Simon Wood


Recently, I was thinking about the mistakes I’ve made in my writing career.  There have been a few.  But what career doesn’t have some?  Screw-ups are all part of learning…as long as you don’t keep making the same ones again and again.

The reason I was thinking about my mistakes is because some good fortune has fallen my way (that I can’t share).  It was one of those wow moments because I never planned to be a writer and it seems really weird that it’s now my full time job.  I’m further weirded out when I look at my bookcase with all my various publications.  So my good news made me a little contemplative about my writing career so far, and my mind turned to my blunders and errors.  This wasn’t a case of self-flagellation.  More a case of playing what-if to see whether I could have reached this point earlier.  And in some ways, yes, I could have.  Some of my mistakes have slowed my career, but at the same time, the actions I took to remedy these situations also leapfrogged me much further forward than if I hadn’t made the mistake.  There’s also the factor of timing.  While every success has come with a lot of hard work, being in the right place at the right time has been a big element of my career.  This timing might not have been the same if I had smarter with some of my decisions.  So at the end of the day, my writing is where it is today because that was how my particular path was supposed to play out—for better or worse.  Wishing it went some other way isn’t worth the wasted energy.
That said, I want to share some of my writer regret—not as some sort of woe is me thing but as a reminder to myself to be a little more insightful in the future and as a guide to newer writers out there.
  1. I wish I’d gone with a pen name.  There were several other writers called Simon Wood already published before my first book came out.  I really should have done my homework to avoid confusion.  And eliminating my namesakes has proved costly and time consuming.
  2. I wish I’d been more confident in my own work at the beginning.  I didn’t always believe in my writing in the early days.  This led me to aim low and work up.  The reverse would have been smarter.  
  3. I should have never given my work away for free and/or low offers.  This falls back to #2.  My work is worth paying for and I now hold fast to that rule.  Some of the stories I gave away to magazines and anthologies, while they might have given me “exposure,” actually cost me further down the road.  There’s nothing worse than when a big time editor wants to make an offer on your work and you’ve given your story and rights away to someone for free.
  4. I wish I’d been pickier about contracts.  I’m no push over when it comes to contracts now, but the rights I signed away on some of my earlier contracts cost me (and not just financially).  In my eagerness to get published, I missed out on some big opportunities because I wasn’t the rights holder on some options.  
  5. I wish I’d remembered business is business.  I like my working relationships to be friendly, open and low key but I should have been more professional when it came to my contracts.  I once felt bad for my editor during my contract negotiations and gave him all rights when I signed the paperwork.  It was a mistake that could have cost me a small fortune if I hadn’t been able to break the contract years later.
  6. should have associated with good people only.  Publishing, from bookstores to editors to publishers is filled with a lot of different “personalities”.  That means there are going to be difficult and abrasive people you have to work with.  I spent a lot of time bending over backwards for people who were rude, selfish and acted as a detriment to my reaching new readers.  I don’t tolerate someone’s poor behavior, regardless of who they are.
  7. I wish I’d gotten into eBooks about a year or two before I did because I could have really established myself in the industry.  I had a good writing friend tell me to work my backlist as eBooks and I didn’t because a couple of publishers asked me not to because they didn’t want the competition.  Again, it was one of those things where doing publishers a favor came at my personal expense.  I missed the chance of establishing myself in the emerging industry which could have sent me on my way.


Like I say, these mistakes and regrets aren’t an excuse to sit around and moan.  They are reminders to always stay vigilant.  I’ve used all these mistakes mentioned above to make me a stronger and smarter writer.  It’s what I hope will sustain me for years to come.

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