Guest Post with Charles Yallowitz- Author Pitfalls: Watch Your Step & Bring Some Rope

Charles Yallowitz was one of the first people I came to know in the blogoshpere. I saw him everywhere and thought he must be magic. But Charles has a dedication to his peers that encompasses many methods of assistance and promotions, helpful comments and suggestions. He also has a great sense of humor. Today he has prepared a guest post that I have the pleasure of sharing with you.

Thank you to Susan for offering to host a promo/guest blog. Now to get the introduction and promo stuff out of the way. My name is Charles E. Yallowitz and I’m the author behind the Legends of Windemere epic fantasy series where the latest one is Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. I also just released a 27-page short story for 99 cents called Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, so you can get a quick, cheap taste of me . . . whatever. Let’s move on to the fun!

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The world of writing is a dense jungle full of poisonous creatures, carnivorous plants, sudden drops, and a stopwatch that changes speed every few seconds. You may be calm and plan the initial idea, but chaos will appear for most of us at some point. Those that don’t stumble are either lucky or living in a cabin beyond the reach of human contact. If it’s the latter then how in the world do you get Wifi out there?

Every author will run into their own set of pitfalls and challenges. So there are no identical paths, but there are a handful of common dangers that one can slip into without realizing it. I’m not talking about rejection letters, negative reviews, or computer crashes that devour your work as you’re trying to upload to a thumb drive. Those are beyond your full control. Here are a few I thought of from my own experiences that I could have stopped if I had thought about it.

  1. Style Corrosion– Also can be called ‘Style Overload’ or ‘Failed Mimicry’ or whatever else you think of. I’ve mentioned this before on my blog. Many authors with low confidence or high exhaustion will see the suggestions of others as golden wisdom. It really comes off this way if presented as a solid fact instead of an opinion. A young author who is unsure of their style will absorb these suggestions. At first, it isn’t that bad and you might see improvement. Then you take on more advice and your style becomes either a cluttered mess or a carbon copy of an established author. If this goes on for too long, it may take months or years to get back to the style that you’re really comfortable with.
  2. PERFECTION!– I’ve seen so many authors fall to this ideal. It results in a constant creation of drafts to the point where a decade will go by and no progress has been made. It can connect to Style Overload as they adopt a new trick and rewrite the entire story. There are also times a single typo can cause these authors to make a rewrite or scrap what they have. It’s kind of scary. Some of these trapped authors research agents, publishers, and other authors, so they adopt the idea that they’re experts in the field. You’ll get suggestions on what you should do and they may be right, but these people lack the experience to go along with their own advice. I know it sounds like I’m badmouthing this type of author, but you can learn something from them. Maybe you can even convince them to take that scary first step too.
  3. The Universe Will Give Me Time– I wasted a decade of my life on this one. I truly believed that I would work my way through another job to the point where I could also do my writing. Some people can pull this off, but you need the perfect situation for it. I didn’t have that. Instead, I found most of my jobs sucked my energy and I was barely able to maintain the house. This deals a lot with the mentality you need to start writing and I needed to be calm. Exhaustion led to bad writing. So you really have to put your foot down and make time for your writing.
  4. Planning Loop– Much like the writer toiling for a lifetime on the perfect manuscript, you have some authors who don’t even get that far. They fall in love with the world and character creation, but fail to put it into book form. It’s a safety zone because planning and creating without structure prevents full-blooded criticism. You might be told how a few things don’t work, but it’s the comfy planning stage and nothing is written in stone.
  5. Quest for Pure Originality– We’d all love to make a story that is unconnected to anything that has come before it. Sadly, all of your basic stories have been done and readers can be really creative when it comes to connecting new to old. An author who is obsessed with originality may scrap all of their good ideas because one aspect has been done. I’ve met a few of these authors who are at the point where they’ve given up and spend their time turning on others. They become bitter and angry about their ‘failure’, so they lash out. I would consider this the most dangerous pitfall because it can be incredibly toxic and hard to break.
  6. Smug Competitor– At every level, you’ll find authors who are so confident that they refuse to accept advice. This isn’t the bad part though because some people simply don’t see a marketing plan of one person working for them. This pitfall becomes a problem when the author makes a scene about negative reviews and tries to sabotage fellow authors who are doing better. It’s this type of author that can do a lot of damage to the overall community. Thankfully, they’re rarer than we believe.

16 thoughts on “Guest Post with Charles Yallowitz- Author Pitfalls: Watch Your Step & Bring Some Rope

  1. Wonderful post. Yes, I see/saw myself in many of those. Great reminders of how easy it is to fall into one of these (or other) pitfalls. Thank you for an enlightening post!

  2. Wonderful list of pitfalls and tips for writers. Love the one about ‘style corrosion.’ Great word for it. It doesn’t take long in the writing life to learn conflicting advice is everywhere. If we try to follow everything we read, we can lose our way, just as Charles points out. We need to take what works for us and still allows us our own voice and style.

    Great post.

    • I do agree with you. I was so overwhelmed with conflicting advice when I started searching the web. I tried to write a second voice and could not find my own in it anywhere. It took me over a year to sort that all out and get back to the new and improved me.

    • That one was a hard lesson. One of my biggest regrets was not keeping the older version of files when making changes. So I couldn’t really go back to an earlier version once I realized things weren’t meshing.

    • I think this may be the worst danger for a new writer. When I started writing, there wasn’t internet, so for a long time I just wrote for myself and my friends. It took a lot of time to find my voice, because I didn’t have any kind of true confrontation, but I think that also helped me really find my own voice.

      When I started deeping my feet in social media (which heppened but one year ago) I did what people normally do today: I searched the internet for advice. And if I had gone with every advice I read, no matter how sensible it sounded, I’d gone mad. There is everything and the contrary of anything… and still I did fall into that pit anyway. Until I realise that it’s about experience. Every person writing about something, had their own experience and I don’t doubt what they write is the truth. But their expirience might have no relevance to my own experience.
      So it’s always intersting to read, but we have to have enough sense to try and sort out what can be actually useful to us.

  3. My goodness, I fell into some of those, and I’ve certainly seen all of them around.
    I think the Quest for Pure Originality is one of the more common, especially among new writers (but also not so new πŸ˜‰ )
    I once attended a meeting with one of Italian most popular writers (he’s an archeologist too and writes historical fiction) and I’ll always remember what he said: “The last truly original story was the Odyssey. So don’t fool yourself. You can’t possibly write an original story, but you can sure write a meaningful one.”

    I have a friend (and she’s not a new writer) obsessed with this. If she reads something published that remotely resembles something in her novels, she goes into a panic. I always tell here, “What do you care? That’s not your story. Your story is yours and so it’s different from any other.” But she rarely listens. I think that’s part of what makes her that bitter.

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