Everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes. You make mistakes. Fast fingers on the keyboard often cause mistakes. Spell check causes mistakes. But, the mistakes I'm sharing today, 10 Mistakes I See Writers Make Every Day, are not about those kinds of things. They're about the myths and false ideas people have about writing a book. Or, writing anything else as one generally writes other things before tackling a book. Generally.
Before I begin let me confess
Some of the mistakes I'll be sharing continue to plague me, also. I've been at this writing business for more than 40 years. As many others, I aspired to writing the great American novel, once upon a time. I didn't think of it that way. I thought of it as doing the thing I was born to do and being recognized for it by sales of my novels. Lots of sales. A plethora of sales. Boatloads of sales.
In essence, I dreamed of making my living as a fiction writer. A novelist.
I had some success. Some short stories that sold to magazines. Encouragement from editors of other publications, asking me to send something 'else' as what I'd sent did not suit.
But the most attention I got was when I wrote opinion pieces for our local newspaper. And got paid for it. That lasted a year. It got me in trouble with my neighborhood friends a few times, as I was out-spoken about women's rights and they were not. That's something I remember to this day.
When the gig ended, the editor of the paper called me to tell me to keep writing. He said I was one of the best writers they had and I should not stop creating. Funny, he did not offer me a job, though. I guess he knew I wouldn't take it. I did not want to be a 'reporter.'
As time went on, I moved my focus from my writing, to your writing. I discovered I enjoyed helping other writers become authors.
I wrote a book. I published it through print-on-demand. I was unhappy with the experience. I started my own publishing company. I became a book coach.
A few years later, through the blogging I was doing, I connected with a pet blogger who said we should do something together. So, with her help, and Tom's help (husband) and Chloe's help (daughter) we founded a pet blogging community. That kept me busy for close to 10 years. All the while I focused on helping people blog better - because blogging is writing.
Today, I'm here. At Nurturing Big Ideas. Guiding and working with smart women who have a book in them that they want to get out! And, I even have a new program called Capability Coaching where I work with folks who have a lot of extraneous content lying around and want to turn that into a book.
Now you know. That's me. That's how I got here. That's why I can write a post about mistakes I see writers make every day. Let's go...
- Writing to please their mother.
This is such a big mistake. We all want our mothers to praise us, but if you're writing a book or an article, or a blog post, to make your mother happy, you're just spewing out words. The person you need to make happy is the reader. If you write well, your reader will be delighted, and if your mother is not, tell her I said go pound salt.
- Not writing enough.
I am not a writer who sets a word count for myself. Some writers like that - "today I will write 1000 words." Or 2000. Or whatever number makes you happy. For me, instead of pushing myself to write a certain number of words per day, I just make it a habit to write. Every day. If you don't write every day, you lose a little energy. You lose ideas. You lose your train of thought. Writers write. Every day.
- Writing too much.
Oh boy. Just when I said you need to write more, I'm telling you that maybe you're writing too much. It's the proverbial "catch 22" - you're danged if you do and danged if you don't! What I mean by this is many writers throw letters on the page, compose words, create paragraphs, and feel good 10 pages later when they have 15000 words to boast about! Problem is, probably half of them are superfluous and need editing out.
- Editing as they go along.
I do this. I'm sorry. I told you I make some of these mistakes, myself. I cannot let an extra space, or a glaringly misspelled word stand. I have to fix it right away. I don't want you to do that. Let your word program correct minor spelling errors and put its squiggly lines underneath places you've mangled grammar and punctuation. Then, when you're done for the day, go back and see what needs fixing. You'll get so much more done.
- Not editing enough.
Once again, two conflicting pieces of advice. So it would seem. You know you need to review and revise and edit your work. If you're writing a book, you need to engage a professional editor (not your Mom or cousin or best friend's sister). My post about editing can help you understand why editing is necessary beyond the tools your software program offers. It should also demonstrate why developmental editing is necessary. There is more to writing than grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
- Giving up too soon.
"It's crap! It's awful! Why did I ever think I could write a book!" So screams the frustrated writer of old as he tears his paper out of his typewriter, crumbles it into a ball, and throws it into the waste paper basket. One can see his aim is not good. And, he does this a lot. What one does not want to see is this budding author get up and leave the room, slamming the door behind himself.
No doubt his frustration is well earned. His writing, on this day, is awful. It reeks of sewage and bile. It crawls across the page like a slimy snake, looking for a mouse to devour. Well, okay, it's probably not that bad. That's the truth. Probably a cut of tea and a few cleansing breaths is all our aspiring author needs. And maybe someone to encourage him on.
In the end, he should never give up, if writing is something he wants to do. If being an author is his goal. If he still feels the story trying to get out. He shouldn't give up and neither should you.
- Thinking this whole writing thing (book, blog, or business) is so easy, a monkey could do it!
I want to know - what kind of monkey is this? Yes, I know the meme, the joke, the giggle about a million monkeys at typewriters creating Shakespeare or something. But, what I want to know here is this: are you comparing yourself to a monkey? Writing is a profession. A respected profession. Books are among the most credible resources in the entire Universe. A good many people long, long ago went to a lot of trouble to create moveable type so the 'masses' could be informed throughout the world. This is not something you trust to a monkey. (no offense to monkeys, folks) Writing is hard work. Good work. Enjoyable work. If it's easy for you, I applaud you. But I know, regardless of what you tell everyone else, that behind the scenes, a lot of hard work went into that speech, eBook, presentation, or written book, and if it was "easy"- well, I'm concerned about the quality of the product.
- Spend too much time worrying about offending someone.
No matter what you're writing - a novel, a business book, a short story, a G^%@ recipe - someone will read it and see themselves and be offended. If you let that stop you from writing, you lose. You lose a little piece of your soul. And over time, that little pieces gnaws away at the rest of you and you begin to wonder why you always feel so terrible. Don't let it happen. Truth is truth and while I do advise being careful about stuff like libel or slander, I first advise writing the story as it should be, and then looking at it from a different viewpoint and maybe changing things, where things need to be changed.
- Thinking their writing should be as good as Hemingway's.
Or Agatha Christie. Or Mark Twain. Or whomever it is you worship in the writing space. We all have our favorites. In fiction and non-fiction. We all aspire to "BE" somebody and sometimes we go a little overboard. It's okay to admire and even revere other writers. But you are you and they are them and your writing should reflect that. Can we all learn something from those great writers who have gone before - or who are here now inspiring us? Yes. The thing we should learn, however, is that our voice, our story, our fireside chat is valuable because it's us, in all of our originality.
- Thinking No One, in the History of the World, has a Story like theirs.
This one gets me. Most often, when I hear this, it's from someone who is looking to get rich and famous. Their story, because it's unique to them, is so original and spectacular, the whole world, nay, the entire Universe, is going to fall at their feet and offer accolades, day after day.
Yes, your story is unique. Yes, it's original. Yes, you are the only one who can tell it to effect. But, wait a minute - the goal of writing isn't to become rich and famous. It isn't to gather fans who will sing your praises to the stars. It isn't to prove to the world, or to yourself, that you are important enough to command thousands to fill auditoriums just to listen to you.
The goal of writing is to teach. To help. To support. To share. To be human enough that you open your heart to others so they will see they are not alone in the world. What you earn back, as a result of your writing, is far more powerful and unique than what you give out. If you've done it right.
I don't have a Bonus here. Maybe I could have come up with one if I tried harder. Maybe I will think of one later. For now, I leave you with this quote,