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If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?


If there’s one thing we can learn from history, it’s that everyone makes mistakes. These can be divided into two types. The first affects a lot of people, like when King Priam of Troy said, “Ooh look, those nice Greeks left us a present. Open the gates and bring it inside” or when Napoleon decided it was a good idea to invade Russia. Thankfully, for most of us, our mistakes fall into the second category, the kind that only hurts the person who makes it – like the lactose intolerant astronaut who has a double cheeseburger and milkshake just before a six-hour spacewalk.


Looking back to when I first started writing, I’d say my biggest mistake by far (and believe there were a lot of dumb things to choose from) was writing a novel without ever having written a short story (unless you count school, which I left at age sixteen, almost thirty years earlier), and without bothering to find out how it should be done. 


Back then, I’d never heard of ‘First drafts’, ‘POV’ or even ‘Show don’t tell’. I honestly thought all I needed to do after typing 'THE END' was run Spell-check and send it off to some lucky agent. To make matters worse, I didn’t even research how to write a query letter.


Boy was I in for a rude awakening


The one good thing that came from it was the realization that I didn’t know what I was doing, and if I ever wanted to be successful, I’d better wise up fast. I wasted hundreds, maybe thousands of hours, all because I didn’t have the sense to understand that good writing comes from constant practice and a willingness to learn. 


If I could turn back the clock, I don't think I'd stop myself from writing a novel, but I would definitely give myself a kick up the bum, along with instructions to learn about the craft by finding a couple of good writing groups, joining some online communities like the ones hear on Live Journal and studying books like Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass.


How about you?


If you could start your writing career again, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

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Nov. 11th, 2009 02:45 pm (UTC)
I don't think I would change anything about the start of my writing. In notepads, by longhand, I penned an incredibly long book that contained every writing sin known to the industry and I think I made up some of my own along the way. Of course, I thought it was to die for and typed it all out on an old typewriter. That drove the kids mad, because they couldn't play with the thing as the keys were all blank.

I duly sent this monstrocity to one of the major publishing houses that does not accept unsolicited submissions, (I had done no reasearch). They were kind enough to return the mess to me with a nice note saying this was not for them. Considering I had only included a s.a.s.e, this was pretty darn decent of them.

By the time it came back, we had acquired a pc, an old compac, but there was the web and I found the newly opened OWW. This is where I learned how to write and I most certainly did not put through the monstrous mess. That one is safely confined under my bed in the company of dust bunnies, where it will stay until the end of time, unseen by anyone.

Everyone is said to have a first book that is no good. Well that was mine. I had gotten it out of my system and gotten over myself by the time I joined OWW. I was a newbie and I was prepared to learn. I have made some life friends as a result of that decision and this is something I will always treasure.
Nov. 11th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
The one good thing about our mistakes is that they make good stories for when we're successful :)

I think the friends we make along the way, are just one of many priceless hidden benefits we get from trying to improve by reaching out to other writers, whether online or in a group.

Thanks for sharing :)

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

NJ writing conference - compressed

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