My One Mistake

I’ve made exactly one mistake in my writing career so far.

Please, I’ll continue when you stop laughing. *Jiggles foot*

Ok, let me draw a distinction for the purposes of this post…I’ve made countless errors – which are things like putting my foot in my mouth in front of famous agents (who me?!) or having no mastery over semicolons. But a mistake is another animal. To me it’s something that causes regret. Errors can be wiped clear with a sincere apology or a ninja copyeditor. Mistakes are things that stick with you, even if you get on the right course. See the difference?

I started to dabble in writing almost a decade ago, but it was a hobby. An endeavor I devoted an hour or two a week to…if nothing better was happening. At one point, I “finished” a novel. I “revised” it. I “learned” the industry via books and the web. I “queried” agents. I even sent “fulls” to several agents that requested them. But I did all of this in a vacuum. Only my wife, family, and closest friends knew that I wrote, much less that I was shopping a manuscript.

During this time, I ignored a single line of advice that arose time and time again in my research on how to become a writer: Network with other writers, they said. Go to conferences. Join writing groups. Make connections. In my head, I justified ignoring this because I was too busy – I read all the “how to” books – I didn’t know how to find a reputable critique group/conference/etc. In the end, I was scared. In my writing world (a very tiny pond), I was the biggest fish (the only one). Venturing into larger ponds with many more fish  would be a huge risk. So I went on for another couple years, growing fatter even as the pond dried up. I plateaued in my skill and what I could learn by myself. And I knew it.

This was my mistake. Not that I was fearful, that’s unavoidable when I (most of us) put ourselves out there. But responding to this fear by inaction is where I effed up. I regret those years that I could’ve been devoted to this passion that was under my nose. At the time, I loved the idea of writing…but I had no clue how much I would actually love writing.

But in December 2009, I went to a conference. So what changed? Did I suddenly smack my fear down? Did I learn that I need my writing community to prepare me to someday be published?

Nope. I went because of an error in my thinking. I believed I was ready for primetime. I went because there were some big shot agents that I could pay to sit in a room with. Who cared about the other writers? They were there to hoist me on their shoulders after these agents signed me.

It did not turn out how I imagined, for this was the fateful critique where the agent told me my writing made him want to shoot himself in the bleeping head. This was the conference where I met the Muses. This was the weekend where the hobbiest died and the writer was born.

Thinking about it now, maybe all those years of toiling were just me waiting in the wings for that conference because so much of my life changed over those couple of days. Maybe I shouldn’t regret that time at all.

Hmmm. Fine. I guess I’ve never made a mistake in my writing life.



So,I'm here Brett! Here's my question, when is the right time to find a critique partner? I know what I'm writing write now is crap. It's just the bones. Of course anyone I share it with is going to laugh at me and ask if my as yr old wrote it or worse. Do I start searching now when I know they'll laugh? I mean even I laugh the next day.


Hi Heather,
Personally, I think that ANY time is a good time to find a crit partner or group. It always helps to have someone read your work with objective eyes and give feedback on what does work and what doesn't. I'd suggest trying to find someone who's around the same level as you are. And don't think it's the blind leading the blind b/c you'll push each other in ways you never realized.
Good Luck!

Okay, but I'm coming crying to you when they laugh at me. I don't take laughing at me well!


Ha, ha, Bret! Even before I saw who wrote this, I figured it was you. FUn post!

PS- we met at YBB. I was the one who was fascinated with your "other" job!

Thanks, Carol...Guess I got on a Simpsons kick! Great to meet and hang out at YBB. Already going through conference withdrawal.

But, Heather, what if it's humor and they're laughing at that?

Having no mastery over your semicolons is not as bad as having no mastery over your colon. Just sayin'.

*Laughing too hard for witty reply*

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