Thursday, May 31, 2012

What are the Mistakes You See in Beginner Writers? By Shannon Mayer, Author of Dark Waters

Guest post by Shannon Mayer

Beginner writers, I still feel like I’m there a lot of days. So I will do my best to share with you the things I’ve learned from the mistakes that I made in the very beginning. This is in no particular order, number 1 is not more important than number 5.

1. Don’t think that your family can actually help you edit or beta read your work. They will lie through their teeth about how good it is because they love you. Trust me on this one. They don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they will do their best to sugar coat everything they say. Try to reach out to other authors either through your community of the web to develop a group. From that group, you can pool your resources and help each other honestly.

2. Plot your books! I have heard so many times people say things like “Oh, I don’t plot, the characters just take me where they take me.” Here’s the thing. I was like that, I had twenty five novels started, not one of them finished. Because when I got to the middle, and I had no plot to work from, I got stuck and started a new idea. Sound familiar? So start plotting, even if it’s only a beginning, middle and an end, that will give you a path to follow.

3. Please don’t think you are artist enough to do your own cover art (this is for Indie authors). You aren’t. And that’s okay, your talent is writing, focus on that. A cover can literally make or break your book, and yes, I did learn this the very hard way. Once I got my cover done right, my sales jumped to a degree I could have only hoped for previously. In fact, I did a whole blog post on this very topic, explaining the ins and outs of cover art. The short version is, don’t screw it up, it can sink your career.

4. Along with number 3. If you are self publishing, allow others to work for you. Hire people to do the jobs that you don’t know, or can’t do. If you think that you can do it all, and do it well, you’re fooling yourself. This will be things like formatting, editing, proofreading, cover art and possibly even marketing.

5. Don’t whine and complain that you can’t afford an editor. You cannot afford NOT to have an editor. They are essential to your success as an author, they will teach you things about your writing that you never knew. Like using the word “palatable” in every single chapter. Or using adverbs like Clearly, heavily, scarily, pushily all the time! (Adverbs are one of the peeves I have when editing others work) Editors will help you grow and they will help you make sure your manuscript is polished so that readers don’t want to throw it across the room because “Ooops” you forgot about that one plot thread.

6. If you are going the traditional route and are going to query editors and agents, LEARN THE RULES OF THE QUERY. The fastest way to get booted out of an agent’s potential list is to not pay attention to the details. Do your research, and then have your query read by a few people before sending it off. I went the traditional route prior to self publishing, I landed an agent. But it took time to figure out how to properly query. In this, please trust me.

Okay, those are six points that I think every green, new, wet behind the ears author needs to take into account. Not that they are all the mistakes I made, but some of the bigger ones for sure.

Dark Waters by Shannon Mayer
Celtic Legacy #1
Published: December 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy

The bonds of family are stretched to the breaking point as legendary monsters, a deadly prophecy, and soul swallowing fears threaten to destroy them. Magic, secrets, sensuality and mind numbing terror all rolled into one to keep the pages flying.
Add it on Goodreads, or buy now at Amazon
Note: It looks like Dark Waters is free on Amazon through today (5/31).

About the author:
Reading and writing from a very young age I learned early on that stories built in a fantasy world were where the fun was at. Reading books by Robert Jordan spurred me on and it was the first real epic fantasy that I fell in love with. After that came Piers Anthony, Melanie Rawn and into my older teen years, Anne Rice.

It was in Rice's novels that the idea of urban fantasy really bloomed for me and it was about that time that my grandmother was letting me read her Harlequin Historical novels. (Okay, actually she was slipping them to me when my mother wasn't looking, but let's not get picky.)

The combination of love stories and darker fantasy stuck with me and it's now not only what I gravitate towards to read on my off time (Kelly Armstrong, Laurell K Hamilton, Kim Harrison), but has become the style I love to write in.

Besides writing, I love to spend time with my family and animals, horseback ride, garden and hike with my husband.

Find out more at


  1. Cool post. I've not had anything published yet, apart from a short story in a small anthology, but I'll bear these points in mind going forwards!

  2. Thank you for telling it straight up, Shannon.

    Couldn't agree more with 1,2,5 & 6 and the only reason I can't comment on 3 & 4 is because I"m not self-publishing.

  3. Thanks Tomas and Janie! I learned most of these the hard way so I'm happy to share and hope that they help :-) Happy Writing!

  4. If only my family were so kind! They tell me straight up when my writing isn't working and they can sometimes be harsh, but then most of my family members are writers too. I also have a critique group though.

    I think you've given some wonderful advice here, especially about plotting books. I spent a long time writing my novels and getting 2/3rds of the way through them, getting stuck and moving onto a different novel. I plot now, not thoroughly, but enough to keep my writing heading in the right direction while I write the story.



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