Deadly Sins of Newbie Authors

Even with the very best of intentions we all are guilty from time to time of that most awful of sins – procrastination. I don’t think procrastination is listed as one of the seven deadly sins, but for authors, it very much should be.

When I managed to get my first book published I proclaimed myself to now be a full-time writer and embarked on my stellar and glittering literary career. Like so many before me I had visions of overnight success and instant discovery by an adoring public, but as we all know for the bulk of us promoting your work in an endless sea of new books daily is a daunting and at times seemingly unrewarding task. I haven’t lost my initial enthusiasm, my love of what I do or my passion for writing – I still think I’ll be an overnight success. I just haven’t yet figured out on what particular night this success will occur. When I suss it out, I’ll definitely let you know.   

No matter what we choose to devote our lives to, there are always tasks that we don’t really want to do and there are always a million and one ways we can invent to avoid or put off these tasks. If all else fails – we can always console ourselves with the argument that “hey life gets in the way sometimes.”  In my experience it is actually US that gets in the way of what we should be doing.

So what devious little plans have you come up with to put off doing the things you should be doing? I’ll share some of mine, that continue to frustrate and hinder my efforts.

1/ Hiding within Social Media: 

As a new author you are constantly reminded that you need to be promoting your product – you need to be building a platform – you need to be reaching out to readers. How do you do that? Through Social Media of course. Now I would be the absolute last person in the world to lambast Social Media. For new authors and especially self-published authors, Social Media and that monolithic monster Amazon are the two reasons why we have an opportunity to actually be full-time authors. No, Social Media is an absolute must for us, but it can also be a comforting and readily available excuse for us not to write when we should be.

When I am actually writing, I do still find myself checking Facebook and Twitter regularly to see if there are any updates on my feeds. I’m sure you know exactly what it is like. You feel tired – you need a break, so you tell yourself I’ll just check it there is anything important on FB. An hour later you beat yourself over the head with a wet newspaper for just wasting the last hour when you should have been writing.

My number one advice to all newbie authors – when you have set aside time to write, then damn well write. If you need a break, get up, walk around, pat the cat or the dog, step outside and get a breath of fresh air – but DO NOT check your social media accounts or your email accounts. When you are writing I would suggest that all other windows on your device are closed. Writing time is just way too precious to waste and guess what – WRITING IS WHAT A WRITER DOES! No excuses!

2/ Checking Your Sales Ranking on Amazon too often!

I don’t know if this is a problem for everyone, but for me, it is very much a compulsive thing and one that invariably can change my mood. Just because Amazon updates their numbers every hour it doesn’t mean you have to check it every hour.

I am guilty of doing this way too much. I always tell myself I’m checking to see if there are any new reviews that I can use for my marketing efforts, but I can never resist flicking down the page to see what my current ranking is. The reality is though that 90% of the time I am disappointed. I’m sure that’s not the case for some authors, but for most newbie authors it can be a depressing and disappointing statistic. Writing, publishing and selling books is a long-term prospect and for me personally it is what I intend doing for the rest of my life. What the hell then does it matter what my ranking is at any given point in time?

My advice is simply ignore it and don’t check it very often at all. Focus on the reasons you are writing; the love of it, the passion of it, the need to do it. I’ve often said even if nobody bought my books, I’d still be writing. Well, if I mean that I must make my actions match my words. Until you are an established, known author, focus on what you do best and what makes you happy – writing!

 3/ Not setting aside a designated writing time: 

Yes, I know that life does sometimes get in the way. It does for me too, but if you want to indulge your passion and do what you love, then you owe it to yourself to set aside a designated time and place for you to write. It’s not about inspiration (I know sometimes the inspiration can strike at 3am in the morning), what it is about is discipline. Especially if you aspire to be a full-time writer like me, you must treat it like a “real job”. Albeit a real job that you love and that fills you with joy. If you want people to respect what you do as a career, then you must act professionally.

The way I do this for myself is that I allocate every morning solely for writing. While, it doesn’t always work out exactly that way I try to ensure that I do write every day for a minimum of three hours, preferably four. For me this is enough and it gets the output I believe I require to be satisfied. Don’t get sucked into the idea that you need to complete your novel or book in a weekend or two – it just doesn’t work that way. Quality requires dedication, determination and effort – as in all aspects of life.

My final comment on this particular thought is this: If writing is your number one passion and joy in life then don’t you owe it to yourself to give it the time it and you deserve?

 4/ Not being supportive of others or humble in success

I’ve found very quickly in this world that some authors are incredibly supportive of each other and will bend over backwards to help fellow fledgling authors. Perhaps this is the greatest strength of the “Indie” writer network. We each know how incredibly hard it is for us to break into this industry and make it a full-time career, so we are willing to help others when they need it. It’s definitely one of the things I love about the group of authors I currently interact with.

Along with all the wonderful people in this industry there are, of course, the braggarts and the belittlers. I think Mark Twain said it best when he said; “Keep away from small people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can be great.” I love that and those great people are the ones I try to surround myself with. They may not be successful – YET! but they are great people and they support one another wonderfully.

I love reading when an author has achieved something special; an award, a high ranking, or an excellent review. One reason I love it is that it tells me that I too can achieve those things. My plea to everyone though is when you are successful, don’t forget what it was like to struggle. Be humble and be respectful of others and never lord it over them.

 5/ Being a loner: 

Yes, writing it has been said over and over again is a lonely profession and there is some real truth to that. It is quite likely that your spouse, your children, and your friends don’t understand what it is like to have a head full of characters, ideas, murder plots and many other crazy things. The worst thing you can do is to isolate yourself in your own cocoon of your literary world.

We are social animals and we need to interact with others, especially others that understand us and think the way we do. This is where Social Media comes to the fore and this is what it really was meant to achieve. Join Author’s groups on FB, Google, Goodreads, wherever, but interact and most importantly of all…don’t do it to promote your book(s). There are countless groups out there that will allow you to do all the promotion your little heart desires, but your soul needs to talk, to communicate with, and to discuss with other real people the things that matter most to you.

History is littered with the corpses of mad writers who so lost themselves in their own heads that they forgot what was important in life – people. Thank the Lord for Social Media.

6/ Sweating the Editing:

If like me, you are forced to do your own editing, it can become a tiresome and at times a self-defeating task. In a perfect world we would finish our  book, send it of to our editor and forget all about it – starting straight away on our next project. Not an option yet for me, so I have to edit. In my experience editing takes longer than writing the book, although it may be different for others.

What can happen when we self-edit is we begin to sow seeds of doubt in our own mind. I know with my first book I rewrote the same passages four or five times sometimes and often ended up with pretty much what I started with. I tried to do better with my second book, but was still guilty of over-editing. Overthinking and self-doubt are real problems for the author/editor and we need to be more ruthless. With my next book I am determined I will edit only once and proofread three times. If it’s not perfect by then – well so be it.

When editing, resist the temptation to second guess yourself. What you wrote in the heat of the moment is often the best stuff you can write, so resist the pull to change it too much. The other thing to remember is editing and proof-reading are two totally different exercises. Editing is about content – proofreading is about accuracy. Ideally you should proofread until every word error, typo, or punctuation mistake is discovered, but the reality is none of us have that much time. For me, I’ve decided three proofreads is adequate and I’ll stick to that.

So, those are six of the deadly sins of newbie authors as I see them. I’m sure you could add more. and I’d love to hear from you on that. Just comment on the article

 I’d like to leave you today with one final thought. If writing is your joy and your passion you owe it to yourself to indulge in that which makes you happy. Don’t allow “life” to rob you of the legacy you want to leave in this world.


This article is an abridged version of a much more expansive article on the topic. The full text of the original article can be found here: Grant Leishman’s Blog

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Grant Leishman
I am an expatriate New Zealander living in Manila, The Philippines, with my wife and two step-daughters. At age 55, after careers in Finance and Journalism, I have finally discovered my true passion in life - writing, and I am now "living the dream", writing full-time.

My first novel is a romantic fantasy about the return of Jesus Christ to modern day Manila to try and sort out the problems of the world - yet again! My second novel "Just a Drop in the Ocean" is completed and should be published in 2015.

The sequel to "The Second Coming" - "The Rise of the AntiChrist" is my current project, about 75% complete. .

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