5 common mistakes made by writers


IF YOU READ this little website of mine, you probably know I’m a fan of science and that I talk about sciency and logically things all the time. My partner Nicole follows IFLScience, where they have some science gift ideas that are cool and that you should definitely check out, for that special science nerd in your life.


Here is my favourite science gift—a periodic table of the elements shower curtain.


There are two reasons I love this. One, obviously, is PERIODIC TABLE OF CONTENTS SHOWER CURTAIN! and the other is that the shower is the best part of my day, because that’s where I get my ideas. (There’s even a scientific explanation for this.) If for some terrible reason there weren’t showers any more, this website would just be pictures of cats doing funny things. Which come to think of it would be a much more popular website.

Maybe I should stop showering?

But as long as I am showering, I want a better shower curtain.

And that got me logicalling


As well as being all science-loving and whatnot, Nicole and I are English Lit majors. I’m a writer. (Maybe you didn’t notice.) So I thought, why not a shower curtain for writers? I am betting that at least some other writers shower and that, like me, they logicallate whilst doing so.

So my first idea was a Shakespeare quotations shower curtain, but that seems too predictable. How about a periodic table of contents? Haha, but no. I ask myself: Self, what would be a good and useful thing for writers to look at while they are in the shower, getting ready for the day? Then I hit upon this:

Five common mistakes that writers make

I don’t know if this is my shower curtain idea, but it’s at least something worth writing. Meanwhile I’ll keep working on my shower curtain for writers, and we’ll see what happens. If you like this list, however, I totally give you permission to write it on your shower curtain with a Sharpie.

I promise not to send my lawyers to your bathroom with one of those cease and desist letters.

Here is the list, based on actual, real-life mistakes that I have made in my thirty years as a writer


Mistake number one: deciding to become a writer
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen writers make this mistake. They look around at all the many things there are to do in this world, and they say Hey, I think I’ll be a writer. That’s usually how you get off on the wrong track. I mean, didn’t you notice how much money they are making over there in chartered accountancy? Also, real estate is very lucrative. In fact, pretty much everything that is not writing is relatively well-paying. So writers, before you continue reading, go write mistake number one on your shower curtain.

Mistake number two: writing books and stuff
I’ve noticed that once people have decided to be a writer, they start writing books and essays and short stories and poems and newspaper articles and blog posts. I made that mistake too. If you avoid these things, you will be avoiding the single biggest mistake that is commonly made by writers, with the exception of the mistake that they have decided to be writers in the first place. (See mistake number one.)

Mistake number three: ignoring SEO
I have no idea what that even is, but it’s in every list of helpful tips, so I’m throwing it in. I’m guessing it stands for seals eat oolichans, because I think they actually do. So I guess this tip is about diet being important.

Mistake number four: not writing a run-away best-seller
According to statistics, over 98% of writers are not working on a #1 New York Times best-seller that is going to be made into a movie that forever changes the lives of every living child which leads to mass pilgrimages and sold-out readings at the O₂ Arena. I know it’s crazy, but statistics.

Mistake number five: thinking too small
Here is an excerpt from Seth Godin’s blog post “Advice for authors“:
Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 10.17.48 AM

Wow, that needle-in-a-haystack analogy is so true. Think about it. What writer hasn’t walked into a book store or a trade show and thought, “holy moly, there are so many books—how can my book possibly stand out?” But the good news is that Seth has given me an insight: writers think too small. And by this I mean that your next book should be at least 16 feet in height. Twenty-five feet is probably optimum. You’ll know you have it right when people at the bookstore are lining up in front of your 2,900-pound novel to take selfies.

Mistake number six: “show, don’t tell”
This one isn’t actually a mistake or a tip for writers, it’s a message for my friend Bob: Bob, stop telling me how amazing your new smart phone is, and show some self-restraint already.



Find me on Twitter and, also, here is my new book.


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