Mistakes I’ve made as a writer … so far

Today, I’m going to swallow my pride and make an admission. I’m not perfect. I know. Hard to believe, right? But it’s true; I’ve made mistakes in my writing life. Some were minor, some not. Here’s a few biggies.

My first mistake was joining a critique group. Not really. The group was fine; it was the critique I didn’t know how to take. My previous work wasn’t written with an eye toward publication. Two years ago, that changed, and I decided I needed feedback. Inexperienced, I assumed every member of the group knew more about writing than I did. I took every bit of advice to heart and edited accordingly. Eventually, I learned to evaluate the feedback and use only what I felt made my work stronger.

My second mistake was in thinking my book was finished—again and again. Almost exactly one year ago, I thought I had finished at 69,000 words. Then, beta readers said, “Think again.” They were right. So, I edited and revised, finishing again at 82,000 words. I was embarrassed to think I’d quit 13,000 words too soon, but it was done for real this time. Right? “Not quite,” said one final beta reader. Dang. But she was right too. Back to work. Finally, at 84,000 words, I was truly finished. Or not. Something still didn’t feel right to me. I’m now working on another chapter, which will add at least 4,000 words more.

You can probably guess where my “finishing” too soon mistake lead. I also queried agents way too soon—and with a query letter I wasn’t crazy about. So, I guess that’s two mistakes in one! I think the only thing I got right at that point was my 2-page synopsis.

At least some good has come from these mistakes; I’m learning to trust my instincts more. If a suggested change doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t follow it. No matter how much I want to be done with a story or novel, unless I feel deep down that it’s finished, it’s not. And if I’m not confident a piece is my best, it’s not ready for submission.

Your turn: I’m sure you avoided these mistakes, but do you have one of your own to share?

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21 thoughts on “Mistakes I’ve made as a writer … so far

  1. The first book I ever wrote went pretty much the same way yours did. I listened to someone I thought had more experience and in the end I lost my voice in my writing. The story itself changed into something I was not happy with. Yet, I allowed the book to be presented to an agent. To say I was relieved it had been rejected is putting it lightly.

    One of these days I’ll go back and do that first book over, the way I originally envisioned it. In this business we live and learn. (Hugs)Indigo

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    1. Yes, live and learn, Indigo, and hopefully early on.

      I’m sorry to hear of your experience with “hijacking.” In critique, it’s wise to keep in mind it’s not your job to rewrite their piece in your style. I hope you put your voice back in your back.

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  2. Oh, Linda, I’ve been in some of those little boats you’ve sailed in. We all have to learn from our mistakes. I think deep down we all think we’re an exception to something, and that’s rarely the case! I’ve also learned that the more I write the more I get a sense of when something is truly finished. Oftentimes I realize I’ve overworked something to the point that I have to rewrite it all over again because I killed it somewhere along the way. Not a good feeling!

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    1. You mean we each thing our book will be the next blockbuster? 😀

      “Oftentimes I realize I’ve overworked something to the point that I have to rewrite it all over again because I killed it somewhere along the way.” This is something I fear, Michelle. Right now, I wonder if I haven’t overworked a poem.

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  3. Besides the same mistakes you’ve made, I read too many “how to” books. And too soon. I should have waited until I was finished rather than reading something, wondering if I did it, going back and re-reading, re-writing, doubting myself, etc.

    If you really want to squash your creative flow, read a “how to” book.

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    1. Oh yes, Tricia, I’ve blogged about that before. I, too, have read a lot of how-to-write books, and I agree you eventually get so confused and fearful you’ll make a mistake that you can hardly write at all.

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