Three Signs of an Amateur Writer

New to the writing community? A few things to think about.

Zach J. Payne
5 min readJan 31, 2019


Between moderating Ninja Writers, and the few years that I spent as an intern to a query agent, I’ve seen a lot of new, aspiring authors take their first steps into the world of sharing their work online.

Over time, if you pay attention, you can observe behavioral trends, if you’re so inclined. And, over time, I’ve noticed three hallmarks of amateur writers, all of them who are overly worried about things that they don’t need to be worried about yet.

1. Worrying about people stealing your ideas.

Plagiarism is a thing that happens. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. That is the theft of an extant work, in whole or in part, being published under somebody else’s name.

There are so many amateur authors scared to post their story ideas, because they’re deathly afraid that somebody is going to steal their idea. Their big, precious, special, absolutely unique idea that is going to make them a million dollars.

Uh, no.

First of all, your idea isn’t that unique. If, while you’re writing a book, you don’t read at least a handful of books that make you think “Aw, fuck, this is like my book, but better!” you’re probably not reading enough.

You can have a good idea, but it’s probably not unique.

What’s going to make it unique is how you breathe your life, your person, your voice, your essence into it. Don’t be afraid of sharing your ideas, or talking about your ideas. Ideas come and go. Chances are, you will end up with a million different ideas that will come and go. Some of them will will die before their time. And some will go on to be great stories.

But it wasn’t the idea that was special. It was the story you told. And only you could have told that story.

Want to read this story later? Save it in Journal.

2. Plastering a copyright symbol *everywhere*.

Proviso. I am not a copyright lawyer. And I’m an American, so I’m speaking with regard to American law, which may or may not be your law. Again, I am not a…