Here are a couple of mine.
Asking for Feedback on the First Draft
The root of this particular error was assuming that writing a novel consisted of just, well, writing it. I’d not appreciated the many phases in its development, nor the multiple disciplines I needed to become skilled at, besides the obvious one of creating the initial manuscript.
I wonder how many beginners realise that, to produce a novel, or indeed any other piece of work, you’ll need to:
- Do the writing. Well, yeah, but also…
- Create time lines,
- Draw maps and other diagrams,
- Create character profiles,
- Write outlines and synopses,
- Maintain these things along with the manuscript,
- Proof read,
- Edit (many times),
- Get feedback from others, including eventual professional assistance.
The above list is not exhaustive. Neither is it a recipe in which all ingredients are always needed. Nor is the order of execution fixed, though some things clearly depend on others.
My mistake was to do only the creative writing and then ship the first draft of the manuscript to my friends and family. This, as I’ve now come to know, has several issues:
- The first draft of anything is crap.
- Friends and family will be too forgiving. Mostly.
- If you think that’s all there is to it, then rejection and demoralisation follow quickly.
In my day job as a software developer, I’m frequently horrified when people, particularly influential ones like teachers and politicians, consider this to be just “coding”. Trust me, it isn’t. There’s a list of software development activities that’s analogous to the one with the bullet points above.
Despite knowing this, my initial approach to writing was sadly naive.
Too Much Available on my Website
My website has quite a bit of my writing work on it, freely and publicly available to read. When I posted the pieces, quite some time ago, I’d not appreciated that such work is deemed to be self-published.
The knock-on effect of this, is that I cannot try to publish them anywhere else in the future. They’re eternally consigned to being what they are now.
At this point, you might be thinking: why didn’t/don’t you take them down from the website? The answer is that you can’t ever truly remove things from the internet. There will always be a copy somewhere, e.g. the “Wayback Machine“, so the damage is done.
Oh well, I’ll just treat them as practice exercises.
What mistakes did you make, or narrowly avoid, when you started out?