I often share writing tips and how I manage my writing career while juggling all my other responsibilities. But lest I come across as perfect and having my act together all the time, I decided to share some of the mistakes I’ve made too. Because I’m definitely NOT perfect. I've made plenty of mistakes. And I continue to struggle and grow every day.
Here are five mistakes that I’ve made over the past several years:
1. I’ve written too realistically.
I’ve had to do major rewrites on my first two published books, in part because I didn’t make my characters likable enough. For example, in my latest release, The Doctor’s Lady, my heroine travels to Oregon over a span of seven months using a sleigh, steamboat, and eventually a covered wagon. Had I been in her position, I would have whined and complained and been miserable about two days into the trip.
In my first draft, I shaped my heroine to react the way I would if I were in her shoes. But readers don’t want a whiny, complaining character. Yes, they want a slightly imperfect character who has room to grow. But the heroine (or hero) has to react to the problems the way we ideally would. In other words, we have to portray them the way we WISH we could handle problems, not the way we actually do (thanks to Jill Kemerer for that revelation!).
2. I’ve allowed myself to get too close to my story.
Invariably I fall in love with every first draft I write. With each book, I tell myself it’s the best I’ve written to date. And I falsely hope and believe that everyone else will read it and fall in love with it too.
But I’m realizing I’ve set my expectations too high. On each of the three books I’ve turned in to my publisher, my editors have not fallen immediately in love. In fact, they’ve given me tough critiques on each.
I have to accept that I can’t write a perfect first draft—and probably never will. I can keep growing and learning all I can and trying to improve. But ultimately, I’ll never reach the place where I’ll be able to go without constructive feedback on how to make the book better.
3. I wasn't prepared for the increase in my workload.
Early on, I naively believed that being a published author consisted primarily of writing books. And while it does, I’ve come to realize that the writing is only one aspect of a writing career. The job description of a modern writer is much bigger than I ever imagined and hence the workload is much bigger than I anticipated.
4. I had too high of expectations for the sales of my first book.
Every author dreams of having people ooh and aah over his or her book, of getting glowing reviews, and subsequently having tremendous sales that surprise and delight everyone at the publishing house.
Yes, I’m having an excellent response to both of my books (currently The Preacher’s Bridehas 90 five star reviews on Amazon.) And yes, my sales are successful for a debut author, but they aren’t close to what the big bestselling authors are bringing in.
Most debut authors can’t bypass the climb to success. We have to take it one rung at a time just like most of those bestselling authors did. We build our readerships slowly but surely with time and a lot of hard work.
5. I’d hoped that my marketing efforts could eventually decrease with subsequent books.
I was hoping as my readership grew that I’d eventually have to do less marketing and my books would sell without me having to go to so much work.
But as I’ve watched other authors and conversed with my agent, I’m realizing I can’t ever take my sales for granted. If I want to continue to expand my readership, I will need to keep an active role in marketing my books. Yes, even though my publisher does a top-notch job in promoting their authors, I still need to do my part—with each book.
So those are a few of my mistakes. Since I’ve fessed up, now it’s your turn! What mistakes have you made in your writing journey?