Four Mistakes New Writers Make

By Patty Smith Hall, @pattywrites

Recently, a group of writers sat around a kitchen, talking about all the mistakes they’d made in their journey to publication over the years. Some were outdated—one author had an agent track her down when she forgot to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope, but others were a common thread though most of our writing careers.

Here are the four most common mistakes writers make:

1 – Writing the same book over and over.

When I started writing my first book, I loved the idea so much, I was certain publishers would be lining up for the opportunity to buy it. Only that didn’t happen. Instead of putting that manuscript in a desk drawer and moving on, I reworked it into a romantic suspense which didn’t fare much better. I tinkered with it, changing a POV, adding a plot thread, sure that my next finished version would be THE ONE.

Only, it wasn’t.

I wasted eight frustrating years on that book(though in all honesty, I learned quite a bit about writing from the experience.) Know when it’s time to move to the next project.

2 – Finish the book.

I heard another author say that one percent of people think they’ve got a book in them; out of that number, one percent will start it; out of that number, one percent will finish; out of that number, one percent will send it to a publisher; and out of that number, one percent will actually be published. Those are staggering odds, but they don’t matter much if you don’t finish the book. During our round table talk, most of us confessed to having unfinished books saved to our computers; some had more than five; a couple of people had over ten! No one can expect to get published without a completed manuscript. There’s a line in the movie, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves that says it all—“Finish what you started, brother!”

3 – Watch what you say online.

All of us has seen it, that one person who gets on Facebook and makes a complete idiot out of themselves, spouting off about any number of subjects. Or maybe you’re on a writing email group when someone decides to vent about an agent or editor they just received a rejection from. And you’re like Wow!

First and foremost, remember that any social media you use publicly influences readers in positive/negative ways, and should be guarded with your life. It isn’t about you—it’s about your potential reader. They don’t want to read about your political or religious leanings—they want to know about your books.

Do not under any circumstances disparage an editor or agent online. The publishing world is small enough as it is—don’t make yours smaller by venting your frustrations over a rejection.

4 – Take any correspondence from an agent/editor seriously, but remember—they’re people too.

Years ago, I sent my worked-over manuscript(see point #1) off to a large publisher who had requested it at a conference. I waited the usual eight weeks, expecting another rejection letter but quietly hoped for the best. When their answer finally arrived, I glanced over the three-page letter but didn’t understand the full gravity of the letter until years later.

You see, it wasn’t a rejection letter but an editorial letter with suggestions on how to make my story stronger! In other words, I’d filed away my opportunity to be published! Over the years, I’ve discovered I’m not the only one who’s done this. Editors/agents don’t waste time writing a personal letter about how to improve your work if they’re not interested in it!

On the flipside of this, remember that editors and agents are people too. They have bad days like the rest of us. One writer shared with me that the agent she met with at her first conference told her to stick with her day job. Now, she’s a multi-published, award-winning author with a major publishing house.

What an editor doesn’t like now may be just what she needs in six months. Take what you can use from their comments and forget the rest. That’s the earmark of a seasoned writer.


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Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will
be available in July on Amazon.