Writing has been in my blood for decades. Words dance in my head from the moment I wake up to the moment my head drops onto the pillow. Successful as a writer for magazines, professional groups and web sites, I still long for success as a writer of the Great American Novel — a wonderful goal that, at my current rate, I will never reach.
Why? Because I persist in making all the mistakes that novice writers make starting with a common one — buying books — not reading or writing them. I consider this…
I am surrounded by books — on my desk, in the bookcase, on my nightstand, even in my car! Pick a day or an hour and you will find me with two or three books “in progress.” But somehow, with all that information filling every space in my rooms and in my head, this reader and writer has managed to ignore some of the best advice in the world. I buy books on writing…but I don’t read them.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s book Steering The Craft languishes on my shelf beside Artful Sentences, Writing Dialogue and Modus Operandi. I could start a lending library with all the books I own. But instead of reading them, I dust them , look fondly at the titles and think about cracking one open until life intercedes and the books go back to gathering dust and fading in the sunlight.
Well, they did until last week when I idly picked up James Cross Giblin‘s Guide to Writing Children’s Books. Giblin has authored twenty-five books of his own and in his years at Clarion Books helped grow its titles to 400 books in print. The man knows the children’s book market and he shares ideas, resources and just plain common sense advice in his guide.
I wrote my whole YA novel with that book sitting about six feet from my elbow. Three hundred pages, three rewrites and my novel is still in the “shopping” stage. Now, only two words dance in my head…if only.
So while I wrestle with the fact that I had insight and wisdom sitting on my shelf and chose to ignore it, here’s hoping that other, aspiring authors can learn from my mistake. Don’t just buy books – read them! Even the bad ones have something to offer.
There are many more writer’s mistakes to explore. In the coming weeks, a few more mistakes that can derail your writing and a few more ways to avoid them.