I’ve been writing for a while now, and while I still look back on those first couple of years where everything was fun, new, and exciting, I still had a few wrong ideas about the craft. And had I not corrected them, they may still be holding me back today.
So with that said, here are three things I used to believe about writing.
Wrong Idea # 1 – Outlining is for suckers
When I first started, I had a couple of misconceptions about outlining. For one thing, I didn’t think “real” writers outlined. That was simply because I got that idea from Stephen King. I figured if he didn’t do it, why should I?
My other misconception was that outline would make writing boring. I like to discover my story as I write it. I still do, but I’ve been burned way too many times doing this. What do I mean? We’ll for one thing, I have one unpublished novel that is still a big mess since I didn’t have a clear plan going in. For another, I have a folder full of short stories in progress that go on and on for a while but then stop abruptly as I either have no idea where the story is going, or I discover about a billion plot holes. So planning ahead would hopefully fix that.
I also was scared that taking the “discovery” out of writing would make the process dull and forced. After all, what fun is writing if you know what comes next? Well, as I recently learned, pre-writing is fun and it actually makes the first draft easier to write. And really, even if you use a strict outline, you’re still discover writing. You discovery write the outline. In some ways, the outline is the first draft, and the real first draft can act as more of a first revision.
Wrong Idea # 2 – Plotting is for suckers
I was so wrong on this. The early versions of a few of my short stories were not actually stories. They were slice of life pieces that might have served as filler scenes in a novel, but certainly not real stories. What’s a real story? Something that contains a beginning, middle, and end. My short stories weren’t doing that.
And to make matters even worse, when another writer suggested that plotting was important, I thought he was crazy. “I’m not writing to some dumb formula,” I remember saying to myself a bunch of times. Obviously, that was just me as a newbie, but I did learn why that was wrong after a year or so, once I started reading more short stories and paying attention to things like structure.
Wrong Idea # 3 – Self-publishing is for suckers
I used to think self-published authors were the writers who couldn’t make the cut. I had confused self-publishing with vanity press and just assumed that writers who chose to self-publish weren’t serious writers at all; that they were just doing it to say they wrote a book.
Obviously, that’s not the case and I can say without a doubt that I know plenty of self-published authors more talented and WAY more successful than me. Self-publishing is certainly a viable path to publication now, and even though I still feel it’s not for me, it’s something everyone should weigh the options when considering publishing.
So there you have it. We all have ideas of how things are when we start something new, but as we begin learning about that something, we often find that the way we see things isn’t necessarily correct.
So what misconceptions did you have about writing before you really got into it? What have you learned? Leave a comment and let us know!