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5 Ways To Fail As A Writer

And what to do instead!

As a novelist, I’ve experienced a lot of failures in my writing career (I still have nightmares about the time I had to re-write half of my manuscript!) and I can safely say it’s par for the course. While it’s not pleasant (that’s British-speak for absolutely horrendous), the upside is that every failure has provided me with a valuable lesson. In this week’s blog post, I wanted to share some of the most common experiences that can negatively impact your writing journey along with some suggestions on what to do instead.

1. Ignore your intuition

Intuition can be a powerful thing - if we let it. Often, we will seek opinion and support from others such as writing groups, friends and family, or other authors which can be extremely helpful. However, if something doesn’t ring true for you, or simply feels off, don’t ignore it. I often refer to the example where I continued working on a manuscript which I knew (deep down) didn’t work. Or rather the story worked, but I wasn’t the person to write it.

Did I listen?

Nope, I continued writing, determined to make it happen, wasting a lot of time in the process.

2. Compare yourself

Social media is a magnifying glass of other writers’ success meaning it’s easy to feel like everyone is succeeding but you. However, we rarely see the rejections, the years of hard-work, sacrifice, and self-doubt. If you find yourself negatively comparing yourself to others rather than being inspired, remind yourself that you’re on your own writing journey and comparing yourself to others is a waste of energy. As Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

3. Start tomorrow

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to elaborate here! And yet, procrastinating is so easy to do. There’s always something else more urgent/enticing/relaxing that you can do instead. My formula to overcome this is to create a regular but easy writing schedule, respect your goals and show up for it, and implement a reward system.

4. Write to market

It’s impossible to predict whether a novel is going to do well. While market trends show certain genres are more popular than others, writing a story that you think the market wants is a little bit like buying a lottery ticket. I would advise writing the story that you want to write, mainly because you’ll have a much more enjoyable time doing it, and this will reflect in your work. I’m reminded of Alka Joshi’s advice, when starting a book. Make sure you know the answer to these three questions and refer to them often:

  1. Why am I writing this book?

  2. Why am I the best person to write this book?

  3. Why is now the best time to write this book?

5. Ignore creative burnout

I’m an incredibly practical person and have never waited for the muse to float down and sprinkle fairy dust on my keyboard. My belief has always been to simply get the words on paper. While I still don’t believe in fairy dust, I do have a lot more respect for creativity as a concept and never take it for granted. A lot changed when I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (if you haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it enough) and also when I experienced my own bout of creative burnout during the pandemic. I simply didn’t have the words and it was terrifying.

Still, I plowed on, writing with as much feeling as wilted lettuce. Needless to say those chapters didn’t make the cut. While I’m reluctant to jump on the #selfcare bandwagon, what I learnt from this time is that I needed to protect and nurture my creativity and recognise the difference between procrastination and needing a creative break.

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I'm Karen, a best-selling novelist who left her corporate life to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Since then, I've written everything from travel articles to web copy before winning a novel writing competition which led to a 3-book deal. 


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