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Thursday, September 29, 2016

What Not to Do as a Newbie Writer

What not to do as a beginning writer.
by Angela Ruth Strong @AngelaRStrong

Every writer has to start somewhere, though some seem to have their careers take off a lot sooner than others. I’d be in the “others” category as I attended my first writing conference in 2006 and you probably still haven’t heard of me. (I’ve been called Ruth by editors and occasionally get an, “Oh, you’re that Angela.”) So, in the name of humility, I thought I’d share some mistakes I’ve made along the way to help you achieve success in a more timely manner.

1. Don’t think you are going to write every genre you enjoy reading. If you want to write, you probably enjoy reading, and you probably read a lot of genres. But there are reasons you should not try to write it all.

First, if you want to be a really good writer in any genre, it will take more time to study and perfect your craft. If you are jumping around from genre to genre, you will never have the time needed to reach your full potential.

Second, it will be frustrating to try to figure out the guidelines for each genre. For example, once I tried to help Jill Williamson world build for her fantasy novels once. She would nod and say encouraging things like, “I’ve…uh…never thought if it that way before.” She kindly didn’t tell me my ideas would never work as I didn’t know what the heck I was talking about.

Third, readers want to know what to expect from you. Your name becomes your promise. If you like Amish stories, and you pick up a Beverly Lewis book, you’re going to be a little disappointed if it’s all about zombies. Me and my middle grade novels, women’s fiction, romance, and suspense stories are learning this the hard way.

2. Don’t defend your writing when critiques come in. My very first novel had a revision request from my first conference in 2006. I didn’t make the changes my agent suggested. The editor did not buy that manuscript. Then I found this handy little four-step plan that was designed for victims, which I’ve shamelessly adapted to use when I feel like the victim of reviews I didn’t want.
  • Step one: Accept it. Maybe the reader didn’t get it. Or maybe they didn’t like it. Or they thought your whole ending needed to change. It is what it is.
  • Step two: Own it. Whatever the reader “misunderstood,” you’re the only one who can make them understand. It’s your story.
  • Step three: Make a plan. Sometimes a small tweak makes a huge difference, so don’t let this step overwhelm you. Figure out what you can do to make your story better. Because it can always be better.
  • Step four: Move on. Do what needs to be done, then move on to your next manuscript. Maybe your first story will be good enough to get picked up for a Hallmark movie, or maybe it will be years later when you realize what you were doing wrong in the first place. The point is, you didn’t let a little negative feedback keep you from growing as an author.

Don't prioritize writing over relationships.
3. Don’t prioritize writing over relationships. When going to my first conference a decade ago, I went through the conference packet and decided which agent and editor to pitch. It was my whole plan.  Those pitches didn’t go as I’d hoped, and I felt like a failure.

But then something wonderful happened. I made friends. One of those friends became my editor. Another friend lent me her vacation home in Park City, Utah earlier this year so I could stay there and research for an upcoming novel. Another friend and I just swapped manuscripts for critique because we write for the same publishing house.

I got so much out of these friendships that I came home to Idaho and started my own writing group. We were all nobodies at the time (even nobodier than I am now), but since then we’ve gotten contracts and won awards and published novella collections together.

Writing wouldn’t be the same without my writing friends. I wouldn’t be the same without my writing friends. And no matter how successful my writing may or may not become, I’m thankful for these experiences that have become lessons in my own life story.


Bright Star Ranch led him to her–but will he stay?

Josh Lake is forced to head home for the holidays after he’s suspended from his job in the city, but running into Paisley Sheridan could be exactly what he needed. Not only does she board him at her ranch in exchange for his advertising expertise, but spending the Christmas season with her in Big Sky, Montana, brings more joy than he’s felt in a long while. Is he willing to give up the lavish lifestyle he’s worked for in exchange for the gift of love?

The last thing Paisley wants for Christmas is to spend time with Josh Lake—the guy who broke her heart in high school—but until her bank loan goes through, she has to take all the free help she can get. Unfortunately, Josh seems to want back in her life again, and the town’s quirky coffee shop owners don’t help by hanging mistletoe at every opportunity. Will Paisley succeed in driving him away, or will she find the healing needed to have hope for a future together?

Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book, she's decided to rerelease it and write sequels as a new series titled Resort to Love. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors, and she's excited to announce the sale of her first romantic suspense novel to Love Inspired Suspense. For the latest news or to contact Angela, visit or connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads


  1. Great advice, Angela! But you were not that bad at fantasy world building. You asked some very important questions! And I totally disobeyed number two last night when I was reading my book to my husband. He had a LOT of problems with my chapter and I might have reacted poorly... On the plus side, I did take his advice today and rewrote the chapter and it is MUCH better. Pride, anyway...

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Terri. :-) Just too bad I like to learn everything the hard way.


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