Your road to becoming a published author will be filled with moments of pure excitement, but you’ll also experience moments of utter desperation.
The best way to prepare for these ups and downs is to acknowledge the problems and find ways to avoid the most common traps.
Novice authors tend to repeat a few simple mistakes and avoiding these can be the difference between facing rejection and being published. Remember, you might send your synopsis or pitch your novel to dozens of publishing houses before you see any interest, or if you self-publish (more on this later) you might need to deal with what feels like some harsh feedback before you get it right.
Approach your writing career as a continuing learning curve, don’t be tempted to quit, and your hard work will start to pay off.
Here are five common mistakes that are good to learn to avoid right away.
1. Insufficient editing
The first thing you need to know is that editing is not the same as proofreading. Although you don’t want to send your manuscripts to editors without fixing the most basic grammar mistakes, you need to pay more attention to editing.
Proper editing will take time, so be patient and plan your work well.
Don’t be too critical of your work, but don’t be afraid of cutting chunks of your texts or re-writing big sections either. The more detailed your editing, the better chances you have of editors/publishers/agents and readers falling in love with your writing.
In terms of finding an editor to work with you to edit your manuscript, look for someone that will challenge what you are doing but that doesn’t want to re-write the whole thing themselves.
2. Constantly evolving plots
An evolving plot in this context doesn’t mean the depth and detail of your writing; it simply means your plot changing direction the more you write.
You have to have a goal to your writing – whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction. If you don’t know what the purpose of your writing is or the outcome of it by the time you start, you’ll most likely end up including mistakes or incompatible plot lines to your writing.
Plan well, have goals and don’t forget plot twists!
‘Start at the end’ has become something of a cliché, but a mantra that’s definitely worth sticking to.
3. Boring details
A good writer knows how to set the scene without resorting to boring details. You don’t want to just describe what is happening in the text, you want your reader to feel it. You want to take them on a journey, not tell them a boring story.
Keep in mind that the situations you outline and the characters you introduce must have some relevance to what you are trying to achieve. If your audience can’t take anything away from the detail, you may be better off leaving it out.
Detail is great, but not when it’s there for the sake of it.
4. Doing what’s already been done
Even though some writers have managed to predict the future, you don’t need to aim to solve the economy or prevent climate change to succeed – though we won’t stop you, of course, if you wish to! But you don’t want to repeat something that has already been done.
Be original and follow your heart. Copying others won’t get you the results you want.
5. Doing it all on their own
Self-publishing is a great opportunity and you don’t need to go down the traditional route to publishing anymore these days.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire professionals to help you with editing, publishing or even marketing. You don’t want to publish something that is second best because you’ve already put a lot of effort into your work.
Even if you write just for passion and aren’t that interested in the potential financial rewards, seeing your many months of work amount to little more than a free e-book found on a deep page of Amazon isn’t a good feeling.
When you do hire a professional, make sure to look around first and do research on what publisher, marketing channel or printing route would be the best for your project. In the end, this will improve the quality of the final product, as well as save you money.
Let us know what have you found to be the biggest challenges as a writer starting out in the comment section below!
For more on writing novels, take a read of our article on how to get started.