I guess we should start with the ones I made: sending material out before it’s done, lack of proofreading, lack of patience. Patience is the big one, though. Writing takes time. You have to re-write and edit. You have to read things over and over. You have to be sure about what you’re trying to say.
I originally sold my book Saving Mary: The Possession (under a different title) to a large publishing house (back in 2002/03). Looking back, I see that I had originally sold a first draft; and as the publishing process chugged along, I became more and more uncomfortable about my book being released. It simply wasn’t finished, at least not in the way I meant for it to be done. My lack of focus (I personally think) transferred to the publishing house and I was soon faced with a problem: what I had meant to be a “personal memoir” had somehow turned into “Christian fiction.” Eventually I was allowed out of my contract so that I could rework the book as true memoir.
You see, I had changed my name (and the names of most people in the book) simply because I was uncomfortable with being in a book (I figured other people might be just as uncomfortable). I didn’t think this would be a problem since “A rose is a rose, by any other name.” But it was. First of all, you simply can’t be uncomfortable with being in a book if you want to write a memoir. You just have to get over yourself. This is your life: your experiences, your friends, your view. You have to own it.
The second problem was that the author of A Million Little Pieces had just been scolded by Oprah for not sticking to the rules of memoir. My publisher wanted to take no chances and so they switched my book to “fiction.” Without consulting me. So, with all this being said, make sure you finish your book, staying true to the vision you see and hear in your head.
The other big mistake I see writers making is showing their work to the wrong people. Not everyone should critique your work. Not everyone believes you can succeed as a writer. And too many opinions can confuse a new writer. Figure out what you want to say and then work at saying it as best you can.
Guest post by Deidre Havrelock
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