An Encouraging Note to Mistake Makers

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.” ― Oscar Wilde

Some people come to the table with all of their research done. They’ve outlined every subplot of their future novel, they’ve studied the market, they’ve researched every aspect of publishing, and they’ve networked the hell out of their blogs.

I love those people. I’m impressed by them … but I’m not one of them. Even when I really, really try.

Instead I seem to learn best by making mistakes and having adventures.

Some mistakes I’ve made in life: marrying with doubts, wasting my time at NYU and

not having my book professionally edited.

Yes, most people are forgiven (and sometimes celebrated) for marrying and divorcing multiple times. Many of us think little of wasted nights at university, but everyone despises those writers who don’t pay to have their books professionally edited.

For a while (until I could afford to have my growing library of book titles edited) I kind of despised myself now and then.

But this is where the encouragement comes in:

Publishing mistakes can be fixed and sometimes in the fixing we learn a lot.

I consider myself lucky that I wrote my first book before I knew anything about publishing or else I wouldn’t have started. If I was told that I’d have to figure out how to blog or format documents I would have curled up in a ball despising myself all the more.

I published when a trusted friend dared me.

I published so that my children would have something to remember me by (they think I’m ridiculous for thinking of death all the time, but it’s in my blood).

A Historical Novel Society Surprise

When I started getting random good reviews I was pretty shocked (though I loved my book). When I got a really good review from the HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY I hoped and prayed that my self-editing had been enough —  yet knew deep down that no one catches every typo or weird writing habit for themselves. I gave it a good try — and with each re-edit I learned a lot about editing.

The First Negative Review!

When the first negative review came in and mentioned that I randomly always used the verb “pat” when I meant “patted” the worries flooded in. This was just a weird glitch in my brain, but how many other glitches were hidden from me???

Honestly, I was thrilled that my self-edited early versions of THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD still managed to get mostly good reviews yet I knew I was selling myself  and my readers short and leaving myself open for the occasional vicious review about little typos and the word pat. I even felt some satisfaction when I found typos in traditionally published books. 🙂

Every writer comes to the point were they have to decide how devoted they are to their stories. After writing a six book series I knew — I  really, enthusiastically believed in my work (that’s fifteen years of my life right there!).

Having my series polished up by the great KEVIN BRENNAN at INDIE-SCRIBABLE EDITORIAL SERVICES this past year has been such an amazing experience and one that I’m not sure I would have appreciated as much had I handed over the books earlier because I was too insecure back then. Kevin is great at getting a feel for a writer’s work and stepped in with wonderful suggestions, comments and encouragement.

I won’t lie, I was incredibly relieved each time I opened one of his emails and read that he was enjoying the series and that the typos and occasional wonky wording were just that — occasional. On a professional level, the fixes were super important to me because I wanted all of my hard work to shine and flow. Fifteen years ago I didn’t even think I could write a short story and certainly didn’t believe  in myself enough to hire a REAL editor.

The point is, all those years ago I didn’t have the money, but more importantly I didn’t have the guts to consider myself a professional at anything. I did everything exactly how you’re not supposed to do it, but I’m still here. I’m more a writer now than ever. I’m more willing to defend my work and my life than ever.

I feel like things are working out just as they are supposed to.

I wrote a book.

I edited it myself and designed the first cover (more to come on that disaster).

My sister told me that writers had to blog. I didn’t even know what that was.

Through blogging I met Kevin and never even thought about his editing services — until the right time and then I knew without hesitation that it had to be him. It was all meant to be, in my humble opinion.  The thrill of sharing the series with a writer I admire who happens to be an excellent editor has been one of the highlights of my life.

How often are you afraid to begin things?

I get it. I really do. How often have you turned back after making painful mistakes? I get that too. But if you have a dream, don’t give up on yourself too early (and it’s probably always too early to give up). Your path is your path. Winding roads aren’t always a bad thing.

Just the other day I got the following review for THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD:

“I saw that this book was close to 600 pages. That didn’t daunt me, but I wondered if I would be engaged in such a long book? I was. For 3 full days. I really enjoyed The House on Tenafly Road. It is an interesting story with well written characters I came to care about. The Civil War history is well researched and accurate. There were many eye opening and fascinating facets of the Civil War, and the military in general, that I found interesting. I liked how the character of Katherine became a major one, and following her domestic life as a military wife in a then-remote outpost (Arizona) was excellent. I commiserated with her in the awful heat; pregnant, lonely and struggling in a barely livable hut. The all too real issues of war crimes, Native American relations, pain, family stress and addiction were woven seamlessly throughout this enjoyable read. One thing I will say; unlike almost all Kindle books I have read, this one had hardly ANY typos. There are some books that are so badly transcribed that they are almost unreadable…thoroughly frustrating and annoying. Not this book. Flawless and that made reading it truly enjoyable.”

So it took a while but I did it and you can too. No matter how off track you get. No matter what you don’t know yet. Just love what you do. Love yourself too –even when you make mistakes. They are often hidden gifts.



Adrienne Morris is the author of

The Tenafly Road Series

The Tenafly Road Series
“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

13 responses to “An Encouraging Note to Mistake Makers”

  1. What a remarkable thing you’ve accomplished with this series, Adrienne, and what a pleasure it was working with you on the “polish.” And thanks so much for your promotion of my services!

    I think many indie authors are intimidated by the idea of letting someone edit their work before publication. Sometimes the results are a little upsetting, but the benefits definitely outweigh the discomfort. Plus, as an author, you’re always learning, and your editor will show you things you’d otherwise never know about.

    Congratulations on the Tenafly project, and best of luck with all your future writing goals!


    • Thanks, Kevin!

      For anyone else reading: The work Kevin and I did was really not painful at all. Since he was editing an entire series I knew what to expect since the polishing basically was the same throughout, but in the final manuscript Kevin REALLY, REALLY helped A LOT. First he gave me the perfect place to divide my very long manuscript ad then he spotted where my timeline went a bit haywire in the last hundred pages. I was trying to make Buck have too many children in a short period of time as a sign of blessing he was too blind to see and I knew it went haywire but I needed a second set of eyes and some good advice about reining in the number of twins (hehe) etc. I think Kevin worried how I’d take it but I was thrilled. I was able to fix everything in a single day!


  2. Bumble bees are not supposed to fly, but don’t tell them.

    Adrienne, I appreciate your honesty here and I love that you write from passion and not formula. Thanks for being humble enough to share your earliest naive writing experiences. You learned from your mistakes, and I’m learning also.

    You know I wish you the best on your books.


  3. Thanks for sharing, Adrienne. I enjoyed reading this post; the story was fun because you incorporated humor and personality. Very encouraging for would-be authors out there.


  4. Thanks for this encouraging post, Adrienne, and I also loved your honesty. There’s a lot to be learned from your experiences and knowledge. And Congrats on the great reviews, too, and I wish you even more success to come!
    ~Lauren 🌷


  5. Great Oscar Wilde quote! And I think this is such a great post, cos the truth is I think most people have no idea what they’re doing when they start out and a lot of the time it can be just doing the thing that can propel you forward (not spending forever fretting over what to do). And if we didn’t make mistakes we’d never learn from them. And such a great message to just get started and love what you do! Fantastic post!


    • Thanks, Ms. Orangutan. 🙂

      I spent 30 years fretting. Not a good look. What a self-inflicted wound.

      Nowadays I think if we’re not careful we can just get so overwhelmed by the curated accomplishments of other people posting online.
      Back when I was at university I remember a journalism class where I was constantly comparing myself to the other students. Basically assuming they were all going to be superstars and I was just an intruder. It was terrible. I actually was doing a fairly good job but beating myself up.

      One day after the semester was over I had a chance meeting with another student who I had imagined was the most sophisticated and talented writer in the class. When she confessed to me that she’d failed the class I was shocked. It was an eye-opening experience for me in the foolishness of comparison. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I got so much inspiration from your post and all of these comments. I understand too well the fear of failure thing. Ugh! It is wonderful how things bloom in our hearts and open up in the natural world when we overcome something like that. Brava Adrienne!


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