Magazines and blogs about writing (including this one) are plumb full of advice on what to do to improve your writing and your chances of publication. On the other side of the coin, here’s a list of five things that will get in your way.
1. Not taking writing seriously
The first way you’re guaranteed failure is by simply not taking your writing seriously. If you continue to view your writing as just another hobby, it will eventually get lower and lower on your list of priorities.
If you’re serious about your writing, you must set daily writing goals, daily reading goals, and schedule time to write no matter what. Skipping even one day will set you back and could introduce the risk of one day becoming two days, and two days becoming three days.
2. Being afraid to start
Plotting out your novel before you start it is a good idea. Researching writing strategies early on is another good idea. Learning about marketing and publishing before you finish the novel may also be helpful. But it starts getting a little crazy if you’re suddenly designing covers to your book and sending out your synopsis to everyone you meet before you’ve actually written a word.
You can only stall for so long before you have to sit down and start writing, or you’ll lose interest in your novel faster than the people reading your constant synopsis revisions.
3. Confining yourself to one genre
This biggest reason to try multiple genres is that you really don’t know what you’re good at until you try it. Take me for an example. Stephen King and Whitley Strieber are two of my favorite authors, so I just made the assumption that horror would be my genre of choice.
While I still try horror, it’s often one of the most difficult genre for me to write and I’m rarely happy with what I produce when writing horror. I found out that I have the most fun writing urban fantasy and space opera, two genres that I’ve barely ever even read. In other words, try everything.
Find out what’s fun and what you’re good at and go with it.
4. Trying to jump on to the latest trend
Everyone uses the Twilight series as an example here, and while I hate to use that tired example here, it is difficult to ignore the fact that Barnes and Noble now has an entire section called “Paranormal Young Adult Romance.”
It is nice to see that books like the Twilight series are bringing in new readers and making a lot of authors rich, but if you try to copy them, you will fail. Among other things, by the time your novel is ready for an agent or publisher, they’ll no longer be looking for books in the current trend.
Traditional publishers could take up to two years to get your novel on the shelves and they know that by then the readers will already have moved on to the next big thing. So if you do have an idea that is too similar to the current popular books, figure out a way to make it unique enough to not be considered a cheap imitation of the real thing. Find what’s good and original in it, and trash the rest.
5. Letting rejections get you down
Finally, you need to be able to handle rejections. This is one of the hardest parts of writing, but you cannot take rejections personally. Every writer you can name will tell you that they have received hundreds or even thousands of rejections throughout their career.
When you receive a rejection letter, you have to remember that it doesn’t mean your story is bad, it means that of the hundreds of submissions the editor received, he can only pick a small number to accept. Your story happened to be in the majority that got turned down. It could mean that a similar story was already picked; it could mean the editor just couldn’t get into the characters. It could mean anything.
Don’t let it bother you. Just take any feedback you get and resubmit the story elsewhere.
To close out this post, I’d like to add that there are plenty of other reasons people fail at writing, but I picked these five because all five of them are things you can control and avoid as you improve as a writer.
What about you? What has held you back in the past from chasing your writing dreams?