There are endless lists of what aspiring novelists should DO to become successful. But what about the “DON’T DOs”? Knowing them can be just as valuable to you for getting the right kind of writing done.
Below are 10 destructive behaviors. Avoid them, and you’ll keep your prose on target while boosting your output.
- Don’t: Talk about your writing with anyone who will listen.
Better to save your writing “juice” for the writing itself. The more you talk about your story or novel, the less magical and original it becomes to you. By sharing your creative vision you invite comment and suggestions. As you process them, your perfect, creative house of cards starts to shift and sway.
“Well, she seemed like a good character, but now I see she might…”
Finish your novel and then talk about. It was a wise man that said, “Writing is a solitary craft.”
- Don’t: Set up a writing blog and spend many hours on it.
Not a bad idea—if there were more than 24 hours in a day.
One of writers’ challenges is the struggle to find the time among each day’s demands to practice their craft. No question that a blog provides a powerful online marketing tool that can drive traffic to your web site, increase sales, and more. Yet blog maintenance can quickly morph to an ugly time parasite, and soon dust starts collecting on the writing keyboard…
Be judicious with your blogging minutes. Your writing will move along faster for it.
- Don’t: Attend many writers’ groups.
Who goes to writers’ groups? People like you with egos like yours. All have your dream of success. All would like encouragement and a lot of positive stroking. All want to talk about their novels, too. Your novel? Not so much.
No question that socializing with others with common goals stiffens the spine of your determination and may offer opportunities to advance your fiction. Nonetheless, hearing about others’ projects and talking about your own doesn’t get the writing done.
- Don’t: Write only when inspiration strikes.
Iconic University of Pittsburgh writing professor Montgomery Culver said, “The ability to write is far more common than the ability to sit down and do it.”
That is the primary reason why so many truly talented folks never make it to worthwhile publication. Inspiration? Forget about it! Successful writers sit down every day and “open a vein,” as the saying goes.
Facing that empty screen or sheet and going doggedly ahead, despite a host of distractions, is the only Open Sesame! to success.
- Don’t: Use your novel to get even with certain people or institutions.
Have you ever thought that you, along with Stephen Spielberg, are in the entertainment business?
Has life been unfair to you? Your readers would care only if you manipulate those unhappy moments to create an interesting story. Filling your pages with Mary’s treachery and Ed’s bad judgment during your love affair or how you really deserved tenure more than Mr. Smartguy provides instant NyQuil for your readers.
Need to vent? Find a psychiatrist.
- Don’t: Include extensive expressions of your political view and religious faith.
There is nothing more powerful than human belief. Armed with it, individuals can lift themselves to greatness or sink to heinous crimes.
Possibly you are a strong believer. Believers work to make others agree with them. But there are countless avenues through which you can do your persuading. Your novels should not be one of them. Your job is to tell a compelling story that keeps the reader’s attention. Proselytize elsewhere.
- Don’t: Show off your education.
Give a newbie a novel-writing forum, and down drifts magic dust that compels that person to show off.
Out the window goes the tried and true, serviceable English word. Enter those found only in the Oxford English Dictionary. Unneeded debris accumulated through years of too much reading and study appears in the form of epigrams, flowery phrases, lengthy descriptions and references to politicians and philosophers long under sod. All this does is muddy the verbal waters and irritate your readers.
Keep it simple!
- Don’t: Make the story line a secondary feature of your novel.
Something in the human brain’s wiring resonates to beginnings, middles and ends—the narrative line, also known as, “What happens next?”
Stray from plot or story line at your peril. More so in our 21st century when attention spans steadily shrink and impatience expands. Only the most skillful writer can hold a reader’s attention while the story line languishes. Unfortunately, odds are you are not one of them.
Make story number one—always!
- Don’t: Neglect spelling and grammar.
It doesn’t matter how expensive the roses were if they arrived in an ugly box.
Those annoying wriggly marks and the “‘i’ after ‘e'” stuff are part of the packaging of your ideas. Poor performance with them suggests other shortcomings in your prose.
Take the time to get the mechanics right. With access to the Internet grammar and punctuation sites, you have no excuse for using “it’s” as a possessive pronoun.
- Don’t: Expect easy and early success.
Ever wonder why there are so many ads for fiction ghostwriters? It’s because few are willing to take the time to accumulate the skills required for competent writing. Concert pianists didn’t sit down for the first time and play Mozart sonatas. Writing is not different. It’s hard to learn. If you’re serious about your craft, settle in for a marathon.
Elude these 10 snares and you’ll find you have fewer distractions, more time to write, and a clearer idea of appropriate topics. You’ll also be on the way to forming positive creative habits that will serve you for the rest of your writing life. Now go write!