6 New Writer Mistakes to Avoid - #WriteTip #GetPublished


QUOTE: “Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.” —Anne Lamott
Today, I’d like to share something horribly embarrassing to actually admit. I’m always telling my kids to “own their mistakes” and yet…I can’t even own one of the biggest mistakes of my writing career.


The reason I’m finally sharing this with you is because I’ve met so many new writers who’ve made similar blunders as I did years ago, and I want to save them the same embarrassment and to also let other writers know that they’re not alone. 

Self-doubt and negative criticism can be crippling if you let it...

This is hard for me to admit, but over ten years ago, I published some fiction under a different pen name so atrociously written—oh, those ugly, disjointed messes of storytelling—that the books might make a list of the some of the most horrible fiction ever published.


Many years ago, I made every mistake that a first-time writer can possibly make, and then in my choices of publishers along my writing journey (seriously—it took me three years of studying and honing my craft to see my obvious blunders...) to realize that I had a lot to learn.  

The obvious solution? 

Take my epic failures and focus them into a positive plan for success!

Now I have closed that chapter on my life for good. I am humbled and grateful for the learning experience, and since writing under a new pen name, I have finally found the success that I've worked so hard for all these years.

The fact is that there are very few things that I’m proud of in those novels. The books I published in the early 2000’s by a POD publisher could choke an elephant with all the purple prose, and please don’t even get me started on the scathing reviews. Reviews so hurtful, mocking, and critical that I bet most writers might never have written another word again.  

Now I just look at them as a learning curve.

And I applaud these writers! These authors are brave enough to read their negative reviews out loud: Authors Read 1-Star Reviews and Mean Reviews and Negative Reviews and Authors Read Their Own Reviews

Even now, I still feel such shame over those craptastic publications, and if I could, I would burn every book in existence. The publisher was a terrible experience, too because they were unprofessional, deceiving, and even keep royalties from me. 

It took me awhile, but once I realized that I still had a great deal to learn about writing and the publishing industry, it only fueled my burning desire to get better. It is not easy to read scathing feedback on our work, but a writer can either view negative remarks or reviews as failures, or use them to motivate to craft a better book. 

Use the harshest criticism to inspire you to take your skills to the next level, like I did. One thing that I learned about myself is that I am not a quitter. 👍

Eating a big slice of humble pie and using those terrible experiences to maximize my potential as a writer opened me up to take a step back and reevaluate my creative writing process. Having an open mind and a willingness to learn from our mistakes will only help us grow as writers. Don't give up!


Even though my perviously published books were pretty awful and the reviews were humiliating…I never gave up my love of writing. It only made me more determined to get better at my craft. Writing is in my blood. It’s my passion and my dream. The most important thing I learned about myself on that painful journey is that I didn’t give up on my dreams. I continued to write and learn from my many mistakes.

A writer should always be moving forward and trying to better themselves.

Even reviews that feel like personal attacks should be ignored. Don't engage with reviewers who comment negatively on your work. Read the reviews of other popular or successful novelists because everyone gets negative reviews. Even poor Tyra Banks, who I like. Or your book could be listed on the The 10 Worst-Ranked Books on Amazon  or check out the overwhelming nasty reviews on "You've Been Warned" by bestselling author James Patterson, and his co-writer, Howard Roughan

My point is, every writer gets negative reviews and criticism. Not everyone is going to like your writing style, and you shouldn't make changes to a book based on negative reviews or harsh feedback unless you know deep down in your heart that it'll make the story better. And it's never too late to hire an editor and fix issues within a storyline, and republish. 

Are the stories I’ve published under Sherry Soule perfect? 

No. But they are a helluva lot better than what I was writing under the Pen Name of Shame because I keep striving to learn and be a better writer.

Do the novels that I’ve published over the last six years still break a few “writing rules”? 

No and yes. In this industry, a writer never stops learning. And I still love discovering new ways to be a better storyteller and gaining handy tools to put into my writer’ toolbox. 

The hardest part for any writer is getting past all the self-doubt, negativity, and rejection. With the Internet anyone can be publicly flogged by critics and reviewers, which can feel devastating. Even to the point of "author bashing" and cyber-bullying. 

For those self-published writers out there who are beginning to lose hope of fulfilling your dreams, don’t give up just yet. All of those mistakes you've made along your career path will only make you a stronger person like it did for me. 

The only way to ensure success as a writer is to remain determined to improve your writing skills in the face of seemingly difficult obstacles or even painful rejection.


Even though, I have over fifteen years of experience on all sides of the publishing industry, I’m still learning and studying the craft. I was a Creative Writing major in college, and I once owned an eBook publishing company where I edited over a hundred manuscripts. Then I worked as a developmental editor for another publisher, and in the last five years, I’ve even had the honor of editing books for a number of bestselling authors. 

Currently, I’ve written about eleven fiction novels and six nonfiction titles, but it wasn’t until 2015 that I had a small measure of success. Many of my books have spent time on the 100 Kindle bestseller lists and some of my fiction has been chosen as top picks in the “Best Paranormal Romance” categories at several prominent review sites, but I didn't get there overnight.

So without further ado, here is a short list of blunders I made as a new writer and I hope you gleam some insight from my wisdom…

QUOTE: “Be daring, take on anything. Don’t labor over little cameo works in which every word is to be perfect. Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, but only content will stay in his mind.” —bestselling author, Joyce Carol Oates

#1 Mistake 

When I was first starting out, I did not hire a good developmental editor. This is one big reason that self-publishing gets such a bad rap. Most new writers forego hiring an editor, or if they do work with one, then they ignore a lot of their valuable advice. 

Do yourself a favor and save up to invest in a professional editor!

Save up some money and work with a professional editor because it can be an amazing learning experience that takes your writing skills to the next level.

A lot of writers can’t afford to hire a professional editor, so I suggest finding a good critique partner or a writing group to exchange chapters with to polish up their stories to perfection once they finish a draft or two. 

This post on blog can you help you find a Critique Partner.

Also, I suggest reading and studying the bestselling Fiction Writing Tools series on Amazon.

QUOTE: “Whenever I’m asked what advice I have for young writers, I always say that the first thing is to read, and to read a lot. The second thing is to write. And the third thing, which I think is absolutely vital, is to tell stories and listen closely to the stories you’re being told.” —bestselling author, John Green


#2 Mistake

Publishing too soon. (Unfortunately, I’ve made this mistake more than once.) 

This is when a writer self-publishes a work before it has been properly edited or revised. Or they submit to agents and publishing editors, but the story isn’t polished and needs further revision. 

In both cases, the writer has created an unsatisfying storyline that readers won’t bother to finish, and then those same unsatisfied readers will leave negative reviews, or the writer will get repeated rejection letters from agents.

Please do not rush to publish your book or start submitting until it has been heavily revised!

Best-selling author, Tracy Hickman was quoted as saying, “Don’t seek to be published, seek to be read.”

I’ve written a lot of books. Some good, and some, well, not so good. Looking back over my early career, I know what I did wrong. I didn’t have any critique partners. The manuscript wasn’t tightened up and polished enough. I didn’t hire a professional, freelance editor. 

A first or second draft should never, ever be what a writer self-publishes. As a matter of fact, the first draft or two should be ruthlessly edited. Personally, I do at least ten or more drafts on my own fiction stories. 


#3 Mistake

Not doing enough research. 

This means studying the craft with a lot of passion and with an open heart and mind. So many writers don’t take any writing courses, or even read the genre that they’re writing. (I come across this a LOT. How can you possibly write a good story in a genre that you don’t even read?)

This also means also doing your homework on publishers, agents, and small presses. Check out forums, search online, and read up on publishing contracts before you sign anything. 

Please, let me repeat, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING until you’ve done some research on the agent or publisher. There are a lot of scammers out there, so proceed with caution.

QUOTE: “The most important thing for any aspiring writer, I think, is to read! And not just the sort of thing you’re trying to write, be that fantasy, SF, comic books, whatever. You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy, SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, erotica, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones — what not to do.)” - bestselling author, George R. R. Martin


#4 Mistake

Don’t publish a first or second, or even the third draft of your novel. 

I come across so many writers planning to self-publish, who have a lot of potential, but they are also lazy. Yup, I said it. They are too lazy to revise or do a few more drafts on their work before publishing it. Almost every single writer that I've worked with as a Creativity Coach has published their book before it was ready.

Please do yourself a favor, and keep self-editing your novel and find some critique partners. (Do NOT use friends or family. They might be great for the ego, but if they’re not writers or editors, they can’t offer constructive criticism.) Trust me, you’ll be able to catch plot holes and mistakes if you have a fresh pair of eyes on your work. 

Plus, you really learn a lot about your own writing when you critique other writer’s stories. Many times I’ll catch something that my CP was doing, and then wonder, am I doing it, too? Then I check my MS and find that I’ve made the same offense.

So don’t rush to publish the story on Amazon or send it off to a literary agent just yet. 

As professional editor, Janell E. Robisch advices:

Basically, writers need to build up a cycle of Write–Revise–Publish–Promote for all of their self-published titles and overlap them something like this:
1. Write first draft of Title 1.
2. Write first draft of Title 2.
3. Self-edit Title 1.
4. Send Title 1 out to alpha readers.
5. Self-edit Title 2.
6. Send Title 2 out to alpha readers.
7. Review alpha reader feedback on Title 1 and self-edit again.
8. … and on and on, working in a third or fourth title as you wish.

*Revise is not a single step. It includes self-editing, getting the help of alpha/beta readers and/or critique partners, and hiring a professional editor and proofreader along with lots and lots of revision on your part. I didn’t say this was going to be easy. Read the entire series on her blog HERE


#5 Mistake

Ask for help and advice...

Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes. Think of them as a learning curve and move on. Because to improve at anything you do in life, you must make a few mistakes along the way. Everybody starts as a novice writer. You must accept and acknowledge that as you hone your skills, because your first few endeavors might suck. My first drafts are still ugly, raw hot messes that need lots and lots of TLC. So don't be afraid to ask for help or advice from other writers or editors.

Fiction writers should never stop studying because they’ll gain an arsenal of creative knowledge to include in their writer’s toolbox.   

Developing your writing skills takes time and practice. You must read a lot of books in the genre that you want to write, study creative writing, and always be open to learning. I have been a writer for over fifteen years and I’m still learning new things that help me to improve my craft. And because I’m open-minded and receptive to construction criticism, I feel that I am still growing as a writer.

#6 Mistake

Self-published writers should seek marketing advice and learn more about book promotion...

If you're self-published and your books are not selling, it could be a number of issues that can be easily fixed most of the time, as long as the writing is solid. Sometimes all a writer needs is someone to review their author platform, which is the website, book covers, author Bio, social media, etc. to offer suggestions on ways to boost sales. However, this ONLY works if you're open to constructive criticism and have an eager willingness to revamp your "author branding" to find success. 

Writers must keep learning, keep studying the market, and also never stop studying creative writing techniques. 

That’s one reason I started writing my fiction guidebooks. My goal is always for writers to come away with stronger writing and better self-editing abilities.

Lots of people will tell you not to give up on your dreams, which is nice advice, but without an open heart and mind, along with a determination to succeed, you'll keep making mistakes. 


If I had given up after all of those terrible experiences early on in my writing career, then I think I would have a gaping hole in my soul that could never be filled. Instead of giving up, I started over under a new pen name and learned from my mistakes. I studied the craft through guidebooks, reading blogs, and taking fiction courses. I found some wonderful critique partners to work with and learn from. I also hired better developmental editors and gained new insight from their feedback on how to improve. I practiced writing and honing my skills. 

Am I a better writer because of my persistence, years of study, and determination? 

I'd say yes. But I still have a lot learn... 😃


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