Why So Many Beginning Writers Never Become Successful

Can’t write? You’re not broken. You’ll be OK.

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There are a lot of people who want to be writers. They call themselves writers. They walk around with heads full of ideas and hearts full of hopes. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be something, and everyone deserves to dream big.

But far too many of these dreams die. Too many writers want to write but don’t, start writing but don’t continue, try to get published but fail. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you want to stand among your favorite authors and say you’ve written something worth sharing, but every time you sit down to make words happen, they just don’t.

Let me start by saying there is nothing “wrong” with you. Every writer has their roadblocks, and yours just happens to be that you, for whatever reason, can’t write.

To be clear, the reason you can’t write has nothing to do with the fact that you:

  • Have never written before/Haven’t written in a long time
  • Don’t know what to write about
  • Don’t have any good ideas
  • Don’t have any ideas at all.

Not knowing how to write or what to write about is an excuse, not a reason. And you DO have ideas — you just don’t think they are worth sharing.

So if these aren’t the reasons beginning writers don’t succeed, what are?

They either never actually start writing anything at all or they start but never finish. And there are many, many possible reasons for this. Every single one boils down to a few truths many “wannabe” writers don’t really want to hear, though. Such as:

  • Channeling all their self-worth into their success or lack thereof
  • Caring too much about what other people [may or may not] think
  • Being unwilling to do the work required to achieve writing success
  • Expecting instant gratification when that’s not how publishing works
  • Comparing themselves/their work/their process to writers who are already successful.

All of these things — and more — often lead to feelings of disappointment, discouragement, guilt, frustration, fear, anger, hate … and we all know that all leads to the dark side.

Seriously though, most writers who are just starting out don’t know how to separate themselves from their work. As in, when their work doesn’t take off, it affects how they feel about themselves, and only when their work does well do they feel good about themselves.

To some extent, we all feel disappointed when we don’t succeed and celebrate when we do. But there’s a major difference between reacting negatively in the moment and letting one negative event change the course of your future as a writer (and not for the better).

New writers don’t know how to ignore excuses, dissolve doubts, or run headfirst into projects or opportunities that scare them. It’s possible they have never had to do these things before in other areas of their lives. So when faced with challenges, they struggle.

But the reason many writers succeed anyway is because they don’t turn away from the challenges they are faced with. They accept the high probability that they will fail the first, second, tenth, thirtieth time they try, because there is always a small probability they might succeed. Or learn something. Or, you know, get better at writing, because you can’t do that if you don’t write.

The number-one most important thing a new writer can do is write. It does not have to be good or “original” or publish-ready. It doesn’t even have to make sense or be grammatically correct or free of spelling errors. When you are first starting out as a writer, the only thing you need to worry about is that you are making an attempt to write something.

This is, after all, how all writers begin their journeys. They write. They write terribly until their writing becomes less terrible. They follow the plots and formats of stories they know and adore until they figure out how to craft their own. They do things wrong until they learn, by doing, how to do them right. They make mistakes. They question the quality of their work, the worth of their ideas. Their sanity.

But they just keep writing anyway, until the voices screaming “DON’T DO IT” get quieter and they realize that nothing makes them feel more fulfilled or whole than writing, regardless of how good or not good it may be.

Too many beginners quit before they get the hang of it.

Don’t be one of them.

Write. That’s the most anyone expects of you right now. Just do it. Tell your stories, learn as you go, and hope for the best, eventually.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Are You Overthinking Everything You Try Writing?

STOP IT!

Too many beginning writers worry too much.

They read one blog post online about how they can’t write a book until they do X or start a blog until they do Z that they get overwhelmed and scared and quit before they even start writing anything.

They think they have to come up with the perfect name or title. They think they have to outline every single detail. They think everything has to be catchy and flawless and incapable of failing before they write a single word.

I have one piece of advice, if this is you:

Stop overthinking it!

Stop second-guessing yourself every time a new thought or idea invites itself into your mind. Stop doubting whether or not you’re doing the right thing every time you decide to make a small or big career move, reach out to a potential editor/client/agent/publisher, or apply for a writing job.

Just. Stop.

Well, okay. It’s not always that simple. I get it. You can’t stop the doubts and you SHOULDN’T stop questioning what you’re doing by any means. But you CAN decide both how you are going to react to the negativity and act upon your curiosity.

It’s quite possible that you’re overthinking what you’re working on because you deeply and genuinely care about it. You want it to be good! You don’t want to make a mistake! There is nothing wrong with wanting to do things right and spend your time wisely.

However.

It’s important to keep in mind several key principles I’ve used personally to get a whole bunch of words written in a short (ish) amount of time over the years. They are as follows:

  • First drafts are always terrible. Write one anyway.
  • The best titles/headlines come to you after you’ve already started writing.
  • The best way to learn how to write/what to write about is by actually doing it.
  • Talking about what you’re going to do is only valuable after you’ve actually done it.
  • You can either exhaust yourself trying to do it perfectly the first time or having a blast experimenting and learning until you get it right the 50th time.

Try not to overthink it. Trusting your gut will not always get you the results you want, but it will get you results. The more you allow yourself to create impulsively, the harder it becomes to hear the worries and doubts screaming “DON’T DO IT” in the background.

In reality, they will ALWAYS be there screaming. You just have to learn to tune them out.

It’s not as complicated as your worries want you to think. All you have to do is sit down, decide what you are going to do, and then do it. When I got the idea, toward the end of December 2018, to try writing 1 million words in 2019, I didn’t spend three weeks making pro/con lists wondering if it was a good idea or not. On January 1, I just sat down, made a spreadsheet to track my daily word counts, and just started writing.

I didn’t look back. I didn’t ask, “What if?” I just started writing, and tried very hard not to stop.

If overthinking is your problem, your best solution may be to just stop thinking altogether. I don’t mean you shouldn’t use your brain when you’re writing … that’s probably not possible? I mean stop pondering the “what ifs” of the future. Focus on what you’re doing right now (writing — I hope) and only that.

Don’t worry if that last sentence was good. Just write the next one.

Don’t worry about what other people might think of your book when you’ve barely started writing it.

Don’t try to plan out every single detail of your blog to the point you’re already exhausted from it and it hasn’t even launched yet.

Just write it. Publish it. Send it. Post it. Don’t wait for something to “feel right” or “look perfect” or “sound nice.” You’re thinking too much. Just get it out on paper, or dump it all out onto a digital canvas, or send it out into the world — whatever it is you’re working on, it’s probably not as “bad” or “embarrassing” as you think it is. The more you try to tweak it, the less likely you are to share it at all.

You don’t need to have it all figured out. You don’t need to have all the answers or even know the right questions to ask.

All that comes later. For now, all that matters is that you write. A lot. Terribly, and then a little less terribly every day until you at least sort of feel like you know what you’re doing.

That’s how the greatest writers succeed. They stop listening to the noise and focus on what actually matters: the story. The words. What they mean. Their purpose.

Don’t overthink it. Any of it.

Just write.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Even I Still Feel Guilty When I Don’t Write. Here’s How I Deal With It.

You’re not alone! Maybe I can help.

Sometimes, I feel guilty when I’m convinced I “should have” written something, but didn’t.

The other night I opened a document to work on a project at the end of a very long week and just stared blankly at it for about 15 minutes. I quickly realized I had two options: Try to write and probably produce mostly junk, or close everything down and take the night off.

I instantly regretted that decision not to write.

Though I tried reading a book, watching a movie, and catching up on TV shows, nothing seemed to help.

I felt so guilty, so ashamed of taking the night off that I could barely sleep. I could have just written a few hundred words. I could have at least tried. But I hadn’t. And for some reason, that shook me.

There are many aspiring and working writers who feel like this every single time they say no to writing. They try telling themselves they will try again tomorrow, often already believing they won’t. Many of them get so down on themselves that they just stop writing. Some never write much again.

You shouldn’t have to feel guilty for not doing something you don’t want to do. But the reality is, most of us do. We’re under a lot of pressure to work harder than our competition to get ahead, even if we don’t always realize that’s what we’re doing. We think we should be doing more, always, every free moment we have. Even when we know this isn’t practical or healthy.

Over the years, I’ve come up with several methods that have worked for me in those moments I’ve pushed myself as far as I [think] I can and need to put writing aside for a night. One of them may work for you. A combination may help. Maybe none of them will. I’ll leave the tips here for you to try and apply/avoid as you choose.

Look back at your most recent writing accomplishments. I’m an “always forward” kind of person. But I also believe reflection is extremely important, especially when you’re directing negative emotions toward your writing such as guilt or disappointment. That night when I started feeling guilty about walking away from my computer, I went back and looked at what I’d worked on that week. I’d done a ton of work! That helped me justify my night off, at least a little bit.

If you don’t have any, that’s OK. Look deeper into your possible writing roadblocks. If you haven’t written in a long time and you still feel guilty about that, there’s something deeper going on. You may feel guilty about not writing, but that wouldn’t be a problem if you were writing — and something is stopping you from doing that. Is it self-doubt? Fear of rejection? An inability to focus? Don’t focus on erasing your guilt. Focus on figuring out why you aren’t writing and go from there.

Take the night off — only after you make a plan for tomorrow. Maybe, like me the other night, you just can’t force yourself to write even one sentence. At that point, there’s no reason you should try forcing yourself to write unless you absolutely have to (you have a deadline, for example — but hey, why’d you wait until the last minute, you goof?). You aren’t going to write at your best, and may end up having to do more work later to correct for that. Just call it a night. But only after you’ve decided how you are going to make sure you write tomorrow instead. Get up an hour earlier and knock it out first thing? Take a longer lunch break? Record your show and save it for later? Make a detailed plan for how you’re going to make it happen. Then enjoy your night. Or try to, at least.

Write 500 words. There seems to be something about the 500-word mark that’s just manageable enough to handle — at least, that’s how it feels when you sit down and aim for that goal. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve aimed for 500 words and ended up writing over 1,000. It’s almost like once you hit that threshold, your brain enters deep focus mode and you suddenly find it very difficult to stop — and that’s not a bad thing! Try it. Aim for a small number of words. If you hit it and that’s all you can do, at least you wrote more than 0. If you hit it and decide, “Eh, I might as well keep going,” awesome! Keep going! You’ll feel less guilty if you do.

Remember: You’ll always wish you could have written more. When it comes to writing, “a lot” is still rarely enough. Psychologically, many of us end up feeling like each new record is the new minimum and we consistently want to try to one-up ourselves. Or is that just me? You’ll almost never feel like what you accomplished is good enough. You’ll always think, “I could have done more.” I’m not a therapist and I can’t tell you how to stop feeling guilty for not consistently exceeding your own expectations. But do be aware that this might happen to you, and you sort of have to just learn to deal with it. You could have written more, but you didn’t. You can always try again tomorrow, I suppose.

There are a lot of reasons people feel guilty when they don’t write. Most of them turn into negative self-talk. I’ll never be able to work hard enough. My ideas must be terrible. Everyone is better at writing than me. I’m a failure. It’s up to you to work through your insecurities and bad habits on your own. But don’t let the fact that you didn’t write today send you spiraling. Try again tomorrow. Or the next day. Figure out what’s standing in your way and how you might be able to work around it.

Good luck. Have a good day off, if you need to. Then, as quickly as you can, get back to writing!


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

My biggest fear as a writer is that I’m not good at it.

The impostor syndrome is strong with this moment.

I know, I know. How can someone like me ever believe they’re not good at writing? If I’m confident enough to hand out writing advice, I must be a good writer. Right?

Not necessarily, I suppose. There are a lot of people who say that those who can’t do something end up teaching it instead, and when that concept was brought to my attention again recently, I mostly found myself in a very real though extremely unnecessary panic.

Like, oh my GOD. What if all this time I have been telling people how to be better writers BUT I’M NOT ACTUALLY ONE OF THEM AFTER ALL?

What if I’m kind of good at TEACHING people how to sit down and write, but I am actually a terrible writer?

After all, I’ve never published a book. I don’t have a degree in writing. No one has ever given me an award for something I’ve written. I don’t write because I want to be known for having achieved these things by any means. But these are the things we so often use to measure our level of success against those around us.

We shouldn’t do that, but we do it anyway. Because of, usually, one very devious thing.

This is the impostor syndrome talking, of course. I’ve written about it here before. It’s the belief that you aren’t good at something and/or that people will find out you’re a “fraud” despite evidence that contradicts that. Example: Viola Davis believing she didn’t deserve an Oscar AS SHE WAS HOLDING AND ACCEPTING HER OSCAR. You’re not actually terrible at what you do. Your brain just wants you to THINK you are, and fills your mind with the fear that one day people are going to discover you’re faking it.

I’m not by any means an exceptional writer, but it’s kind of hard not to develop a skill to an intermediate level when you end up practicing it all the time for many years. I know how to tell stories and sometimes my words sound really cool all smashed together. I know I’m not “the worst” writer.

But still, after all this time, no matter how many things I have published before, every new thing I send out into the world causes me to wonder, and worry, even if only for a moment. What if it’s bad? What if people tell me it’s bad? What if they DON’T? What if all my followers leave and my family disowns me and my friends stop talking to me and my dog runs away — all because it turns out I’m BAD AT WRITING?

The truth is, most of us at least have these moments, if not a constant doubtful ache that keeps us up at night and makes getting out of bed next to impossible. We are so afraid of people lying to us (“You’re a great writer!”) that we barely allow ourselves to believe we might actually have a chance at succeeding.

The truth is, these doubts plague us because we are constantly bombarded with stories and images of people’s perfect success stories. “I worked hard until I published a bestseller, and so can you!” No one really talks in detail about the hard parts, the dark parts, the parts where nothing happens. Those parts aren’t interesting, or so they say. We’re led to believe that if we struggle, it’s because we aren’t good enough or smart enough or capable.

I fear I’m not a good writer because no one has ever bothered to tell me otherwise, and that fills me with unease. Was my teacher just being nice, or did he really mean the things he said about my potential? Did my mom really like that story I wrote, or did she just not want to hurt my feelings? Did they really hire me because I had the skills, or were they just desperate?

I think if people were more honest with their writer loved ones about their worst work, we’d be better at not only taking constructive criticism, but at believing the things we did well were truly done well. Growing up, I wish someone had told me, “Hey, this thing you wrote is really bad, but if you want, I might be able to point out what you could have done better.”

Then, at least, I would have known my weaknesses and would have been able to improve on them, and know I was making progress toward something better.

I don’t mean to complain. I am privileged. People pay me to write things, I don’t loathe my day job, I have people in my life who support my career path and ambitions and I know many of you reading this wish these things applied to you but they don’t and I’m sorry.

The thing is, even though I have moments I’m not sure I’m doing any of this right, I keep doing it anyway. That’s how you build confidence, how you get better, how you start to prove yourself wrong. You just keep going. You just keep stumbling until you get the hang of it. If I stopped writing every time I doubted myself, I’d never get anything done, because it happens almost every day of my life.

Please. Keep writing, even when you don’t think anyone cares.

Keep writing, even when you don’t think it’s very good.

Keep writing, even when you’ve lost sight of your purpose.

The best thing you can do for yourself in these moments is to not allow them to control your actions. Don’t quit because your self-consciousness says you should. Don’t throw your book away because your self-doubt says it’s a good idea. Don’t toss away that job application or walk away from that writing class because something inside you says “I’ll never be good enough anyway, what’s the point?”

Write anyway. Of all the words and phrases I’ve come up with for 2019, this is my favorite. Write anyway. No matter how much you might believe you shouldn’t, just do it anyway. I doubt you’ll regret it.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

The Empty Coffee Cup to the Left of My Keyboard

Choices are hard. But maybe there is no right choice to make.

When I look to my left, sitting on top of my desk is an empty mug that about an hour ago held about eight ounces of peppermint mocha flavored coffee.

Ever so slightly distracted by this, I check the time. Check my text messages, glance at my email and my Twitter feed and my Facebook notifications. I realize it is getting late. I should take the dog out. I should clean the dishes. I should give my mind a rest.

But one glance back at my computer screen reminds me that when I stopped to glance at my coffee cup, I originally did so because I’d been trying to think of a word. You know — that word that’s just on the tip of your tongue that would fit perfectly right in this spot, but it just isn’t coming to you.

It comes to me. And I realize I was very much enjoying what I was writing, and have a very strong desire to return to it right now.

But I am tired. So I consider getting more coffee, if only to fuel more of my writing. Just for a little longer.

You have been in this position before. Maybe at a different desk in a different state — on a different continent, perhaps — or you’re sitting on the floor with your laptop, not at a desk at all. But you’re stuck between your physical and mental desire to rest and your creative urge to keep writing, and the more logically you try to think about it, the harder it is to figure out what to do next.

It is in these moments you have to actively make a choice. Do you leave the mug where it sits? Do you take it to the sink, rinse it, and load it into the dishwasher?

Do you refill it for the fifth time today in the hopes it will get you through another thousand words — even though there is a chance it won’t work at all and you still might not be able to get through the final leg of today’s writing journey?

If you do refill your mug one more time and spend another hour in front of your computer writing through your exhaustion, will it be worth it when that hour ends? Will it still be worth it tomorrow when your alarm goes off and you’re kicking yourself for staying up too late? Will it still be worth it a year from now when you look back on all you did — and didn’t — accomplish?

Or will you be glad you put the mug away, closed your laptop, and spent the remaining hour of your day lost in a book, laughing at a TV show, cuddling with your significant other, or talking with your mom/friend/child?

We often get hung up on crossroads like these. Writing is so important, but so are things like family and friends and hobbies and pop culture (IT’S IMPORTANT, DON’T @ ME).

We could benefit so much from spending just one more hour writing. But then our best friend calls. Our kid needs help with a science project. Our dog has now brought us half her inventory of toys just waiting until we pick one up to play.

How do you choose? Do you caffeinate and write, or do you put it all aside and live?

No writer will ever make the best decisions in the moment every single time. I’ve missed out on outings and game nights and fun conversations because I chose to write instead. I’ve chosen to lounge around instead of getting my work done and regretted it.

I’ve also chosen to stop writing and have woken up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day because of it. And I’ve pushed through just a little bit more of my work for the day and have gone to bed feeling the best I can swear I’ve felt in a long time due to that choice.

You aren’t going to know how you’ll feel when you hit that crossroads until you come to it. You’re going to have moments where you expect to breeze through your goals for the day and end up unable to even come close to finishing them. And you’re going to have days you don’t think you can do it, but somehow you do, and that’s a feeling that simply can’t be replicated.

Do you keep writing? Do you quit for the time being? It’s completely up to you. The hardest part about finding balance as a writer is wondering if you’re doing all this right. If you’re putting all your priorities in the right order. If you’re giving everyone around you the attention they deserve while also giving your ambitions the time and energy you so desperately desire to give them.

Today I kept writing, and at the end I felt I had made the best decision for me in this moment. Perhaps I will feel differently about it tomorrow. Perhaps I will wake up and remember I forgot to text someone back and I’ll feel guilty. Or my alarm will go off and I’ll have spent too much of my energy and getting out of bed will feel like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

But in this life, we do what we feel is best and face whatever the consequences may be at a later time. We learn as we go. The more we worry about whether or not we’re doing it “right,” the less we’ll end up getting done.

So next time you stop writing for a moment and stare down at the empty coffee cup to the left of your keyboard, try not to worry about whether what you do in the next five seconds will have a positive or negative outcome. Simply do what your gut tells you to do. Don’t even think about it: Just do it.

Whether it’s time to say goodnight to your work in progress or the night is still very young, focus not on what comes after, but instead only on what’s happening right now.

Make the most of the time you have.

Spend it doing what makes you happy.

Some days, choose writing. Other days, choose everything else.

In the end, all that matters is that the way you spent your moments made a difference somehow. That it mattered. And that you gave it your all, even when you were uncertain. That you tried your best, kept pushing forward, and rarely looked back.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Why You Can’t Commit to a Writing Project (and How to Fix That)

Here’s what you’re doing wrong, and how to do it right. Better. Whatever.

Are you the aspiring writer who constantly says “I’m starting a new book!” sort of starts the new book, and then makes it a point to never speak of it again? Do you have commitment issues when it comes to writing projects but have no idea why you can’t get over them?

YOU LOVE WRITING! Why is it so hard to finish what you start?

Maybe you can’t stick with something because you aren’t putting the proper measures in place to make that happen.

Think of it like this: You’ve just decided you want to plant a garden in your backyard. You do everything you’ve read you’re supposed to do. You have the dirt, the seeds, and the tools. You’re excited, you’re ready to go. You even get as far as kneeling down to plant the seeds.

But it turns out the idea of planing a garden seemed a lot more fun than the actual work required to actually plant one. After planting a few seeds the way you’ve been told to, you just decide to sprinkle the rest of them randomly in the dirt, water the whole thing, and hope for the best.

Even worse, you only end up checking on your garden every once in a while. Your plants kind of start growing, but you don’t remember to water them most days. You don’t bother weeding. You just decide to let the sun and the rain do all the work while you go off and do other things.

While you’re busy with your other responsibilities — and all the fun things you end up doing instead of working on your garden — that small plot of land you had such high hopes for descends into chaos. The weeds take over, your plants suffocate, and the whole thing’s mostly dead.

You wanted so badly to have a garden. You hoped for it. You prepared for it. But one did not grow.

Now imagine what might have happened if you’d instead decided you wanted to have a row of roses along the front of your house by the end of the season.

Think of what might have happened if you’d planned it all out, day by day. When you were going to plant the seeds. What times you were going to water the soil. How often you were going to get rid of the weeds. Instead of just saying, “I’ll check on it and do it when it needs it,” you had in place exactly when you were going to do those things. You put that time into your schedule BEFORE you needed to start spending it.

How is this different from declaring you want to plant a garden and check on it occasionally? First, you’ve decided on a specific flower you want to grow. You are able to focus on one type of plant in one place and track how it is doing, instead of having to put down and care for an entire garden’s worth of plants. This is a goal that’s possible and one you can more easily achieve. And you know that if you don’ take care of your roses, they won’t bloom by your predetermined deadline (the end of the season).

You’d have chosen a goal — for everyone to be able to admire your roses — that was specific.

You would have been able to track your progress, meaning it was measurable.

It would have been an attainable ambition that was realistic for you specifically. And it would have been timely, because you’d have known you wanted to have those roses grown by a certain time of the year.

It’s very possible you are unable to commit to a writing project because you’re being too vague and lenient with your ambitions. Instead of growing roses, you want to plant a garden. Instead of writing a novel, you want to be a bestselling author. Instead of earning a percentage of your income from freelance work, you want to make money as a writer.

You aren’t giving yourself anything tangible to hold onto when you don’t set up the details. This can happen in one of two ways: You shoot short and don’t plan ahead, or you set a goal so big you don’t know how to achieve it.

Planting a garden implies that you’re going to get as far as planting the seeds — but then what? You haven’t committed anywhere to watering or weeding or checking in with your garden daily. You’ve committed only to planting something, and nothing more.

Becoming a best-selling author implies that you want to have a book on the market that’s so good everyone wants to read it. But that’s not something you can just sit down and do. There are a lot of steps that come before achieving that kind of status. First, you have to sit down and write several drafts of a book. Then you have to find someone who will sell it for you. Then it has to get published. Then you’ll likely have to repeat this process several times over until you’re well-known enough for preorders and first-week sales to even become a possibility.

Why do you sit down with a writing goal only to abandon it weeks later? Because you didn’t plan for this part. The boring part where it doesn’t seem like anything is growing, or the work is really hard and no one told you it was going to be hard and what’s the point?

There’s also the distraction factor. It’s not that you don’t want to work on your book or haven’t wanted to work on it for the past 40 days. It’s that you’ve chosen to fill your writing time with other things. You’ve convinced yourself you haven’t had the time, but that’s not actually true.

And the time factor — a failure to plan ahead. Assuming that just because you say you’re going to do something automatically means it’s going to happen. Saying and doing are two very different things.

Writing is a commitment. If you have a habit of starting projects and abandoning them, it’s not because you’re bad at writing or that your ideas aren’t good or that you’re not cut out to be a writer. It’s because you haven’t been taught how to take a dream and transform it into a SMART goal.

So here’s the lesson: Don’t just write down what you want to accomplish. Figure out how you want to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Don’t just buy all the right materials and tools, make everything look good, and expect the rest to happen overnight — or at all. Writing something takes work. It takes consistency. It takes a person who can say “no” to the things they’d rather be doing in favor of the things that actually pertain to their goals.

I don’t know what your roadblocks are. I don’t know exactly why you stopped at the planting stage or why you can’t seem to make the effort to go water your dying roses. And I suppose, technically, that’s none of my business.

I’m just here to tell it to you straight. There are no easy workarounds. Either you take this whole writing thing step by step or you don’t. It’s a goal of mine to launch a coaching perk on Patreon at some point (not a very specific or timely goal, I know — speaking of which, please become a patron for free — FREE FREE FREE — if you want updates on this and weekly accountability threads) that will allow you the chance to get to work one-on-one with me to help you write through your individual barriers. But for now, get watering. Get weeding. Write, no matter how many other things you’d rather be doing instead.

I’m not sure if this metaphor worked for you or not, but I really want to plant some roses right now. Too bad it’s like -20 degrees (F) outside. GAH.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

12 Things No One Expects to Happen When They Decide to Become a Writer

WHY DID NO ONE TELL YOU??? Wait …

1. When you first start out, you’re actually not very good at this whole writing thing.

2. And even though there’s a lot of advice out there, the only way you’ll ever really get better at it is by doing it.

3. You spend a lot of time writing stuff for free. Like, a lot of time.

4. And for some reason, people keep asking you to do work for free long after you’re past that point.

5. Sometimes you do what you feel has been your best work EVER and still get rejected.

6. Sometimes people publish things you feel aren’t that great and you start to question if this is even worth it.

7. People on the internet like to tear apart your work. But also you. They like to come after you. Why?

8. But you don’t have to pay attention to them, because they’re mean and don’t deserve a reaction from you.

9. Writing is rewarding. The rewards just seem very small and insignificant sometimes even when they aren’t.

10. Your friends and family don’t really “get it,” but a lot of the time, they’ll still support you anyway.

11. You sort of start to figure things out eventually. Not all things. But some of them.

12. If you do end up sticking with writing, it’s because deep down, you really do love it. And that’s pretty cool.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Why a Writer’s Path is Never a Straight Line

It’s unpredictable. And that’s OK.

When I was a senior in college, I honestly thought I’d already “made it.” I had multiple writing and editing gigs, which meant I had more writing experience than a lot of people my age. I had a blog, I had bylines, and I had a portfolio of work ready to send out to potential clients and/or employers.

I was set. I was ready. I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

And then I graduated.

Within the first few months of searching for steady work as a writer, I knew I was in trouble. It seemed that no matter how much writing experience I technically had, it still wasn’t enough. I kept submitting articles to magazines and searching for jobs, but — at least to me — it seemed like no one wanted to pay a 22-year-old to publish content under their brand.

So I found myself back in a place I thought I’d left behind when I walked across a stage — working for free as an intern, giving websites my work in exchange for exposure, getting more job rejections than I’d ever expected to get in a single summer.

I felt as though I’d been climbing my way up the staircase to success, and suddenly I found myself twelve stories below where I’d been. How had I worked so hard all throughout college to set myself up for a decent writing job after I got my diplomas, only to find myself struggling just as hard as everyone else my age?

It’s not that I felt I deserved it more than them. But I’d put in the work. And hard work was supposed to lead to some kind of reward, wasn’t it?

It took a few years and another degree for me to build up the experience I needed to pursue a career in my chosen profession (science writing). I hit a peak, tumbled into a valley, and had to continue working hard to climb my way back up to something worthwhile again. And chances are, I’m going to have to do that again. And again. And again.

How do I know? Because this is the writer’s path. It winds. It dips and rises. You don’t just start out at the bottom and climb your way to the top. You succeed, you fail, you do great things and you don’t. And the best way to get through the ups and downs of pursuing a career in writing is to expect that it’s not going to be anything even resembling a straight line.

I like to say a writer’s journey is really just a bunch of scribbles. They go this way and that, they loop around each other, they start and stop and go every which direction. Looking at them up close, trying to follow a single line, none of it makes any sense.

But looking at the whole thing from a distance, you might actually be able to see where those scribbles began — their starting point — and where they conclude — your end.

You’re going to deal with a lot starting from the moment you first decide to begin your career in writing. You’re going to learn what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. You’re going to learn how to put yourself out there and how to focus on yourself when necessary. You’re going to learn what hard work means for you, what you really want to accomplish with your writing, and how you can use your passion to reach and maybe even serve other people.

But most important of all, you’re going to learn that there are always going to be setbacks. There are always going to be obstacles you have to find a way around or through. There are going to be moments you love what you do and moments you wish you didn’t have to do it anymore.

There are going to be successes and failures. Frustrations and celebrations. Times of laughter and times of tears. Maybe both at the same time, who really knows.

How do you get through it? You don’t. You write through it. You take what you learn along the way and you use it to do better with every new twist and turn along your way. You acknowledge your mistakes and do the very best you can not to repeat them. You pay attention to your successes and  keep doing the things that led to them.

Getting from Point A to Point B is not simple. It’s not predictable. And admittedly, it’s not always fun.

But all these curves and sharp turns and spirals? They’re worth it.

If I’d given up that summer and decided just to set my writing ambitions aside, I may not have made it to where I am now. I’m not a bestselling author, I don’t have a column in a popular magazine or newspaper that everyone reads. I’m just another writer doing my best to make every day in this industry count.

But I’ve made it further than I ever expected to at times. And I still have a long way to go. All because I accepted this would not be easy, and try to take every new thing that comes along with the best attitude and drive I can.

I hope you’ll start doing the same. If you do, I promise you’ll go far. There’s no guarantee you’ll get to where you want to be. But you’ll get somewhere, which is better than nowhere, don’t you think?


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Why They Told You ‘No’: Finding the Constructive Criticism in Every Rejection

Some rejections have substance. Here’s how to find it.

Rejection is extremely difficult to deal with, whether you’re new to writing or you’ve been doing it for years. No one likes to feel as though they did something wrong or could have done better but didn’t. It’s happening to everyone, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re stuck in your own head.

Many people get one or two rejections and give up because they aren’t sure what they did or didn’t do to get their work passed over. Every editor has their reasons for saying no, but as a former magazine editor, I may be able to offer some much-needed direction.

For starters, let’s be clear on one very important truth: Most of the time, the reason your work did not get accepted has nothing to do with its quality (or lack thereof).

I’ve been an editor in charge of vetting unsolicited article submissions for an online magazine. It’s been my job to read through these submissions and decide whether or not our publication should edit them and post them on our website for all our readers to see.

A lot of the time, the articles themselves weren’t unpublishable. There were some submissions that were great, but shouldn’t have been sent to us — they would have fit better somewhere else. Or — and I’m being completely honest here — the submissions were fine, but the sender was extremely unprofessional in their introduction email to me and I lost interest in working with them right away. It happens. BE PROFESSIONAL.

To be fair, there were plenty of “bad” articles I had to turn down. Some were poorly written. Some had nothing new or interesting to say about a topic (example: healthy holiday recipes. We got dozens of those in our inbox. Most of them didn’t get published because they weren’t unique and just repeated things hundreds of other articles had already said).

I worked for a very small publication, and there weren’t enough resources to go around to heavily edit and rework disastrous articles (those with poor spelling/grammar, that weren’t formatted or organized the way our articles usually were, etc). If it couldn’t easily be converted into an article on our site, chances were high I would say no.

But having been in the “please accept my work” position plenty of times before, I knew how frustrating it was to either never hear back from a publication or get a standard automated “due to the high volume of submissions” response. So I legitimately worked overtime to make sure every submission I rejected got a personalized response straight from me.

It’s not easy being honest, and it’s not easy to hear from a stranger that something about your work didn’t quite cut it. But once you get past the initial sting of “they didn’t think I was good enough,” you realize it has nothing to do with you. They’re doing their best to tell you, maybe not in the most positive way (but hopefully!), what you can do better in the future to increase your chances of getting published.

In my experience, a few common phrases might be decoded like this:

This article didn’t really fit the criteria for what we’re looking for = it was too similar to something we already have/it didn’t fit in with the content we generally accept (see our site) = pay closer attention to what’s already there. Do your research.

It was a well-written article, but doesn’t quite fit into our content strategy = your article was good but why are you sending it to us = you clearly didn’t look at our website to see what we publish and just submitted something for the sake of submitting something.

Keep writing and consider submitting to us again = in various ways I’ve used this to kindly tell people they need to improve their work before submitting again. I wasn’t really allowed to tell people “your grammar is atrocious” or give them line-by-line feedback. But

Most of the time, people either aren’t submitting to the right places or their work isn’t quite ready to be submitted yet. I personally used to try to be as clear about the difference, as much as I could be.

And for the record, I’ve never used the phrase “we’re not accepting submissions at this time” to mean anything other than we’re not accepting submissions at this time. I don’t know why anyone would tell you that if it weren’t true. It’s extremely unhelpful.

Unfortunately, you’re not going to get that kind of feedback from most editors. Most “no”s are going to be generic and unhelpful, and most editors don’t have any other choice. Most of the time, you’re not going to have any clue what you might have done wrong — if anything.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself depending on the “type” of rejection you get after submitting/publishing your work.

The silent NO:

  • Are thousands of other people also submitting work to this publication?
  • Does your work have something new to say or present old information in a new way?
  • What is the size of the publication’s staff? Do they have time to send you a personalized feedback email?

The template NO:

  • Are thousands of other people also submitting work to this publication?
  • Does your work have something new to say or present old information in a new way?
  • What is the size of the publication’s staff? Do they have time to send you a personalized feedback email?

The more personalized “I’m sorry, but NO”:

  • Did they sort of tell you your writing isn’t great without actually saying so?
  • Did they encourage you to submit again at a later time?
  • Is your work in line with the content the publication has printed recently?
  • Did you work your absolute hardest on it?
  • Are you proud of it?

Sometimes publications just can’t publish everything they get, and it has nothing to do with you or your skill level or how capable you are of getting published. This is why you can never try getting published too many times. Keep writing, keep submitting (usually not to the same place over and over again though), and you’ll increase your chances of someone saying “yes.”

Always aim to write something that’s a little better than the last thing.

Take your own constructive criticism seriously, but don’t talk yourself out of trying again.

It’s OK to ask for feedback, but only once — and don’t lose hope if you don’t get a response.

Everyone wants to know why their work didn’t make it. Everyone. That’s because EVERYONE is trying to get published. Everyone is getting rejected in one way or another. It’s those who keep writing and submitting anyway that will eventually write their way to success.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Feel Like Writing Isn’t Worth It? You’re Wrong.

Is the struggle worth the reward?

Since your writing journey began, there have likely been many weeks filled with days when writing did not feel worth it.

I can safely assume this because it is normal. It likely happens to every single one of us. Because there are going to be days you look at something you worked really hard on and wonder why no one has read it. Days when you’ve gotten one too many rejections in a short span of time and not a single one of them has told you what you’re doing wrong. Days you would rather be doing anything else besides writing, because lately, it’s felt like writing has only brought you disappointment and pain.

Those days may be many in number. But they are not the only days you’ve had or will have. And the “dark days” of your time as a writer will not last forever.

No. They will come and go. Even with success as a writer comes struggles of a different kind. You will always struggle. But that does not mean you will always face the same struggles, or that your tough times won’t lead to triumph as long as you keep riding the waves.

No one likes to struggle. No one likes to sit down to do something they like and want to make their career only to feel like all their energy and effort has been one giant waste of time.

But where would we be without struggle? What lessons would we learn if all this were easy? Writing is not hard because we are bad at it or not built for it. Writing is hard because it is trying to teach us that in life, you don’t just get what you want by wanting it. You get what you want by working for it. Well, most people do, anyway.

If you are a struggling writer, that’s a good thing. It means you’re doing everything you know how to Make Writing Happen, and not every aspiring writer can say that. It means you’re taking on the task even though you know it will be challenging.

It means you’re trying. Writers who don’t struggle don’t struggle because they don’t try.

It’s going to be hard, and it’s not going to get easier overall. There’s nothing you can do to change that. The only thing you can do is keep your mind and heart on the goal you want to reach, figure out exactly what you need to do to get there, and do it. No matter how long it takes. No matter how many times you fail and have to start over.

Dive headfirst into the struggle. And know that if you try hard enough, one way or another, it’s going to be worth it. Even if things don’t turn out exactly the way you hoped they would in the end (things rarely do). It will be worth it. Keep going until you learn how worth it your efforts have been. Never stop. Never look back. Always forward. Always toward greater things.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.