Author Topic: My biggest mistake...  (Read 34232 times)

Jo Bannister

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My biggest mistake...
« on: July 10, 2019, 09:38:04 AM »
... that I'm going to admit to.

What's the biggest mistake you made at the start of your writing career?  What do you most regret?  What, with hindsight, would you change to make the process easier or more enjoyable?  Give us the benefit of your experience, to save us all the pain of repeating it.

To kick off, I think the biggest mistake I made was trying too hard to impress.  Using words most people didn't know; referencing literary works most people hadn't read; writing, in fact, like the kind of know-all brat that nobody likes, least of all me!  I'm not sure when I learned the error of my ways, but I'm glad I did.  Now I know to keep watch for these extravagances, and edit them out.


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Re: My biggest mistake...
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2019, 10:16:56 AM »
Excellent topic, Jo.

Thinking that magazines wanted something different from what was already successfully selling copies by the thousands.

We all know the Christian Herald won't want porn, and Playboy don't want 'God stuff'.  But it took a while, and a few helpful editors taking time to spell it out, to realise what any magazine wanted - in actual fact needed -  was a fresh angle on old and trusted subjects.

Example?  If you know any real advantage to knitting with dry spaghetti instead of wood, plastic, or metal needles, then it may interest a knitting magazine.  But not a food magazine ;-)

If you find yourself despising a magazine, or its readers, and feel a burning evangelistic need to 'show them what they're missing' then it's probably not your market.

As a rough guideline magazines you enjoy reading, ones you'd pay your own hard earned cash for, have the best chance of being a good fit with your own mental processes and beliefs.  Why?  Because you, without realising it at first,  are their target reader.

The step across to becoming one of their writers as well isn't so far when you realise you're writing for enthusiasts like yourself.  That you are effectively having a one way conversation with individual readers on a similar wavelength.

« Last Edit: July 10, 2019, 10:33:11 AM by Gyppo »

Jo Bannister

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Re: My biggest mistake...
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2019, 09:30:46 AM »
OK, three possibilities.

Gyppo and I are the only ones who've ever made mistakes in our writing careers.

Gyppo and I are the only ones who've ever had writing careers.

Nobody else cares enough about the quality of their work to want to improve it.

Take your pick.  I'm off to do something more productive.


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Re: My biggest mistake...
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2019, 02:59:52 AM »
I do not have a writing career yet.

I've been published about ten times, five of those at Really Good Quotes, thanks to Tim. One for Station Shorts and I butchered that one up by including names of kids for the sake of having their names in the book. Big, rookie, idiot, mistake.

I've also written four newspaper articles published but credited to the newspaper staff. I have entered several challenges here and at MWC, won two flash fictions and two poetry challenges. Whoop -ti-do.  ;) I wrote a newsletter as a non-profit volunteer and a ton of agendas, a few eulogies, a play, and a skit. I have ideas for a young reader's series of six books and have only written two of them but they aren't complete either. 

I've agonized over a children's book but have yet to get the storyboard straight. I can't seem to make it fit into the 32-page pigeonhole children's books require and couple it with the picture part of children's storybooks, but it doesn't seem to fit into any other genre. It's a made-up legend about the moon and how it came to wax and wane. It may be best suited for National or State Park, or more likely, local camping book stores but I haven't submitted to any of their publishers.

I have an undeveloped story about deaf girl and bits and pieces of an autobiography written as fiction under a pseudonym but it's far from being put together.

I've written a few short stories. One, about my grandfather in WWII, and a few other odds and ends. I've also written three stories, practiced two of them for storytellers events, but haven't had the guts to get up and tell them. I've got ideas, notes, and snippets for about forty more storyteller bits. I've got a lousy script and think my children's books could be developed as animation scripts for PBS but that's too much money for anyone to invest in a no-name writer. Besides, doesn't everyone in California have a script?

I try to get involved in the April NaPoWriMo Poetry event every year and am currently working on a few things for the Mid Summer Poetry Fest at The Tangled Branch but even after picking the best ones to polish up, I don't believe people would spend money on my collection of poetry. I envision my poetry as rather painful for others to read and most of it is prosy as Hell. Not that Hell is prosy.

I doubt myself and I don't want to bother other people for free feedback and the only way to get free feedback from people I trust is post little snippets here but I don't like leaving work out if you know what I mean. I haven't earned a dime for me.

But I have learned a few things along the way.

Rushing to complete a story or making three drafts and calling it, good enough, is bad.

Do not add names to your stories to include people you know for fun. It's a terrible idea and I ruined my Station Short entry by doing so.

Every, 'good enough' is cringeworthy at best.

Also, sleep on it. I have started things, usually letters, in a passionate rush that I look back on and think how much better it would have been if I had mulled it over or tossed it in the round file, so to speak. Some things are better left unwritten and certainly not shared.

I look back on the pieces I did for Really Good Quotes and they are not all that "Good" certainly not "Really Good." My first story was a Most Embarrassing Moment thing, then I wrote to fill in for Tim once. Then he asked me to do an entire week. That was scary for me. How would I be able to come up with and write anything fun or clever three times in one week? I know Tim and Patti did it every day. If I did something like that on a regular basis, I'm sure I'd learn to write and move on but the few pieces I did write were valuable lessons for me.

I also learned a few lessons from the editor, "The Bruce" as I affectionately called him, and Tim. When I wrote for Tim, it was three short snippets to fill in his Monday, Wednesday, and Friday spots for one week so my offerings were written on the fly - write and try to polish, submit it to the editor, Bruce, who was wonderful with me, would give me a few pointers, I'd polish some more and then it was published. It was a quick whirlwind. Tim told me he saw something in me but he may have just been being nice and looking for a sucker. Ha! I kid.

Finish it. So says me, who has all of these ideas and writing projects that have been on the back burner for over a decade. I let doubt and fear stifle my creativity and do not think my writing is pay quality so that shoots ambition.

I do think I can be fun and witty on occasions but my prose and my poetry have a long way to go. I enjoy adding to the Hateful, Minnesota saga and when I can get caught up on the Village, (so many characters) it's fun to write and add to the story.

Every profession could use cheerleaders and people willing to tell you, hey, your stuff is not good but it's fun sometimes and we enjoy your company. Maybe . . .

My stories write themselves as they go. To structure a story the way they tell you to in school stifles my muse. So, I start out with that little devil on my shoulder that taps me and says, "Hey dummy, you don't know what you're doing."

So, my biggest mistake? There you have it - not believing in myself.


« Last Edit: August 07, 2019, 07:04:32 PM by DGSquared »
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Re: My biggest mistake...
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2019, 12:01:38 PM »
I've made so little money from writing that I would scoff at calling it a career.

But the money I made came from writing for a website that kept moving my cheese. First they paid so much and then they paid less and then they paid less and then they covered all the words with so many ads that even as a writer, I didn't want to visit the damn site.

So, make sure you know WHO or WHAT you are writing for.
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Re: My biggest mistake...
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2019, 01:25:49 PM »
My biggest mistake as a writer? Probably the same as the rest of my life... not believing in myself and not having the confidence to step up.


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Re: My biggest mistake...
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2019, 12:02:17 PM »
Lacking confidence.

All my other mistakes stem from this profound lack of trust in my own skill. I'm forever telling myself that "this is not good enough". So I had one book published, and it was the book I didn't want to write. It was a non-fiction book for a small niche market. It earned me maybe €300, and the publisher has decided to quit. He's probably left with some 500 unsold books. But thankfully that's his problem and not mine.

However, that book left me disillusioned. It doesn't show me and my skill. And shows a bored writer who could have done way better had he cared. So I'm not falling for that again. I'll write, but only about things I really care about. It's the only way. Maybe not for others, but for me it certainly is.
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Lin Treadgold

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Re: My biggest mistake...
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2019, 02:48:03 PM »
My biggest mistake was not writing a novel  soon enough.  I procrastinated too long.  Wrote bits here and there, not realising that I had a skill I could turn into something good. I woke up! 

I must have got this from my mother, who was an artist.  Very talented, but didn't have the confidence or the knowledge on how to push herself into the limelight and do better.  She also left it late to become an actress on TV.  I suppose we have the internet now and the world is at our fingertips to be able to research how to do this and that.

I feel now there is no excuse for not moving forward.  It's all there, you just have to research it on the web and get in with the right people.  Doing it all by yourself is hardly motivating  although it can be done.  When I did wake up, I got in with the 'in-crowd' and to finish the song, 'I go where the in-crowd goes.'  So really, if I had my time over again, I would wish it, dream it, and do it.  Mix with like minded people and learn from those who have gone before you.

Good luck!