A new writer’s biggest mistake

First-time writers are fun. They are full of energy because they are crazy enthusiastic about the stories they are creating. I have found this particularly true of those who write fantasy. It is interesting what holds many of these writers back, and it is a problem they can overcome.

new writers big mistake

Some people think that the biggest problem with new writers is that they don’t edit their writing well, or that they don’t spend the time revising and changing things in the manuscript to craft a stronger story. But both of these things are symptoms of the bigger problem and the most common issue with writers who aspire to be published authors.

There are so many times that I have been approached by aspiring authors. They have many questions related to publishing, selling their work, and editing. I have been told that I am an approachable person and I do try to be. When someone has questions and enthusiasm for writing I want to help them. Writing and publishing are long, challenging processes filled with mystery to the outside observer. When possible I like to pull back the veil, revealing the ins and outs of the process so that others can more speedily learn what I struggled with.

Often, but not always, I run into an issue when this happens. The writer will ask for my advice and I will give it. But they are quick to dismiss what they don’t want to hear and zero in on what they want to hear. They have trouble accepting professional criticism.

A writer’s first work is going to lay the groundwork for their career. If you have taken professional criticism and polished your work it will make a good first impression on readers. But if you have not then you will lose readers’ trust, your work will barely sell, and your future writing career will prove even more difficult to build.

Professional criticism is the single biggest boon to an aspiring writer. If a writer is unwilling to humble themselves to accept criticism they will not grow, they will not improve their craft, and they will have little to no respect among their writing peers. Certainly they will hold no respect with publishing industry professionals.

I liken these writers to a vacationer making a mountain trek through the snow. Instead of following the footprints of their guide they choose to strike out on their own, seeking a better path.

It is foolish to neglect criticism and to listen only to what we want to hear. We only grow and improve when we are uncomfortable. It forces us to change things, it forces us to conform to a better way.

Certainly there is the challenge of retaining our own unique creativity, but ultimately writers are born not made and if we seek counsel from mentors accomplished in what we are endeavoring to do, we can succeed.

Find a guide who has gone before you and listen humble to their advice. If you want to be like them someday and succeed as they have you will need to listen to their advice.

Q: Do you look for mentors to help you grow in your life?


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Most obvious thing about me is how much I love reading and writing. This is truly my passion and has been for almost as long as I can remember. I know that sounds cliche, but it is true. Growing up in a conservative Christian home I learned to value God, intelligence, and life. I am always learning. I am a husband and a father of three young children. I love my family and my life. God is good and I attribute my success to His provision.

Great fantasy stories are a lot of fun. I write the stories that I want to read and am fortunate enough to have several published novels under my belt as well as more in the pipeline.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “A new writer’s biggest mistake

  1. Hey Scott!

    I was feeling extra nostalgic today and started poking around. This post is great, and I couldn’t agree more. At Kentucky’s Governor’s School for the Arts, they told us time and time again that successful writers have mentors. It’s an easy trend to see if you start looking. As writers and as people we need someone to cover our blind spots and mentor us.

    Just wanted to say, having you in my life (albeit virtually) for a couple years went a long way in developing me as a writer. I haven’t been able to read your work for some time, but your impact lasted beyond Swords of the Six & Offspring.

    I know you’ve been struggling to write lately, feeling tired and worn down, I have too. But hopefully it’s encouraging to hear that your work still influences somebody 5 or 6 years down the road…somebody as old as you were when you published SotS lol. Keep running the race!

    -Nathan

    • Hey Nathan,
      Your comment blew me away. I am so humbled and thankful that I have had an impact on you. You are a gifted writer in your own right. I still remember the novella you submitted to me and how much I loved it.
      Yes, I have been struggling. A lot of that has to do with how crazy this year in particular has been, especially with moving to South Carolina. Now that things are settling down I am looking forward to getting back on track with things.
      That’s so wierd that you’re as old as I was when we first met. LOL! Time has certainly flown :)
      Anyway, thank you for the encouragment. I really needed it today. And I hope someday soon we’ll be able to have some writer to writer time. Any time you want to stay with me and my family in Greenville SC be sure to let me know. I mean it. We’d love to have you.
      -Scott