As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, my first attempts at writing a novel were not so…er…successful. If there was a Writing DON’T out there, I bull-dozed straight into it like a blind-folded, drunk construction worker.
Since most of my posts up until this point have been about Writing DOs, this one will be about a few things to avoid.
Expecting to be Accepted by Publishers and Agents Quickly
Remember that construction worker? He has a brain dead cousin who once gave me advice about writing. “It usually takes other people YEARS of writing to get published, but not you,” he said. “You’re different. Your ideas are unusual and NEW .”
Call it what you will—naivete, ignorance, Twitter-induced-belief-that-I’m-interesting-to-the-world, or whatever. I was wrong to believe it.
Easily avoided by: Not beating yourself up if it takes years to get published. Give yourself a break and be realistic. There is nothing new under the sun, and that includes plots, characters, or ideas. It takes time and practice to hone your skills. If you’re serious about writing, then be in it for the long haul and write, write, write as long as it takes.
Formatting Whichever Way the Wind Blows
That construction worker also had a few side jobs, one of which was formatting my first novels. This is to say, they didn’t have any consistent formatting at all. After I was done, I had to go back through and do an entire edit to fix annoying things like ridiculous indentation mistakes, stupid margins, and cockeyed chapter breaks.
Easily avoided by:Using the TAB key for new paragraphs; never indenting the first line of a chapter; using 1″ margins; starting new chapters halfway down its own page.
Writing Only When I’m…(Dramatic Sigh)…Inspired
The very first book I attempted to write only got attention when I felt inspired. Never did finish the dang thing. When I re-read some of the scenes…yikes….awkward.
Easily avoided by: Setting up a writing schedule that’s consistent and compatible with your life. You’ve got to have some sort of schedule or else nothing will ever get done. But, let’s face it, if you’re a single mother with three kids who’s trying to punch out the next great American novel, you might not get to write everyday..unless you wake up at 3:00 a.m. that is. Whether it’s twice a week, everyday, or for a block of time each weekend, pick a schedule that you can stick to and go with it.