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Writing Regrets

By Henry McLaughlin

After several years on this writing journey and from talking with others on the same path, I’ve found six things I wish I had done differently. Maybe you share some of them.

1) Following trends instead of my heart

We all have stories in our hearts. Stories that we need to write. Sometimes it’s for our own inner healing. Sometimes it’s to share something we’ve learned with others. It’s that story that simply won’t let us go. It’s the story that keeps drawing us even as we write something else.

And there are trends in the marketplace. The temptation to write what’s trending is strong because it seems like a sure pathway to success. One thing about trends is they change. That’s why they’re called trends.  Related to this is by the time we finish our novel set in the current trends, we’re out of date. The trend has passed.

If our story is compelling and well written, it will sell no matter what the current trends.

2) Not investing more time in my writing dream

There are times in our writing journey when we can’t invest more time in our dream. Family, health, finances and a slew of other things can fall into crisis and we have to step away from writing to deal with it. These are those times when we must adjust our priorities.

Once it’s resolved, it’s time to reconnect with our writing dream and reconnect with the writing community. This means investing time and sometimes finances. Making time to write is crucial. We also must invest in improving our craft through books, classes, conferences, writing groups.

One of the benefits of this investing is we build our network. We meet people who instruct us, who become our mentors, who become friends and encouragers, who share this writing journey with us, who are there when this journey is at its loneliest.

3) Letting others define success

Success is unique for each of us. Finishing a book is a success for some. For others, it’s a multi-book contract or a NY Times bestseller or a movie deal. And, in reality, except for finishing the book, we have no control over any of these. In essence, we let others define our success. We need to take the time to define success for ourselves and put all our energy into it. If we allow others to define success, we’re sunk. Their standard isn’t ours. We’ve been given a dream and a calling. And a responsibility to fulfill them. Chasing someone else’s definition of success will cause us to lose our way.

4) Not stretching my writing muscles

We have to grow as writers. It’s part of learning our craft and developing our talent. I write in different genres because each challenges me to tell my story in a unique way, using techniques special to that genre. I started in Western suspense. I’ve also written contemporary novels as well as science fiction and fantasy. I’m also writing flash fiction, short stories and novellas. Each provides insights into how I write, insights I can apply to all my writing and to how I mentor and teach others.

5) Listening to the negative voices in my own head

I don’t know about you, but negative voices in my head are a fact of life. Voices that tell me I couldn’t write a line of dialogue if my life depended on it. Voices that tell me my plot is crap, my characters are stereotypes and my story world is unbelievable.  Voices that tell me I’ll never be published again.

There are other voices in my head as well. Voices that tell me I’ve been called to this writing journey. Voices that tell me I’ve been gifted with talent and ability to write and to write stories that will impact people for the better.

6) Letting others derail me

We’ve met these people. And not just in our writing. They could have been the coach or dance teacher who told us we’d never make it. The teacher who treated us as the dumbest kid in the class.

On our writing journey, these are the people who never seem to have an encouraging word for anybody. They seem to find some flaw in our writing and pick at it until we bleed. Their motivation is not to help, but to cast themselves as better than us. Jealousy drives them. They have to win, even if it means putting others down.

They’re like the negative voices in our heads.

We decide who we’re going to listen to.

What’s on your list of regrets?

Do you have any writing regrets? @riverbendsagas #ACFWBlogs #writetips #writing Click To Tweet

Henry McLaughlin’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. He serves as Associate Director of Story Help Groups (formerly North Texas Christian Writers). Besides writing fiction, Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers.

 

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2 Responses to Writing Regrets

  1. There’s so much that I regret,
    but it doesn’t matter now.
    Life goes on, I can’t forget
    I’m chained unto a fatal plow.
    I can write one line, or two,
    and then I catch my breath,
    for circumstance has brought meto
    a dreadful kind of death.
    The past is done, and no ‘I wish’
    will change a jot or tittle,
    the meal is done, the broken dish,
    and it’s time for beer and skittles.
    A toast, mates, to forgotten sorrows,
    in confidence of no tomorrows.

  2. Kristi Holl says:

    Very well said! I know each one of the regrets has been mine at one time or another. As Christians, we know we are uniquely made. And yet, we try to copy others or give in to their opinions if our idea seems “weird” to others or “it’s not what readers/editors/agents want.” While it’s wise to listen and learn and study craft all during your writing career, it’s so important to go with those ideas that just won’t leave you alone after you have prayed about them a lot.