7 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Book
Writing is a major undertaking for anyone, even more so when trying to get your first book published. Getting through the process, especially if you already have a busy work and family life, can require a lot of perseverance and planning. That’s why our Lucid Books editing team put together the following list to offer up advice and tips to help you stay motivated, maintain focus on your writing goals and avoid the most common pitfalls that plenty of other authors have fallen into before.
Taking on too much
As a writer, you have a lot of great ideas. You probably have more ideas for books than you’ll ever be able to write. Unless you’ve got the time and energy to write more than one book at once (and most people don’t), you have to pick one story and focus on it until it’s finished.
Remember, it’s better to publish a good book than not publish at all. If you try to take on too much, your book will suffer for it.
You might also want to consider starting with something simple. A super complex plot can take months or even years to flesh out properly, so if you’re new to writing fiction or just lack the patience for intricate plots and subplots, consider coming up with a story that is straightforward and easy to follow.
Not planning well enough
When it comes to writing a book, planning is everything.
Planning doesn’t mean plotting. That’s an entirely different beast, and the only thing that matters here is the story. Planning your book means READYING yourself for the actual process of writing it, editing it, publishing it, promoting it—all of that in addition to what you’ll need money-wise.
Sound like a lot? It is! But since you’re going to have to do all of this anyway, it’s best to get yourself mentally ready for each task and prepare how much time you’ll need to be better equipped to deal with the unexpected.
Not writing enough
The biggest mistake you can make is not writing enough. People often spend too much time planning and dreaming and not enough time doing what will get them closer to their goal. If you want to write a book, it’s going to take a lot of work and consistency. Writing a book is more like an Ironman than a sprint; you have to pace yourself, or else you’ll run out of gas before the end.
Don’t underestimate how much work is involved in the process—otherwise, you may get discouraged when you encounter obstacles along the way. You don’t need to be writing every day for twelve hours straight (unless that’s what works for your schedule), but at least give yourself a daily goal that gets your butt in the chair and words on paper.
Not getting the right feedback
When writing a novel, you have to find out which feedback is helpful and which isn’t. The first step is figuring out what type of response you need.
There are three kinds of feedback:
- Self-reflective feedback: This kind of feedback makes you think about the piece and identify your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. For example, if the editor tells you that your character is too weak, then this may be useful because it will allow you to strengthen him (or her). If the editor tells you that your story seems like it’s missing something, this might not be useful because it won’t tell you anything new about how your writing works or whether or not it’s any good.
- Functional criticism: This kind of feedback gives specific suggestions for fixing a particular problem in order to make the piece better. For example, suppose the editor says that most people don’t care about two characters meeting. In that case, the editor may suggest something like “the meeting should happen offstage” instead of “the meeting doesn’t happen at all.”
- Unintentional humor: Some comments are funny by their very nature; they’re unintentional and don’t necessarily mean anything other than “this sentence was funny.” If the editor says something like, “Your use of formatting here reminds me strongly of…,” then this is probably not useful because nobody can do anything more than laugh at themselves when presented with such a comment.
Giving up too early
Do you feel like no one will want to read what you’ve written? Are the characters not interesting enough? Do you think it’s a waste of time that will never amount to anything? If so, then give yourself a moment. Feel all those feelings. Let them be there. Try not to push them away. They are likely coming from your inner critic trying to protect you from getting hurt. When we go for our dreams and put ourselves out there, it can be scary and even painful at times. The inner critic wants us to avoid this pain at all costs, so its job is to tell us that what we are doing isn’t good enough, important enough, or worthy enough—that it isn’t worth putting ourselves out there. To keep going when these feelings of doubt arise, we must learn how to recognize the inner critic and quiet it before our self-doubt becomes too loud and causes us to give up on our dream.
Luckily, with some practice, we can quiet the inner critic and keep writing through these thoughts of self-doubt.
Collecting rejection slips
Don’t get discouraged. If you fail to submit your manuscript to a publisher, you’re giving up before you even have a chance. If it gets rejected, try again. Many successful authors had their manuscripts rejected more than once before they finally got published. The point is: keep trying and never give up on your dream of becoming an author!
To make sure you’re putting your best work forward, ask for advice from other people who’ve succeeded in publishing. Friends or family members who are already published authors or who have experience with editing and proofreading can help you refine your manuscript until it’s ready to be sent out into the world.
- You write and re-write.
- You read and re-read.
- You edit and get edited all over again.
But it’s easy to go too far, making minute changes without losing much of the original meaning. When you do this to the point of exhaustion, your story starts to lose its appeal because it loses some of its originality and luster. The fix: take a break from your work for a day or so to clear your head. Come back with fresh eyes and keep on writing!
While you can often find things that are wrong, if you don’t stop at some point, you will lose sight of what is important in the bigger picture of your book. When all is said and done, no one else will be analyzing every word like you are; they’ll just be reading it cover to cover.
Don’t let these mistakes stop you from writing a book!
It’s easy to get discouraged when you read lists of common pitfalls, but don’t let them keep you from your dream (or life’s work) of writing a book. Millions of writers have gone before you and come out the other side with excellent books to show for it. You can do it too—just be aware of these common mistakes so you can avoid them.
Are you ready to find a partner in publishing your next book? Our team at Lucid Books would love to help you get started! Take a minute to browse our website to see if partnership publishing is the right fit for you!