Five Ways to Sabotage Your Writing Career
1. Don’t follow submission guidelines.
Don’t bother to read and understand submission requirements. Submit your romance manuscript to the agent who only represents political thrillers. Send a piece that is off-topic and over word limit to a magazine or contest. Your writing is so spectacular the rules don’t apply to you, and professionals should welcome whatever you send them.
2. Argue with the editor or agent who suggests you revise and re-submit.
Ignore the fact that the editor or agent is giving you another opportunity to have your work considered for representation or publication. Get your back up and strike out with anger and insult because editors and agents—people who make decisions about representing or publishing your work—love working with cantankerous and rude people. (Writers often one wonder why rejections don’t come with feedback. This is one reason why.)
3. Don’t become fluent with basic technology.
Don’t learn how to put page numbers in the header of your document so your pages are automatically numbered consecutively. Don’t learn how to put your name and title there either, because it’s not your job to help the recipient keep track of your work among all the other submissions she receives. Don’t learn how to attach your document to an email for sending or the difference between a doc, pdf, and image file. It’s all so confusing! You’re old, and no one should expect you to learn these new-fangled technologies that have been around for decades.
4. Be closed to criticism.
Sure, several members of your critique group have pointed to the same area of your manuscript and said it needs work. It’s not your fault they don’t get it. All your friends and family say your book is great! You don’t need to listen to feedback from fellow writers or a professional editor.
5. Don’t read books.
You’re writing for readers, but you don’t need to experience how readers are touched by words on a page. Don’t read in the genre you write in, because you don’t need to know what’s already been done or how others are successful. Don’t read outside of your genre, because there is nothing for you to learn about structure, technique, or language there. Don’t read the classics, because you don’t need to know why a book could still capture readers hundreds of years after it’s written. And heaven forbid, never read poetry! It might challenge your notions about how the written word can provoke readers to think and feel.
This list of self-sabotaging behaviors is not even complete. There are many other ways to self-destruct. And haven’t we all taken a misstep or ten? Learning the craft and thriving as a writer are challenging enough. The pitfalls described here are totally within your control to avoid.
Mary Ann de Stefano is the editor of The Florida Writer (the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association) and MAD’s Monday Muse. She is also a writer, editor, and organizer of writing workshops with 30+ years experience in publishing and writing consulting. Besides working one-on-one with writers who are developing books, she designs author websites. Mary Ann does business at MAD about Words, named as a play on her initials and love for writing.