapiro, a writing professor published in The New York Times‘ “Lives” and “Modern Love” columns. ” After you write your piece, get a serious critique in a class, a writing workshop or by a tough ghost editor. Listen carefully to the criticism; then rewrite.”

Get more tips from Shapiro and other writing pros in The 7 Biggest Mistakes Personal Essay Writers Make.