Are you worried about making a mistake as you start off your writing career? Aspiring or beginning writers, take heart! In this article, I will talk about the 10 most common mistakes new or beginner writers make—and how to overcome them.
- Giving up too early. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re a writer in some capacity. For some, success comes quickly; for others, it takes years. “With one project, I persevered and after it had been rejected by 43 different publishers, it was accepted by #44,” says Kathy Collard Miller.
For Martha Rogers, it took nearly 30 years of submissions before she received her first acceptance. “Galatians 6:9 is the verse for my writing, and I’d add prayer and patience to Kathy’s perseverance,” Martha says.
The bottom line: Don’t give up too soon! Keep writing the stories God has called you to write.
- Not honing your craft. Most of the time, writing mistakes like telling, not showing; starting the story with too much backstory; and not understanding viewpoint, can be “easily fixed and learned,” says Kimberly Woodhouse. Also, “there’s great technology out there (ProWritingAid AutoCrit) to help fix the easily fixable stuff like passive voice, repeated sentence starts, punctuation,” says Jayna Breigh.
The bottom line: There’s no excuse not to become a better writer. Take classes and go to writers conferences to learn more about writing in your genre.
- Not researching the market to learn about their genre. “I’ve had so many writers tell me they want to write for Love Inspired, but when I ask them if they’ve read our books, they say no,” says Lenora Worth. “Reading in the line or genre you want to write is part of the research and doing your homework mode.”
The bottom line: Read, read, read in your writing genre. Really know your subject matter by researching and asking experts.
- Keeping excitement in check. Sometimes, our emotions can get the better of us, but it’s always wise to wait until things are set in stone before making any announcements. “As a new author, wait to announce or tell your exciting things until the line has been signed,” says Angie.
The bottom line: Waiting is not easy (the title of a most excellent children’s book by Mo Willems), and it’s hard to not share your potentially good news. But do make sure everything’s locked in place before shouting it to the world at large.
- Assuming you’re supposed to start with a book. Sometimes, writing an article or short story can be a better way to begin with an idea than a full-length novel. “Honing your writing skills and sense of audience with articles and blogs for others can be great training as you work with a variety of editors and more experienced writers,” says Janet Holm McHenry.
The bottom line: Especially for nonfiction writers, test the waters with an article or two before delving into an entire book. For example, my Ending Sibling Rivalry book started out as a Crosswalk.com article.
- Taking criticism as a personal attack. It’s hard not to let edits to something you poured your heart and soul into become a personal critique of you as the author. But everyone—even the big name authors—have editors! Learning to separate yourself from the critique is vital to growing as an author. “Use critiques and edits as a tool to better your craft,” says Lee-Ann Brodeur.
The bottom line: Take your time to find the right critique group that fits both your style and your level. You want a group with a mix of published and unpublished authors that work well together. Figuring this out might take a while, but it’s well worth the effort.
- Believing your first draft is your finished product. Rare is the writer who dashes off his or her entire book close to perfection with the first draft. Nearly every author gets the story down on paper, then edits and revises the manuscript.
The bottom line: Sometimes, your first book does end up being published, but more often, it will sit on your computer unread by others. And that’s okay—you’ll take what you learned and you’ll write the second book better.
- Not finishing your book. Sometimes, it’s so easy to get hung up on rehashing the first three to five chapters over and over again that you never get beyond that point. Or you get bogged down in the middle and can’t see a way to make it to the end.
The bottom line: Make yourself stick with it and make it all the way to The End, even if you think it’s not any good or even if you know you’ll be erasing entire paragraphs or chapters during the rewrite. You shouldn’t start the editing process until you have a completed draft.
- Never letting go. Some new authors have trouble submitting their finished work. “I’m working with one now whose writing is excellent and her story is fascinating, but she keeps editing and revising and won’t submit it although several of us in our writing group have encouraged her to. Her excuse is always ‘It’s not ready yet,’ and it hasn’t been for two years,” says Martha. Sure, it’s a little scary to hit the send button, but do it—get your work out there.
The bottom line: Your work will not be perfect, and that’s okay. We can’t expect perfection—that’s God’s domain.
- Not enjoying the process. Writing should be a joy, so make sure you don’t stress too much over the process. Fall in love with your characters and nurture your stories. “My first novel and fourth book were both not under contract when I wrote them. I enjoyed that soooooo much more. I took my time. I wasn’t stressed. I enjoyed the process of creating the world and lives of my characters,” says Eva Marie Everson.
The bottom line: Writing can be hard and there will be times when you want to pull your hair out, but most of us do enjoy “having written.” So do take the time to cry when you write a sad scene, smile when the wording strikes you as funny, sigh at the romance between your main characters, and think about the joy a reader will have when picking up your finished work.