I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the past and I’m sure there are plenty more to come. They’ve ranged from the trivial (huh, no underpants today) to the life threatening (too many examples to list), but there’s one that’s been bugging me a lot lately, and I see a lot of new writers making the same mistake I did, so in the hope of saving everyone else some pain I thought I’d share it here:
My mistake was talking about things before I did them.
This has been a bad habit of mine for a long time. Often if I’m not sure about something I try to work it out by talking to people about it, but it’s particularly problematic when it comes to writing and social media.
Talking about writing online makes it feel like you’re working when you’re not. I’ve written well over a million words on social media and blogs that, while I’ve really enjoyed writing them, might have been time better spent on writing another novel or two. It’s also let me mentally slack off from my writing goals, subconsciously feeling like I’ve achieved what I needed to when I actually hadn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some amazing friends over social media (a surprising number of them evil), and I don’t think shying away from being online altogether would have been a good idea…however I do regret talking so much about writing before I’d even finished one book.
If you’re just starting out on this writing thing I do fully recommend you make yourself a social media presence, and even put together a blog, but don’t fall into the trap I did. Make sure your (fiction) writing comes first.
It’s for this reason I now limit what I write about online to things I’m at least semi qualified to talk about. If you need to know about editing, publishing and general book mayhem then the rest of the ELEW have got you covered…I’m just here to talk about the hows and whys of face punching and serve as a dire warning to others about how to mismanage your writing career.
There is a small caveat to this: If you’re writing short stories as well as novels you will be necessity have to dip your toes into the social media waters a little further than someone who’s focusing on writing a novel to the exclusion of all else. Magazines you submit to will want to see that you have at least some presence online, and having at least a small audience to pimp your stories too never hurts.
It’s been about seven years since I started taking this writing thing seriously (although depending on how you look at it, I could say that it might even be closer to ten, but that’s scary so let’s pretend it’s seven). In that time I’ve properly finished exactly one book. I’ve started plenty, and I’m closing in on book two because I’ve got a deadline (upcoming article: how to motivate yourself with the miracle of panic). There are a few reasons for this, but a big part of it is that I got into the online world too soon.
All of this is of course, just my perspective, so if anyone out there has a different view please let me know in the comments.