5 Mistakes Middling Writers Make

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A middling writer has moved past newbie mistakes. They've learned about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. They may have a published work, a creative writing degree, or an agent. But they have yet to really break in. I consider myself on the high end of this stage, and have suffered from many of these maladies myself.

1. Quitting. Mostly I see this happen because writers feel stuck. They've sent out a few queries to no avail. They've done a few things to further their writing careers (maybe read craft books, joined a crit group, etc), but are unwilling to invest further. Or they simply can't take it anymore. It's just not worth it. After all, this is a tough business.

This is what I call the 'weed out stage.' This is where people who write for the passion of it hang on, and those that are so so find something else to do with their time. Maybe it's for the best. But for those who couldn't give up writing if they wanted to, it's validation that this is really what you're meant to do.

2. Fear of failure. This manifests itself in many ways. I've seen 'closet writers.' People who are afraid to go to conferences because they can't possibly put themselves on the same level as 'real' writers. People who refuse to invest the time, money, and effort. Even people who are afraid of changes--changes like success. But mostly it's the people who want it so badly that they don't even dare try, or fail to push themselves. Because if they fail, they can't live with that (I was one of you once).

These people write, but never with their whole hearts.
3. Laziness. To be a writer, you have to be internally driven. You have to make yourself write. And keep writing. And keep learning. Writing is a lot of work. Work no one is paying you for. Work no one is pushing you to do. Sometimes life interfers, throwing you a curve ball you don't recover from. After the initial love affair dwindles, many just fade away.
4. Frustration. I've seen authors quit because of anger. Anger at rejection. Anger at all the 'time they've wasted.' Anger with the publishing system. This anger colors their writing to the point it kills the writer's joy. When this happens, take a step back and write for the fun of it. Never forget why you write. You write because you love it. If that ever changes, switch careers.
5. Writing what will sell, instead of what speaks to your heart. I've seen writers try so hard to come up with something different. Something new. Something that will sell. It almost never works (in fiction). Often, the ideas are weird. The writing forced. You have to write what you love. Period.

Q4U: What challenges have you faced in your writing career?


  1. My biggest challenge is finding time to write. Now that the twins will be off to preschool twice a week, I should be able to get a few pages written.

    I've never heard the term middling writers before... Huh.

    Lynnette Labelle

  1. I have faced all these challenges before. Writing is hard. Period! I'm certainly trying to avoid the pitfalls you've outlined.

  1. Time. Because I have children, and in a eye-blink they're older. Their time with me now is so precious.

    I also struggle with English, on occasion.

  1. Josi said...:

    I can attest to the fact that these things never go away. As your career progresses you gain confidence, but new pressures and stresses find you. My biggest problem right now is figuring out my story. I'm not an outliner, and I always meander a bit, but I am stuck with the last thirty pages of the book to go and I can't find my way out. The challenge has brought four of your five things to the forefront--the only thing I'm not doing is is quitting, but the other four are front and center. Wish me luck!

  1. Loved this post! In my writing career I've found that I tend to have troubles finding the time to write. I always want to but since I'm still in university, I have to try and find a balance between school work and work I actually want to do! It's hard, but I think I'm succeeding so far. I generally write like crazy during the weekends and then trudge my way back into school work on Monday morning.

  1. Lynnette: I understand. Between my three kids, sometimes it feels like I spend more time trying to get them to leave me alone than I actually to writing.
    As for middling, I figure I'm a creative person. Therefore, I can create words. ;)

    Glamis: I agree.

    Anthony: I'd never have guessed you struggle with English. Your comments read very natural.

    Josi: I wish you luck. If you need an ear to sound ideas off of, let me know.

    Natalie: I graduated from a university in 04. I think it is easier now, just because my brain isn't on reading/writing overload. but I still really struggle to find the time. Maybe that never changes.

    Thanks for all your comments!

  1. Unknown said...:

    I am glad I ran across your blog. I also have a blog on blogger. I love to write about real life, mostly my own. I don't know if my life will ever sell or make me rich and famous, but it's more about putting myself on the line to help people. If something I have been through and put in my blog helps someone. Then my blog is a success. I get a lot of comments by way of messages on Facebook, and have a hand full of readers. Maybe you can check out my blog some time and let me know what you think. I have considered trying to write more seriously but sometimes wonder if I even have any raw talent.

    Thanks for your blog...everything I have found in it to this point is really helpful, as far as writing tips go. :)

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...