Number 1 Deadliest Sin for Writers


Writers Group… or maybe it’s just a pic from Thanksgiving that seemed more convenient to include, but who knows?

I’ve been writing for a while now and have had the pleasure of connecting with a large number of amateur writers who share hopes and aspirations similar to my own. During this evolutionary journey, I’ve realized their is one common trait that hinders nearly all of us from realizing our dreams:


Don’t get me wrong, maintaining confidence in pursuit of your goals is crucial. It takes an enormous amount of stubbornness to believe you can become a published author when so many realists jump to criticize your chances.

The ill-side of ego I’m referring to here is the tendency of writers to fall so in love with their own unique concepts and ideas that they disregard the story-saving input of others.

I spent one full year working on the same book everyday without allowing anybody else to glance at it. One. Full. Year. In my mind, this book was so incredible I actually worried about people breaking into my Tacoma just to steal my USB flash drive(spend too much time in your own head, you will go crazy).

When I finally allowed people to look it over, their obvious indifference to the material shocked and defeated me. Somehow I summoned the courage to rewrite the entire book, but my ego took even more of a hit when I found my drastic alterations did nothing to sway the opinions of my readers. I wound up rewriting again and again, and even revised the first chapter over thirty (!) times before accepting the fact that I was missing something.

For the first time in my writing career, I decided to study writing. The book that changed me was called Story Engineering. This book describes rules and structures that all good stories abide by, essential tools I never could have found on my own. Though I’ve since read books that discuss more advanced topics, Larry Brown’s work laid the groundwork for my writing education.

The only way to grow as a writer is to learn. It is impossible to learn something you already know. Therefore, if you wish to improve your craft, it is absolutely vital that you listen to readers who criticize your work. You will be amazed at how quickly criticism can turn to praise.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Author of Master









8 thoughts on “Number 1 Deadliest Sin for Writers

  1. Thanks Thomas. Great advice for any kind of author. I was a bit worried when I read your title, but I found out I don’t suffer from egoism. PHEW! My problem might be worse in that I teeter on the edge of being unworthy to read and passably interesting. 🙂 As far as book writing goes, I don’t have any chapters on the go but it’s been in the planning stages for the last 3-ish decades. That still gives me plenty time as long as I do it before my long term memory goes!

    • Haha, definitely! So much of writing has to do with realizing perfection is an unrealistic standard. Oddly enough, sometimes the worst scenes you write turn out to be incredibly useful. I’m glad you got something out of my post, Mariska! Beautiful name by the way.

      • It sure is an unrealistic standard. I had no idea how much of a perfectionist I was until I started writing seriously. My husband, I’m sure, wishes I’d be more like that with housework!
        Yesterday, I wrote a piece and had my editor friend look it over. She loved it. I ended up revising it 4 times and having her critique all of them. I still wasn’t happy with any of them. I had to submit one to a client so the last one was the winner. I hate that I’m not satisfied with my creations because I’ll spend hours on one little piece. But. What can I do, except learn and listen from writers such as yourself?
        Thanks for the compliment! Love my mom for not naming me Wilhelmina! 😉

  2. Form the sounds of it, you don’t seem too egotistical. You wrote the book with passion. Without it, the book would’ve never gotten done. And I’ve done the same, only to find people’s opinions don’t match my expected reaction. Once you learn some the basics, it becomes kinda fun toying with them. Good luck!

    • Yes, you really hit the nail on the head. I’m not egotistical anymore, but that’s only because I’ve learned there is no way I can succeed as a writer without allowing others to criticize my craft. It is truly amazing how a basic understanding of storytelling principles can have such a tremendous impact on how well our tales are received.

  3. My egotistical side comes out when my editor makes suggestions that go against what I think my story should say. 98% of the time I follow her suggestions, but there are a few times when I don’t. I also wholeheartedly agree about learning our craft. With each How-To-Write book I’ve read, it’s changed how I write. I just ordered Story Engineering. Thank you for your great tips.

  4. I love this post! I see a lot of this in the creative world, whether it’s films, articles or books/stories. If someone has criticism, it might be that they’re right, not that you’re a misunderstood genius. Lol. I find the books or classes about structure really improved my work and gave me more confidence. Really great post. 🙂

  5. Pingback: The First Date…Bridegroom Wanted Urgently! | a cooking pot and twistedtales

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