I first discovered Leo over at Goodreads while I was pitching books to reviewers for my "moonlighting" position as Marketing Director with CCLaP (and for a side job I had as publicist for a couple of Davis Schneiderman's titles). He's got eclectic taste when it comes to literature and when he reached out to me about his debut self published novel Findesferas, I knew I had to get him over here on the blog. By the way, if you are interested in taking a peek at his book, it's available as a free epub download here.
Today, he shares an interesting concept - the lies he tells himself while writing. I think you'll get a kick out of these, or, if you are writer, perhaps you'll see something of yourself in them?
Lies I tell myself when writing
I recently self-published my first novel and already feel like I learned a lot from the experience. Far be it from me to speak with authority about the process, so instead I’d like to share with you some lies I tell myself while writing, and what I suspect is the truth.
I don't wanna read anything- I'm too jealous/ this author's rubbish/ this author's too good (“this author” may or may not be the same author)
Reading when you’re writing is a great way to pick up new ideas, even if they’re not directly related to what you’re working on. You’ll probably feel that you’ll never be good as someone, and you’ll also be outraged that someone clearly less talented than you is writing for a living while you’re slaving away at etcetera. Everything’s fine. Learn what you can from good or bad writing and do your own thing.
I’ve just started/ I'm too young to have to write anything good. No one even knows who I am, I’m sure they’re not expecting anything stellar.
People have been defying logic by writing from the irritatingly young to the why-start-now old. You are the leading authority on your life right at this moment, and there are readers your age or otherwise looking for a different perspective or new insight. I wrote my first novel during my master’s studies and incorporated a number of scientific concepts that I barely remember studying now- if I’d waited, chances are I wouldn’t have been able to use them. If you have an idea for a piece you wanna write, you should start now, and whatever you write, do it with conviction and to the best of your ability- that’s something people can expect.
I heard this great anecdote from a friend the other day, and it sounds exactly like something my character would do. Shame I can’t use it…
I used to think that everyone else was sequestering their stories for their own creative outputs, but having asked, I’ve generally found people quite willing to help out and contribute. So long as the input doesn’t get too heavy and cloud your judgement, it can be very helpful.
I need to focus on one project at a time: I won’t start something else until this is finished.
Up to you but it can enhance inspiration when you have thoughts that are related to many different projects. It’ll prevent your current project from becoming confused with too many differing ideas if you start assigning them to their most appropriate piece. This also makes your next project easier because of the bonus planning!
I can't use that writer's technique: I don't think I understand completely why they used it, and if people recognise it and think it’s an homage to that writer and that I used it incorrectly, they’re gonna think I’m stupid.
Sometimes writing can hit you viscerally but you don’t know why, but you probably understood it better than you think. If you didn’t understand it but you still like the technique, then use it for your own purposes- maybe this is even better because people will think you're stunningly original!
I can't let anyone see this- I hate it!
Might happen. If you've edited it and read it enough times until it's lost all meaning, I think you're supposed to hate it by the end. Who knows? If you don't hate it, you might not have proofread it enough! If you’re really unsure, just leave it a while, no rush at all and you can come back refreshed.
I'll just write something simple to begin with.
Great! Get started with something you can do, but funnily enough you might find it easier if you choose something ambitious, complex in theme or structure, number of characters, subplots whatever it is. If you have a lot planned and you haven’t yet fulfilled all your criteria, it means you must have more to write, and anything which gets you thinking about writing more is usually helpful, as is any reasonably challenging ambition for your book.
I'll write when I have an idea/ I’ll just write the scenes as they enter my head, then connect the dots later.
If your story is to have any kind of progression, connecting the dots, while there are infinite ways to do it, can be restrictive, and you may well end up with a later scene which takes your characters in the wrong direction. This typically leaves you with thousands of words that you grow an affection for and refuse to throw away- then a week later you’ll concede but keep one or two good sentences and put them somewhere where they don’t belong, making your manuscript a bit too disjointed. It’s a sign of a great writer if they can throw away their crap bits, but it can be painful. I try to minimise opportunities for this happening: working from beginning to end is one way to do this, while a note here or there about how the story might progress is a nice way of keeping a goal in mind.
I can’t be doing with all this new software. Good writing is good writing, I don’t need any help.
Yeah… So I got a copy of Robert McKee’s book Story (which is great) and he suggests that you plan all your scenes by writing them on flashcards and putting them up on your wall, which I did. But I hadn’t yet heard of Scrivener. Your story can be planned, re-worked or discarded more readily using for example Scrivener’s corkboard feature. Similar to the random scene order technique, throwing away work you’ve done is not easy, and any method which is going to make you cling on to bad material for sentimental purposes should be avoided, ‘cause if you’re anything like me, you pure will and you’ll have to fix it later. Different software could make your creative life much easier.
I’m not aiming for a strong plot: this novel’s more literary, more conceptual. It’s not about character either. It’s about… um… ah… eugh.
You won’t (or at least shouldn’t) get away with a book that lacks plot, conflict, characterisation, no matter what your aims are with the text. Every great book, literary or otherwise, has had a plot- sometimes you need to look for it but it’s still there. Crack out your conflict!
Phew! I’m not necessarily cured of all these thoughts, but sometimes it’s just nice to know it happens to someone else too. Best of luck with your writing!
Bio: Leo X. Robertson is a 25 year-old Scottish chemical engineer living in Stavanger, Norway. His first novel, Findesferas, is available in paperback or as a free ebook. Find him on Twitter: @Leo_X_Robertson