I recently had coffee with another book coach and we were talking about the challenges that tend to derail our clients. The truth is, most of us grapple with the same issues, particularly while starting a book. Here are the top 10 mistakes that tend to sideline my newer writers:
Top 10 New Writer Mistakes
- Expecting to sit down and knock it out of the park.
This one’s a biggie. Most of us have unrealistic expectations when it comes to writing our story. We think that we should just sit down and knock it out of the park when in reality, writing is a process. The best writing comes from writing and revising and revising again.
If we don’t know any professional writers, we might not understand the amount of work that goes into published writing. Which leads to #2.
- Expecting it to be easy. (A close second to #1)
I mean, we’ve been writing our entire lives, right? How hard can it be?
Cough. If you ask a published author how hard it was to write their book, many will tell you it’s one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. Despite that, it tends to be of the most worthwhile projects they’ve ever undertaken.
- Thinking you can write a book on weekends, or over summer break. Or, gulp, when you retire.
One of the most maddening things about writing a book is that you can’t sit down and just knock it out. Nor can you force it and/or pull an all-nighter (remember those?). Getting to the finish line entails having a consistent writing habit.
- Writing only when the spirit moves you. (Instead of creating a consistent writing habit.)
So many folks get stuck here! And hey, I get it. Real life is full, and we’re all juggling way too many obligations at once. It’s easy to fall off the wagon and get stuck in that stop/start/restarting cycle.
But this is how your writing will come to a grinding halt. It’s also what will keep you from reaching the finish line.
- Sharing your writing too soon.
Ohh, do I get this! We get so excited when we’ve finished writing something—excited and scared—and in a misguided bid at finding validation, we share our writing (that vulnerable, early draft) with the wrong person (i.e.: family, friend or loved one) and their well-meaning feedback inadvertently shuts us down. Which leads me to…
- Asking for help from the wrong people.
When we share our writing with the wrong folks and get feedback that’s either a) wrong, b) unsupportive or c) plain unhelpful, it shuts us down. This often leads to writer’s block.
- Letting writer’s block shut you down.
As I just mentioned, sharing your writing too early in the writing process is one of the number one causes of writer’s block. Another big culprit is your inner critic–that voice (or voices) that’s working its butt off to keep you from writing–much less finishing–a book.
- Assuming that having a good story is enough.
This one’s a toughie, but it’s important know that it’s not enough to have a good story. You need to know how to translate that story onto the page. Learning the proper craft and technique of your genre is what will bring your story to life on the page.
- Going it alone (and then giving up when you get stuck). See #7.
Writing a book can be inspiring and exhilarating, as well as hard and lonely. And it’s easy to pause and/or give up when you hit a low patch (been there, done that). Much better to get the support you need, whether that’s finding an accountability buddy, joining a writing group, taking a class or hiring a writing coach.
- Underestimating the amount of self-care needed, especially if you’re writing memoir.
Writing about the challenges of real-life events is especially tricky because of the amount of emotion it brings up. That’s why it’s important to up your level of self-care, especially when you’re writing memoir. If you’re writing about a traumatic event, self-care is critical. Otherwise, those emotions get so big and unwieldy that they can shut you down, leading to writer’s block and/or encouraging you to abandon your project altogether.
I’d love to hear from you: which of these challenges have you grappled with? What helped?
Are there any I’ve missed? Leave a comment below.
P.S.: For those of you in the Boulder area, I’ll be at the Trident this Saturday, 7/27, as part of the Carnival of the Indies. In addition to a rotating set of local authors, we’ve got two live bands and plenty of raffle prizes, so swing by and say hello!
I’ll be doing a short reading as well as signing books (The Secret Life of Grief as well as 9 Steps to Heal Your Resentment and Reboot Your Marriage) between 12:30-2pm. Hope to see you there!