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?