Five Mistakes I’ve Made by Colette McBeth – Guest Post

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Colette McBeth to the blog. Colette is the author of Precious Thing and her latest novel, The Life I Left Behind was published in paperback by Headline Review on 13 August 2015

Colette has written a fabulous guest post on the five writing mistakes she has made.

Five mistakes I’ve made. 

I could fill a book with the mistakes I have made and continue to make but the top five, in order of severity, are as follows.

1. Trying to write good words.

I don’t set out to write bad words, but it so happens that I write a lot of them. Hopefully you won’t agree, because by the time my books are published the pages should be rinsed clean of them. But the first drafts? They’re a car crash. It took me a while to realise that this doesn’t matter. No one – and I mean no one- is going to see my first draft. More to the point, it’s only by freeing myself up to write rubbish that I can refine and redraft and polish. First drafts should be about the story, not the words. 

2. Panicking 

Every author I know panics. We all think our work in progress is terrible, and the next book will be a marvel. We are consumed by self doubt, that our editor, agent, mother, the man who sits opposite us on the Tube, will laugh at our pitiful efforts at storytelling.  Mostly we panic because it’s not going well, but if it’s going smoothly, that’s a cause for panic too, because nothing good should come easy. I spent a whole year in a state of panic and wrote a lot of words I really shouldn’t have bothered to write.  Then I threw them all away and panicked some more because my deadline was looming. A certain amount of self-doubt is good, but I know that wallowing in it will get me nowhere.

3. Being dishonest

What I’m talking about here is the kind of writing that isn’t honest. When I started out, I began writing the way I thought I should write. But that wasn’t me. The only person that can write like me is me.  There’s no point trying to be someone I’m not. Readers can sniff a fake a mile off. In my second book I tried to be a lot braver and bolder.  Yes, I was consumed with panic (see above) but I was happier with the end result.

4. Reading reviews…

Or more specifically, reading bad reviews and letting them get me down. This is a tricky one because I do read reviews and yes, they get me down. My books are my babies and when I send them out into the world I want everyone to remark on what works of genius they are. When they don’t, it stings. The one star reviews tend to be the funniest and easiest to brush off. The ones that hurt are the three stars because they often hit upon an issue I wrestled with while writing the novel. But they can be constructive so I’ve made a point not to sulk and take something positive from them instead.

5. Social Media.  

This isn’t strictly writing related but…my god I could be much more productive if I didn’t have it. Or, if I just had a healthier relationship with it. Social media is my chat in the office, and anyone who knows me will tell you I can talk a lot. I’ve met other authors on Twitter and bloggers too. I could chat on there all day. Sometimes I struggle to write three sentences without checking my notifications. My concentration is shot. I know there is Mac Freedom – tried that thank you- but what I really need is a detox. Or a complete personality change. I need to stop talking and focus.

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Former BBC correspondent Colette McBeth is the author of Precious Thing, and this year’s The Life I Left Behind, as well as a member of Killer Women.

About the Book


“Everyone tells her she’s a survivor. No-one knows she’s dead inside. You know those books you feel jealous of everyone reading? This is one of those those. Read it. Savour it. Talk about it. Share it.

She’s dead but she’s the only one who knows what really happened;

What your friends have said.

What the police missed.

Who attacked you.

So if you want the truth who else are you going to turn to?”

You can read my review of The Mistake I Made here (spoiler – I thought it was a terrific read).

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Rachel Hall says:

    That was great thanks Janet. I have recently read both novels and I thought they were terrific. Off to see Colette at Chiswick Book Festival next weekend – an amazing talent! This is v handy especially as I am now trying my hand at writing the odd bit!

    Thanks, Rachel xx


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Rachel. I’ve only read The Life I Left Behind but loved it. I need to read Precious Thing too. Enjoy Chiswick 🙂


  2. What a great idea for a meet the author post – no three star reviews from me as I’ve loved both books!


    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Cleo, I wish I could claim credit but it was all Colette’s idea. Could make an interesting feature though. I loved The Life I Left Behind. Need to read Precious Thing soon!


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