I wouldn’t normally recommend taking around three years to finish a book, but that’s how long my latest appears to have taken me. What can I blame? Absence of editor breathing down my neck? No deadline to meet? Other work demanding daily attention? All of those things.
Once I’d got into the swing of this blog, it seemed reasonable to wonder whether there may be a book in it and its basic premise. I took a proposal for 101 Mistakes Writers Make to a few commissioning editors, with a few sniffs of interest, but no firm offers. It was Simon Whaley who first suggested an ebook to me, and although I was ambivalent at first, very gradually I warmed to it and the benefits of e-publishing. The final product could be shorter, produced quicker — and bought cheaper. And although I’m always banging on about publishing being a ‘team sport’, I secretly rather liked the idea of going it mostly alone — and that I’d be free to make my own writing mistakes in a book about writing mistakes.
Structure was required. Blog posts can be ad hoc: jumping from a lesson on the apostrophe (#26) to one on broaching money with a commissioning editor (#27) is fine. But readers investing in a book deserve a smooth journey from A to Z, stopping off at at least some expected letters of the alphabet, and in the right order.
So I began at the beginning — for beginners. The most fundamental error to my mind is to believe that errors are bad, so that was always going to get #1 billing. Following that come those mistakes in writers’ heads before they so much as begin to write: That it’s going to be easy! That they’re going to get rich! That they’re going to do it all by themselves! That all they need to do is write! And from there, it’s the importance of reading, and of market research; it’s how to come up with ideas, structure an article, approach editors; it’s coping with the hurdles, it’s picking oneself up after one has taken you down; it’s understanding the business basics of publishing, of producing work that is destined for publication.
The result is 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make — 20,000 words of advice I hope writers new and aspiring will find supportive and practical enough to get them started. Some mistakes from the vaults are given a fresh spin, but most of the 50 are entirely new. I hope that if you’ve found this blog useful in the past, but are looking for more structured and sequential guidance, then the book might help you.
And if you do read it and find some bloopers, I trust you’ll delight in telling me about them!