Ye Prologue that Sucketh

There is a writing rule that your shouldn’t write prologues. That rule should be don’t write prologues that suck.

A classic prologue that sucks can be found in certain SF and fantasy books where they open with a prosy, dull rehashing of the history of the kingdom or galaxy of the fictional world. In a trilogy in also sums up what happened in the previous books— in the style of a particularly dull history textbook.

Cut that kind of prologue. Start with chapter one with a character in action– learning to use a sword or pilot a starship, chasing a buxom alien woman or an escaped riding dragon, coping with the fact he’s just been turned into a cockroach and that might make him late for work…

There is another kind of prologue often used in horror novels that you can keep. The prologue introduces you to a character who is about to be murdered by the monster or serial killer or whatever you’ve got that kills people, and this killing launches the story. Calling this story start a ‘prologue’ acts as a suggestion to the reader not to get too attached to the prologue viewpoint character.

If you have a prologue in mind that isn’t that kind or a history lesson, and it features your Lead character, is there any real reason to call that a prologue instead of Chapter One? Many readers have been so burned by bad prologues that they don’t read them. Putting ‘prologue’ on a first section just diminishes the number of people to read it.

‘Don’t write prologues’ is not a valid writing rule. Write all the prologues you like. Just don’t write ones that suck. If you put your best foot forward and write things that make the reader curious, you have hooked the reader, and that’s the job of any kind of book beginning.

World-Building: Enforcing Laws

In the process of world-building for fantasy/sci-fi writing, we not only need to make up laws for our worlds, we  need to think about how the laws are enforced. Without any enforcing of laws, chaos arises. Why shouldn’t someone steal all your stuff if there were no consequences? Why shouldn’t they stab you to death to get a chance at your wife/husband? Or do it just for the hell of it?

Most people don’t look forward to going to jail for long sentences, being hanged or beheaded, being put in the stocks, or whatever other punishments your world has. Many early societies didn’t have actual police forces to catch the criminals— families often had to catch their kin’s murder themselves. Among the ancient Norse, when some one killed your brother, you were free to kill any member of the murderer’s family in vengeance. 

More civilized societies as in most sci-fi worlds have a system more similar to ours. Criminals need to be caught. Perhaps technology will give better ways to find the criminals— we see that already in places with CC-TV cameras everywhere, and the use of DNA identification. 

In our world some charming people have decided ‘defund the police’ is a cool slogan, but they get dismayed by a resulting crime wave that affects them. Being a person tasked with law enforcement will always be a tough job. You have to gain control of possible criminals who are high on drugs, or drunk, and who may be belligerent and think there is nothing wrong with what they have done— even if it’s murder. And if a law enforcer makes a mistake— catching an innocent person, who dies in police custody— they can get called murderers, even if they had no way of preventing the death.

Some people think that looting and shoplifting from a business is OK because the business owner is insured and rich enough to afford insurance rate hikes. But people who own a business, large or small, aren’t in business just for the fun of it. The business needs to make enough money to cover the costs, both of the wholesale cost of anything sold and the cost of paying employees’ wages. As a bonus, the business owner usually expects a little money for his labor— if he’s not getting it, he might as well go home and do things he likes.

High shoplifting rates, or an incident of mass looting, makes businesses go away. That’s why so many urban ‘bad neighborhoods’ don’t have any of the chain discount stores in the area. They have individual stores with higher prices, because of the shoplifting rates. 

My father, who worked as manager in a discount store most of his working life, dealt with shoplifters all the time. He liked to say they had never caught anyone stealing a loaf of bread. I think what he meant was that people didn’t steal basic food items, but things they didn’t need to survive.

Out-of-touch people think looting is OK because it means people— including non-employed Leftist professional protesters— get fed. Real-world poor people tend to get food it more legit ways. If there are no wages to buy basic foods, they panhandle, or apply for charity/Food Stamps, or go to a food bank or soup kitchen. I’ve never panhandled, but I’ve done some of the other things— food banks are frustrating when  you have to be on a low-carb eating plan and most of what they have is Hamburger Helper and ramen noodles. 

Some people think training the young people with the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule would help reduce law-breaking. It might— a lot of crimes that are common now were less common when most kids were taught these things in home, religious education and school. But this training gets overcome when there are loads of people promoting ‘situational ethics’ or the idea that there are no absolute rules without exceptions.

Not murdering and stealing are good rules. In a major crisis, we all agree that one may use deadly force in self-defense or the defense of others, and in an apocalyptic situation one can break into a sporting goods store to get a crossbow or ball bat to kill zombies with. But if your mind is filled with the exceptions more than the rules, you are always finding good reasons to break laws. You speed through the school zone because you’re running late. You steal ‘protein bars’ from the mini-mart because you’re hungry and you left your wallet in your other pants. You kill Joe because he flirted with your wife, or he cussed you out, or you want his stuff…. I have read about a lady serial killer who was a devout church-going Christian on the surface. But she kept feeding people ant poison when they caught her stealing to get drug money. I’m sure she knew the ‘Thou shalt not murder’ rule. She just got in a habit of not applying it to herself.

In fantasy and sci-fi stories, the shared moral rules may be similar to those of the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments, or quite different. Maybe one rule is that you don’t say the Fearless Leader or Dark Lord’s name, or he will get you, through magic or technology. Maybe your hero will obey his society’s rules, or be looking for a better way. In either case there will be some sort of law enforcers to keep him on track.

You Need To be Mean to your Characters!

Zombieland (2009)

You put a lot of effort into creating characters. You hope your Lead character is interesting, and that readers can identify with him. But what will make that happen? Trouble!

How many readers would have liked Harry Potter if an evil wizard hadn’t killed his parents, leaving him to be raised by horrid Muggle relatives? How many would have identified with Katniss Everdeen if she had lived in a peaceful, prosperous society with no ‘Hunger Games’ competition in sight? Would we have followed Scarlett O’Hara through the Civil War if she’d got Ashley to dump Melanie for her right at the beginning?

Being a big meany to your characters makes those characters more relatable. Most readers have had troubles, and even if their troubles were very minor, they felt big. It’s easier to care about an orphan, an unfulfilled person, even a doomed person, rather than someone for whom everything goes right. Everything going right is what happens to other people, the ones we don’t like so much.

Lots of troubles give characters lots of chances to show good qualities. If Katniss never had to volunteer for the Hunger Games to save her sister, and therefore never allied with little Rue in those games, we might think she was just a self-involved teen with no redeeming qualities. In ‘Gone With the Wind,’ we are shown that Scarlett is shallow and self-centered, but she stays with Melanie and delivers Melanie’s baby, and then helps her sisters and the servants survive when she returns to Tara to find everything she had known destroyed. 

Imagine instead you write a character named Mary, who is popular and a good student and has a wealthy family who gives her everything. Will we even like her? Probably not— unless we make her lose her popularity, lose her family, and have to drop out of school to work in a cotton mill. Troubles like that will make any good qualities Mary has shine forth so that even the more inattentive readers will notice.

Now, you don’t have to give every character the same set of troubles. There have been many fictional characters who were not orphans, or not poor, or not unpopular. You just have to give your character some troubles.

The center of most fictional plots is the things the Lead character wants but can’t seem to get. It must be something important to him— for example, if he can’t get the girl he wants, he can’t have 10 other more available girls around him that he likes just as much. Getting the girl has to seem like life-or-death to your character if that is at the center of your plot. Your Lead can best be defined as someone who wants something, and wants it with all his heart. 

Without being mean to your characters, in particular the Lead character, the characters are just going through the motions of something that won’t much matter to anyone. Your readers might not even know what’s missing, why they could never really ‘get in to’ the story, or care enough about the story to finish it, or why they couldn’t give it a good review. But now, YOU know what is missing. Get writing, and add some troubles to your fiction!

The ‘Cult’ of Imposing Writing Rules on Others, IWSG

One thing insecure writers so often do is get on a mad search for absolute writing rules and then proceed to impose those rules on other insecure writers— whether asked for feedback or not.

This is a post in the Insecure Writers’ Support Group blog hop. Learn more at: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Some people support the rule about ‘no clichés’ by condemning every actual fantasy element in a fantasy novel as ‘cliché.’ No dragons, no elves, no vampires, no magic rings… no readers, because fantasy novel readers like books with fantasy elements in them, even though they have seen these things before. 

Some people like to complain about ‘head-hopping,’ or shifting the point-of-view during the scene. It IS an amateur move to shift point-of-view accidentally or in a confusing way. But author Stephen King wrote a scene where the reader starts off in the head of a bad guy on a shooting spree, shifts to a frightened observer who is the next to get shot dead, and then moves back to the point-of-view of the shooter. Does this make Stephen King an amateur hack-writer who will never be published? No, it makes him a skilled writer who is too experienced to bow to a lot of absolute amateur-writer rules.

Our need for rules dates back to our very early days of being able to read or write. When teacher admonished us that the word ‘cats’ must not be spelled ‘ka777z,’ it was wise of us to obey that rule if we wanted others to be able to read our childish little attempts at writing sentences. 

But we kept on learning more and more, and I hope we will all keep on learning more about writing until we die. There are very few absolute rules other than the ‘traffic signals’ of correct spelling, grammar and punctuation that make other people able to make sense of our work. Imagine if Jeff Lindsay had gone to a bunch of rule-oriented writers and explained his idea for the Dexter novels. A serial killer who’s a blood spatter analyst and the ‘hero’ of the series? You can’t do that! Lead characters need to be— at least more moral than someone that gets a thrill out of making other people dead. But Lindsay did pretty well with the Dexter thing after all.

The point I have to make is we have to develop our writing confidence enough to ignore the people who want to impose various rules on our work. If we are writing ‘OK-enough’ fiction and not groupthinking it to death through critique groups, we can ignore alleged writing rules. And if our writing skills have a long way to go, no amount of slavish rule-obeying will save us. (Hint— if you fear your writing is ‘not good enough,’ read more books. Write more novels and short stories. Your skills will improve.)

Fiat Currency of the Apocalypse

I’m currently reading ‘The Sheriff’ by M. R. Forbes, and in this post-apocalyptic novel, folks are using a paper currency which is a government stamp on paper for trade. Even paper notes made by the hero who happens to own a stamp. Which is incredibly unrealistic.

A paper currency is  sometimes called ‘fiat currency,’ which means it’s money because some government said it’s money. American dollars these days— on paper or in electronic form— are fiat currency backed by the government. We accept it for practical reasons— that paper or electronic signal may not have intrinsic worth, but we can trade it easily for the stuff we need.

US dollars didn’t used to be fiat currency— at one time it was backed by gold, and you could just take your paper dollars in to a bank and trade them for US gold coins. That didn’t last and FDR actually forbade Americans to own gold. Gold was good because many people accepted that gold was an item of value and would trade for it. And governments can’t print more gold to fake paying their bills.

Fiat currency in the US keeps working because the government that backs it continues to exist in a way that gives people confidence that the dollar has worth. But what would happen in an apocalyptic situation where the government is helpless or disappears altogether? Would people actually trade stuff with survival value for the former government’s approved printed paper?

Here is, in my opinion, the transition of fiat currency in an apocalyptic situation:

Stage 1: People are pretending things are normal in spite of the crisis. They only get worried if they can no longer cash their paychecks or get money out of their bank. The more the government insists that it can bring things back to normal, and doesn’t deliver, the less people trust in government-backed paper money.

Stage 2: The crisis is well upon us. Stores are closed, perhaps forever, some people loot to get needed supplies. Trade, where it exists, is mostly barter, and mostly food or survival items such as guns, milk goats or hand-crank grain grinders. People trade stuff they have a surplus of, for things they need.

Stage 3: Things are getting more stable as some survivors learn to adapt to the new conditions. Since some survivalists have stockpiled gold and silver coins for just such a crisis, some people may take the risk of accepting it in trade, at first perhaps only for non-essential items because there is a risk. People won’t trade food or a gun for mere gold unless they become convinced that they can trade that gold for something useful someday. 

Stage 4: The difficulty of barter is that you may have an item for barter and no one has anything you need or want to trade for it. So things like valued coins or other things used as mediums of exchange will grow in use. These things may be of different types. In some areas the medium of exchange may be bags of rice, or boxes of bullets. Gold and silver coins may be used in some areas and not others. 

Stage 5: This is the part where the survivors have settled in to the task of producing/finding their own food and protecting their own families. They may produce surpluses of things which need to be sold or bartered to obtain other things. Perhaps a stable medium of exchange — precious metal coins, bullets— has been established locally. Fiat currency still won’t be respected, even if government manages to re-emerge. Governments might have to mint their own precious metal coins for a time to pay their soldiers and buy supplies until a more normal life can be established— if it can be.

Fiat currencies, useful as they are right now, are highly unlikely to be respected in an apocalyptic situation. People trying to survive won’t think of bundles of paper money as something they would trade food or useful supplies for. And if a great number of people died in the apocalyptic situation, there may be great bundles of paper money floating around to be scavenged. But would you trade away a can of tuna fish to get a wad of paper money? Probably not, unless you knew for a fact that you could use that paper money somewhere, somehow to get other food. 

Everyone Needs an Encouraging Word

Writers are weird. You see so many of us begging to find a critique group, or get their work critiqued, and then they go off and hire a scam artist calling himself a ‘content editor’ to tell us more of the crap that is wrong with every word we write— and all along we know we’ve all got an ‘inner critic’ perfectly capable of telling us our writing is all crap for free.

What most writers need is encouragement. We don’t believe in ourselves and our work, even the parts we ought to know are good and of higher quality than that produced by many published writers. More critical voices tearing us down are exactly what we DON’T need— unless we are hoping to chuck the whole writing idea because we are No Darn Good at it. 

Quitting writing, though, guarantees failure. Sticking with it means that even if you start out hopelessly bad, you will be getting better, through practice. Maybe you are so dim compared with other wannabe writers that the first 4 novels you write are dreck (pardon my Yiddish.) But if you keep at it, novel #5 will be better, novel #6 will have its good points, and novel #9 will draw fanatic fans. 

Many readers find after a time that their old favorite authors start to feel boring and predictable. These readers may not know it, but what they need is to start trying some new, fresh authors. Because no two authors are the same, and the more authors you try, the more likely you are to find new and exciting stories.

Know this: YOUR writing has its good points, even if it, and you, are weird, off-base, and not like all the other writers. That doesn’t make your ideas bad— it may make them just what readers are looking for.

Imagine this nonsense as a writing idea— a police blood spatter analyst whose hobby is serial killing. Dumb, huh? Yet Jeff Lindsay did pretty well with this ‘dumb’ writing idea in his Dexter series. Your inner critic may be telling you that your current writing is based on ‘dumb’ writing ideas which will only embarrass you if you write them down and show them to anyone. But why are you listening to that inner critic? Throw (metaphorical) rocks at it until it goes away!

If you believe in your writing and your writing ideas, and you put in the work on them, each one will turn out better than you might have imagined, and certainly  better than the critical voices said it would. And why not believe? Your writing comes out of your individual unique self, created by God. And God doesn’t make junk. 

The same goes for the critical voices holding you back in your non-writing life. Maybe you are, objectively, not as good at housekeeping tasks as your mother or grandmother. But you are probably better than those ladies on that hoarder show, right? At least, you are still trying. Which you probably wouldn’t be doing if you gave up and listened to those critical voices. 

Have courage enough to be yourself. Because you are the best person— the only person— who is really good at that job. Don’t let other people or your inner critic paralyze you. Yeah, they say you shouldn’t dare try because you might be less than perfect. Well, you WILL be less than perfect, just like everyone else. But being afraid to try will make your life even less perfect than that. 

Eating Your Daily Frog

In several different self-help books I have read a quotation from Mark Twain, that if the toughest chore you have to do today is eat a frog, eat that frog first thing in the day.

Frog-eating seems to stand in both for the concept of a high-priority task, and for a dreaded task you don’t want to face. Facing such a task first thing in the day, when possible, gets the task out of the way, so you don’t have it hanging over your head, and and gives you a feeling that you really accomplished something.

In your writing life, what ‘frogs’ are coming up? Both in the sense of high-priority task and of dreaded task? I rather dread organizing-type tasks, which is why I don’t outline, but I do have stuff I need to have available like lists of characters and their major characteristics, or places and place names, or what the people in the Old West called their space-alien neighbors…. 

Your writing life doesn’t take place in a vacuum, though. Do you urgently have to cook some meals to freeze for future use, vacuum the living room, persuade a mama cat to raise her kittens somewhere other than a kitchen drawer? Do you have a report due at work or a test to study for in school? These things shouldn’t replace your writing life, but they must be done or your writing life will suffer. 

You have to get good at judging priorities rightly. You can’t let your real life slip because you are putting your writing tasks in first priority all the time. But you also can’t decide that the real life tasks always have a higher priority than your self-imposed writing life. That will not only kill your writing dreams, but make the rest of your life feel less shiny. And if you are a Christian/other person-of-faith who does prayer or devotionals on a daily basis, having a faith-life is a priority also, but you don’t want to have just a faith life. You have to have a clean-enough house and feed your cats/family also. 

As I write this I have just done a ‘frog’ chore I have been dreading and putting off for too many days. It makes me feel great and lessens the depression I’ve had for a while. I even think I can face up to tomorrow’s ‘frog’ chore promptly. 

A Fictional Character’s Psychology: Parent

In my school years I was diagnosed— not as having Asperger Syndrome but as being weird and unhappy, and the school that made the ‘diagnosis’ compelled my parents to take me to the kind of professional that I, at the time, called a headshrinker. One of my better shrinks, knowing I was intelligent, gave me a copy of the book ‘I’m OK, You’re OK,’ which was a popular book about a kind of psychology called ‘Transactional Analysis.’

Transactional Analysis insists that we all have three observable ‘ego states,’ which it calls the Parent, Adult and Child. In other words, your ‘You’ is divided into these three parts. The stuff you (or your fictional characters) say comes in one of these three voices. 

The first of these three ego states is the Parent, which is composed of the memories of the stuff your parents, day care people, teachers and other caregivers said to you in childhood. Even though you think you have forgotten all this stuff, science shows that if the brain is stimulated you can uncover long-buried memories (at least in a lab for experimental purposes.) So it is all still in there.

Your fictional characters, if they are at all human-like, had parental figures in their early lives that influenced them. Even androids— remember how Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation was about his ‘father,’ the human that built him?

No matter how odd your character’s upbringing was, he has memories of what his authority figures said to him in early childhood. He has internalized much of this stuff— because that’s a survival skill. We need to learn to obey those useful parental mandates about not touching a hot stove or borrowing a wizard’s magic wand or playing with phasers. 

Your Parent voice can have wrong or no-longer-accurate information in it as well. What if your character’s parents always said ‘never move in next door to a unicorn,’ because they once bought a house in a declining neighborhood where impoverished unicorns were moving in, but didn’t have the gold to repair their shabby new houses? And you have the chance to move into a house in a good neighborhood, but next door to a corporate CEO unicorn— who is a heck of a fellow and has season tickets to Green Bay Packer games which he shares around the neighborhood. The Parental mandate ‘no unicorn neighbors’ is not up to date in this situation. 

A character with a personal history of massively abusive parents or caregivers will have different Parent content than a person who was raised around loving and kind people. But even loving parents can make a child feel ‘not OK’ because a child has to be corrected and taught a lot of things in childhood, and many of these things are hard to do at first. A little child, learning to tie his shoe for the first time, finds it hard and is dismayed that all the adults in his life can do it so easily. 

Characters speak with their Parent voices often when in a parental or mentoring role, but even little kids have their own Parent mode and can use it— as when a four-year-old child hears his mother asking where the rolling pin is, and says ‘Where did you see it last’ to his mother in Parental mode. People also speak Parent-to-Parent when expressing ‘dogmatic’ Parental judgment on things— ‘the city buses are always late, aren’t they?’  ‘Young people have poor taste in music these days.’

The Parent is an important part of every character, because parents/caregivers are necessary for an infant’s survival. The internalized Parent sayings are an important part of every character you will ever write, so keep the character’s origin story in mind when writing the character— even when you don’t go into that backstory in the story itself.

How to Write Aspie Characters

How can a writer portray a character with Asperger Syndrome (a form of high-functioning autism) realistically? Even writers who actually have Asperger Syndrome themselves may have difficulty.

One of the troubles these days is that Asperger Syndrome has been folded in the label ‘autism spectrum disorder’ along with Kanner’s autism (which is often low-functioning autism.) Since Aspies often have high intelligence and are very verbal and may have ambitions to be writers, they don’t have much in common with a person who has Kanner’s autism, is believed to have a low IQ, and never learns to speak.

I remember an experience of my own with the diagnosis changed. I told the lady at the Michigan food distribution that I had an ‘autism spectrum disorder’ and she presumed I would be unable to sign my own name on a form. She was probably looking about for my ‘caregiver.’ As a person cursed with a Mensa-level IQ, I didn’t like that. My intelligence is one of the few possibly-good things about me and I am testy when people presume I don’t have any.

To write an Aspie character you need to learn more about actual people with Asperger Syndrome from good sources. It’s not the same as having ‘autism’ and, contrary to news reports, it’s nothing like being a sociopath. The organism Autism Speaks, oriented towards parents of young children with autism, isn’t very helpful in learning about people with Asperger Syndrome. Even the diagnosis lists on good web sites don’t actually give you a good picture for character creation.

A few years ago I found a children’s book called ‘All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome’ by Kathy Hoopman. Yeah, it’s a kid’s book, but I liked it enough to bring it to a session with my then-therapist and we spend a few sessions going through the few pages and comparing it to my life. (It’s a great book for Aspies or their parents to give to significant people to explain the condition because it’s a quick read and has cute cat pictures. Get this book!)

I was not diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome until adult life— in school I was diagnosed as being a lazy troublemaker, or shy, or sad, or needing to go to a therapist. I associate my Aspie status with my being bullied by kids in school, humiliating experiences of misunderstanding by teachers, loving books, and massive fandom for TV shows like Star Trek and Dark Shadows. 

It’s not untypical for an Aspie like me, who moved from city to city in childhood, that I grew up with zero friends after a certain age. But once I got internet access as a adult, I had a few online friends, initially from my blog and later from Facebook (which I joined to gain more readers for my blog.) I even have friends with Asperger Syndrome, officially diagnosed and self-diagnosed. I’m in a couple of Facebook groups for Aspies, and so I’ve learned that different Aspies have different ideas of what is ‘typical’ for Aspies. Also, I’m not sure that the online Aspies are actually sharing all the gory details of their real lives— though many of us share too much! 

When writing an Aspie, even if you are an Aspie, you have to trim back some of your knowledge when creating a character. You can mainly pattern your Aspie character after two or three real-world Aspies that you know or have read about. Take a trait from one and a trait from another. Some Aspies have real-world friends, others don’t. Some lack most social skills, others have more such skills. And sometimes an Aspie person just seems to have contradictory traits. I myself am afraid to initiate phone calls and find it stressful. I can’t even call some family members that seem to care about me, I’m afraid to disturb them. Yet I phone my mother (who’s in her 90s) every single day (we both seem to be ‘addicted’ to that contact.)

I believe our Aspie characters have to serve a greater purpose in our fiction than virtue-signalling support for the ‘differently-able.’ They should have an important role in the story or not exist at all. It’s probably better to pick a character that you already suspect must exist in the story and give him Asperger Syndrome. Pick the set of symptoms for that character that still allows him to do the things you need him to do in the story. For example, if your Aspie is a receptionist for your hard-boiled private detective, she will probably need minimal phone skills much of the time. If your Aspie character will have to talk to a lot of other people, he should somewhat able to talk to other people, though it may be difficult for him. 

So good luck in creating your Aspie characters! If you do it well— or do it poorly but tell a good story— I may count myself as one of your readers some day.

Is Your Writing Life an Utter Failure?

Have you ever felt like this? ‘My writing life is hopeless! I will never write anything worthwhile. I will never get the kind of publication that really counts. (Or ‘My books will never well because I will never know enough about book marketing.’) Everything I think I’ve learned to do a little bit well is really just superficial or commercial and therefore does not count as writing skill. My plots are either unoriginal dreck, or too darn original for anyone to relate to, or possibly both at once. My characters are cardboard and I am DOOMED! DOOMED! DOOMED! as a writer.’ 

Even writers who have been selling for years and made the REAL bestseller lists multiple times can feel like this. It’s called ‘imposter syndrome.’ You avoid the scary thing of writing success by attributing every good part of your writing to a fluke; and believing that if people REALLY knew about you, your success would disappear as you would be exposed as a fraud.

Imposter syndrome is bull! No one gives up a favorite writer because they suddenly think that writer is a fraud. Fiction writers are people who lie for a living. Readers are gonna give up their favorite writers because those lying writers are lying? Which is their job?

Personal integrity is not required for writers. The late Marion Zimmer Bradley’s support for her husband’s fairly open pursuit of underaged boys didn’t kill her writing career during her lifetime, or even after.  Authors who publish CBA Christian fiction might lose their contracts if they are revealed as not being real Evangelical Christians. But imagine this scenario: a popular writer of Christian romance novels is revealed as being an atheist male death-row inmate. Can you imagine that he WOULDN’T get a new publisher and a brand-new set of fans as a result of the publicity surrounding being unmasked?

The writing skills you really have are not fake. You may have a hard time discerning what your real skills are: people who are willing to read your fiction and give you feedback are likely NOT to be able to tell what is good and what is weak about your writing. They will say what they liked, or what they think will make you feel good. And hired book fixers (‘editors’) are more interested in making you think that their advice is worth the money. They will have to criticize SOMETHING if you paid the money or you won’t come back to that book fixer and pay more money. 

But you do have real writing skills. They are not ‘fake’ and YOU are not fake. Being insecure about your real skills just paralyzes you. Your inner critic likes that. Your inner critic is there to stop you from writing, because writing is risky and scary because other people can read your writing and judge you. 

What about your REAL weak points in writing? Many working writers have had a weak point or two in their writing skills, and have still been able to sell well enough to make a living at it. Fiction does not have to be flaw-free, typo-free and perfect for someone to enjoy it! Aiming for perfection just ensures that you won’t finish anything, won’t publish anything, and won’t be a real writer because you will never let anyone see your ‘imperfect’ work. 

This is the fact— your ‘imperfect’ writing can take you where you want to go in the writing world. Don’t sell yourself short. Keep on writing, and keep on putting your work out there into the world without shame. You are better than your inner critic wants you to know about!

Wishing you writing confidence,

Nissa Annakindt

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