We’ve all had that thought, or at least, the non-sociopaths amongst us have. I certainly have. Popular Psychology calls it imposter syndrome.
I’m not an author, an author is someone with recognized titles published. I’m not a writer, a writer loves what they’re doing. They love to craft the words, reveling in the infinite combinations and complexities of the written language.
I’m not a publisher, or a marketer, or a cover designer. I can dip my toes in those waters, but I’m quickly out of my depth.
What I am is a reader. I can devour a book in a single evening. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Historic Fiction. I’m running out of space on the multiple bookcases in my home, my garage is full of boxes packed with my B list picks. What I love are stories, what I love is clever use of prose. I enjoy complex characters and well-thought out scenes. I enjoy following the structure and pacing take the tale and weave it into a complex but easily understood narrative.
I stop a dozen times a chapter with thoughts like “wouldn’t it be cool if…”, or “maybe it would have been better if the story went…”, or even “please kill this stupid-arsed character so we can get back to the meat of the story”. Take the book, consume it. Appreciate the structure and envision where it might go, where it could have gone better. Critique the believability of the setting, the impossible coincidences the author hand-waves away, the plot-tool nature of the supporting characters, and then think about how they can be fixed. That’s me with a book.
I’m not an Author, I’m an unemployed editor with delusions of how to tell a better story. That my friends, when you get right down to it, is what a Writer is. You’re not a fraud, not any more than I am. What we both are is discouraged, dispirited maybe, and the only way to overcome that… is to write. As that self-parody of a person and gods gift to dank memes, Shia LaBeouf, apparently likes to scream “Just Do It”.
In this particular instance by “do it” I mean walk away and don’t hit play…
PS I don’t think very highly of Pop-Psychology.
You’ve seen the headlines 5 tricks to improve your manuscript or…
- 7 secrets for successful writers
- 10 steps to a best-selling novel
- 9 songs of madness to bring forth the Elder gods. (okay maybe not that one)
Like it or not, as an aspiring writer you are a potential consumer. In today’s blogosphere, there’s a legion of unpublished souls, the greatest potential army of quill-wielding warriors in history, only an electronic step away from being published. That’s a big potential audience, a big market that a lot of people have been tapping into. It feels like there is a lot more money in telling people how to write than there could ever be in actually writing.
Post after post appears telling you the inside edge, the best method, the secret process, and some of them, maybe even most of them, may very well have some merit. But when does the quest to have the most marketable book, detract from the quality of your story. Yes, there are certain tricks on timing and structure that can help, especially if you want to write to the formula so prevalent in YA and various genres. Yes, conforming to these can help you sell books. But that begs the question, am I writing to sell books, or to tell a story?
Now I’m not saying you should skimp on the basic structure and craft of the written word. If every sentence starts with He/She, that needs to be fixed. Your format, spelling, and font, need to be consistent. Grammer is essential, typos should be rooted out, and excessive repetition of words should be fixed with a bit of creativity and possibly a thesaurus. You should have a single PoV per scene, you should have a recognisable protagonist or two, and a not-excessive number of secondary characters.
However when your slow burn story gets bumped to fit in the rising conflict necessary to adhere to the YA template, you have to stop to consider if this actually adds to your story. If you cut every adverb, twist every instance of passive voice, and shave every description to deliver a leaner, meaner, manuscript… you need to look at what you lost in the process.
There is so much writing advice out there, and most of it can be great, but nothing is one-size-fits-all. So MY one-size-fits-all advice is this, once you master the basics, once you are comfortable in your own skin and know your own story, then seek out the experts in the genre you want to write, and see what they say. When you do it pick only a handful of sources and even then you have to be careful that you don’t mix and match advice that actually works against you. Find a style, perfect that style, and remember that not everyone’s advice will be right for you.
- Reach out and connect with your fellow writers
- Get Beta Readers
- Read widely (not just in the same genre) and often
- No work is ever perfected, it’s simply abandoned