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  Excuses, Excuses... How to Guarantee Failure as a Writer
by Lee Masterson


During the course of trying to gather research for this article, I peered very closely at a number of best-selling authors. My aim was to pinpoint the things they have in common, the traits that stood out as being required to become successful.

I learned very quickly the only thing they all have in common is that they WRITE. They all have different reasons for writing, and they seem to hold different ideals for their career paths, but they all physically make time to write.

Not much information there, huh?

At the same time, I joined in the conversations on several mailing lists for writers. I also spent a lot of time reading and critiquing new authors on various workshops. During this stage of my research I spoke to aspiring writers from all over the world. I read some great work, and some not so great work, and I met some amazing people.

I freely admit that I have absolutely no idea how to tell who is going to make it and become famous in the publishing industry.

But I did learn to tell which writers will NOT make it!

These doomed writers are fairly easy to spot - once you know what to look for.

Spot the Excuse

"...but it's supposed to be slow-paced. I wanted the reader to think"
"...my character is supposed to be inconsistent."
"...you weren't reading it right. You misunderstood what I meant."
"...but I wanted to leave the readers in suspense."

There's nothing wrong with your story containing any of the elements above. What is important is that the reader must be able to understand why you wrote it that way.

For this reason, a writer who needs to make excuses for his or her writing is missing the point. The idea of writing a story is to be sure your writing conveys exactly what you want the reader to see. I'm not talking about describing every tiny thing that goes on in your fictional world. I mean write so that your words are clear enough to carry the picture you created with your imagination into the minds of your readers. If you feel the need to explain it, then you haven't achieved the goal of telling your story yet.

Remember, you're not going to get the chance to explain to a reader in another country that you meant something else.

Poor writers make excuses for their work. Good writers revise and polish their words until every point shines.

Have You Learned It All?

No matter how much advice becomes available, there's always more to learn about the craft of writing, about correct submission procedures and about the publishing industry. Yet I am amazed by how many would-be writers feel they don't need any further education. They believe they already have everything they need to write a blockbuster novel stored in their heads.

Refusal to learn about current trends, ignorance of changing requirements and a lack of regard for the advice from already-successful authors will mark you as an amateur.

Refreshing information you already know is not learning - but it is almost as important. It serves to strengthen the knowledge you already have.

A true writer never stops seeking new knowledge.

I'm Too Busy

"I'm too busy to write today."
"I'll write later."
"I'll get around to finishing my novel eventually."

There are thousands of writers with this same lament. And they're right - life is busy. There is never enough time to get everything done. But if you truly want to succeed at writing, you'll find the time.

I have a personal friend who has been writing the same novel for the past 12 years. I don't think he'll ever finish. He's too busy.

Of course, sacrificing fun things can be a drag, but if you are determined to be a published author, that determination must reflect in your choices.

If you want it enough, you'll sacrifice a few things and create the time to write.

Of course, if you don't want it that much, there's always another show on the television soon.

Don't Judge Me

At some point in every writer's life, their work is viewed by someone other than themselves. It's inevitable. You might decide to show your masterpiece to a friend or family member. Or you might take the plunge and join a workshop critique group.

Whichever option you take, remember that the readers are never judging you. They are only reacting to the words you offered to them and giving a viewpoint based upon the emotions you did or didn't invoke in them. That's all!

The ability to look at where your story is going wrong and offer advice should be treasured. If someone gives you an honest opinion of where your story isn't working for them, accept that viewpoint graciously. Don't slam the critiquer, or make excuses for what you wrote. Try to view your story through the eyes of the reader and understand for yourself why your point isn't getting across.

Don't edit your work to please that one reader, though. It is still your story. The reader may simply not have understood your meaning clearly enough. By clarifying what you meant to say, you do not need to alter your story - only the way you chose to tell it.

Learn from the reactions of your readers.

That's Not My Job!

"I don't have to worry about grammar or spelling. The editor will fix that."
"I don't want to revise it. It will change my story."

Nothing turns an editor off faster than a badly formatted, misspelled manuscript. Why guarantee yourself a rejection? If an editor can get past the initial manuscript, and finally asks you to revise it, then revise it.

Remember, an editor is on your side. If you make money, they make money. This means they WANT you to make money, so any changes they suggest are for your benefit too.

Do you still think you have what it takes to be a professional writer? I certainly hope so. Hold your chin up and believe that only you are capable of writing your story, your way. Have faith that you will succeed and learn from those who have preceded you.

But most of all, keep writing.

Copyright Lee Masterson. All Rights Reserved.


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