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5 Ways You Are Sabotaging Your Writing Career

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August 31, 2014 by Nathaniel Tower

Let’s get straight to the point: if you’re reading this, then you aren’t a best-selling author. Heck, you might not have even made your first sale yet. Luckily, there’s still plenty of time for you to turn your writing career around.broken_pencil

You might blame the publishers, the industry, or maybe even James Franco for your lack of success, but chances are that it’s mostly your fault. Here are five ways you are probably sabotaging your own writing career:

  1. Not Spending Enough Time on Your Best Stuff

When you feel like you’ve just written the best piece of your life, do you sit back and boast to yourself before sending it out to the biggest names in publishing? If so, knock it off. You need to spend more time working on making your best stuff even better. When you have something you feel is great, you need to make it brilliant. Great isn’t good enough to get you anywhere.

Many writers are too content when they feel like they’ve done a good job. They spend too much time trying to make bad stories good. Instead, always work with the best you have.

  1. Not Interacting Enough with the Writing Community

The days of being a reclusive genius are over. If you want to be a writer in today’s world, you need to establish a presence. This doesn’t just mean that you post frequently in your secret Facebook group of 13 disgruntled writers. No, you need to constantly interact with the writing community. Share links, buy books, leave reviews, ask for advice. If your writing strategy is removing yourself from the world, then you won’t ever get a foot in the door.

  1. Going for the Easiest Publication

Are you always lurking on Duotrope’s Top 25 Most Approachable Markets? Good luck ever breaking through as a writer. A publication credit is not a ticket to success. You need to challenge yourself, to go for the best publications you can get.

Of course, any publication can provide a great experience for you as a writer. But if your only goal is to get a few quick acceptances, then you need to get a new strategy.

  1. Using Ineffective Promotional Tactics

After you land that first small press book deal, you haven’t made it yet. Even an acceptance from a big publisher will require a lot of time and effort on self-promotion. If you want people to notice you, you have to give them something worth noticing. Posting “BUY MY BOOK” or “READ MY STORY” on Facebook and Twitter a few times per day isn’t going to get you anywhere except on everyone’s ignore list. When it comes to promoting your work, you need to think like a marketer. Book trailers, interviews, blog tours, readings, contests/giveaways, review requests, press releases, and much more are in your future if you want to succeed.

  1. Spreading Yourself Too Thin

If you want to be great at something, you can’t try to be good at everything. Something has to be your focus. How many famous novelists are also great poets, journalists, playwrights, artists, musicians, publishers, and auto mechanics? While there might be an outlier somewhere in the history of the universe, you are not going to be that outlier. You need to pick your pursuits and put in the time. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you can really master something. If you want to master 10 trades, you’re looking at 100,000 hours. That’s over 11 years of non-stop practice (which will be more like 111 years if you have a family, a day job, and a desire to eat or sleep). Naturally, you shouldn’t put all your proverbial eggs in one basket either, but having specific goals requires specific focus. If you want to write the next great American novel, you have to work on writing it more than you work on anything else.

Are you sabotaging your own writing career? Share the biggest self-created obstacles you are facing in your writing pursuits.

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8 thoughts on “5 Ways You Are Sabotaging Your Writing Career

  1. As always, Nate, you are spot on with your observations. I especially like Numbers 2 and 4. Thanks for writing this!

  2. Gargi Mehra says:

    Great post, Nathan. Point 3 and 5 are especially important for me.

    • Thanks for the comment, Gargi. Interesting that the most important points for you are completely different from a previous commenter. I think this just shows that we have a lot of ways of sabotaging ourselves.

  3. mckradio2013 says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your observations. Writing requires a full frontal assault on all levels. It is not an easy world for the writer (if it ever was). Yes, authors have to be marketers, too, and that takes away from time that might be better invested in the writing experience. Publishers need to do a better job as well.

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