Fearless Self-Publishing Self-Publishing Software Review Uncategorized Writing Help Writing Life

Fictionary, a revolutionary developmental editing tool for writers!

Well, I’m a sucker for new toys, particularly when it comes to my writing craft. Anything that can help me wrangle the herd of cats within my wild imagination is a plus, especially when it comes to story structure. That is why when I came across the trail of Fictionary, I was instantly curious. I got an email with a package deal for another year license for ProWriting Aid, which I recommend to all writers, and with it was a new developmental editing software called Fictionary.

I signed up for a free trial and was blown away by the level of detail the creator and fellow author, Kristina Stanley and her team had created. Fictionary allows you to upload your manuscript from Word or Google Docs directly into their user interface so that you can take a bird’s eye or 30,000ft view of your story and its structure. What I was most amazed by was the simplicity of the surface of the program as well as how deep you could go.

Fictionary breaks your manuscript down for you!

There be a number of bells and whistles under the hood of Fictionary and I don’t profess to know how they work in full, but after inputting my old manuscript for Nemeton: The Trial of Calas, I was instantly presented with a visual element that tracked my story’s narrative arc against that of prototypical or common story lines. This was a super cool feature right off the bat that let me see just how far off my original vision really was. This was helpful in many ways as, I am currently in a revision or rewriting phase with my previously published work.

But, where Fictionary really shines is in the scene by scene evaluation. The Visual components allow you to track the primary story arc as well as different character arcs and subplots across your manuscript, and that can be super helpful if you’ve got multiple arcs.

The three core functions of Fictionary.

Fictionary breaks it down to three key pieces, visualizing your arcs, evaluating your scene by scene story structure, and then exporting the monster once you are done with it. You can make edits on the fly, or edit your work 100% within the Fictionary software, kind of like Scrivener, but with a simpler interface.

Visualizing your story’s arc.

When Visualizing your manuscript you can check the full story arc, the amount of words per scene to aid you in nailing down your pacing, and also track how many times characters are showing up on a scene by scene basis. Though these three features seem potentially slight, they are remarkably powerful, not to mention I’ve got it on good authority that soon they will be rolling out even more powerful features.

Evaluating your manuscript scene by scene.

When Evaluating your scene by scene, Fictionary aids you by dialing in your character, plot, and setting down to the real nuts and bolts. Each scene or chapter has an interface to the right that highlights a number of tabs under which there are a list of critical questions that you should have asked in your first draft, but most likely didn’t if you are anything like me. Beyond the questions, each field is complimented by an infographic tip that educates you on the precise reason for each question or field. This is where the real power of the Fictionary software resides.

The Character tab features a range of questions like what character appear in the scene, who has the POV, what are the internal and external goals, what are the stakes and consequences, and the impact on the protagonist as well as other characters. The list goes on including an entire array of illuminating questions that, at least I often forget to include in my first draft. Plot, setting, and additional notes further aid you in dialing in your edit.

Fictionary, is it the next big thing?

I can’t speak to that yet, as Fictionary is a relatively new tool and I know that many writers are super comfortable with Scrivener. But overall, I think the interface is much more user-friendly. The primary draw is for writers who have already finished a rough or first draft of their work and want to import that manuscript in order to take it to the next level. I found the detailed list of questions and fields aided me in further cementing my story’s structure, theme and message.

Fictionary offers a free trial so that you can take it for a test drive, but I personally recommend that after you do so you take the dive. A year-long license won’t break the bank and I know that they are working hard at rolling out some key features like multiple manuscripts and an autosave feature to prevent losing precious progress. Overall I think Fictionary is a killer tool for novel based writers to explore.

Writing Bloc has your back!

We have partnered with Fictionary to provide all of our members with a killer discount on your first three months or on your first yearly license!

Fictionary is offering Writing Bloc writers and readers a 50% discount on the first three months ($10 per month, regularly $20 per month) or 50% off Annual subscription ( $100 per year, regularly $200 per year)

Half off ain’t half bad, is it?

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Writing Life

There’s Nothing New Under the Sun: How to write with unchained authenticity

Write with Authenticity and Reclaim Your Creative Voice

Do you write with authenticity? Are your words truly conveying your feelings? Let’s just be honest with ourselves for a minute, this writing gig is tough and it gets tougher every day. Just finishing a single chapter is grueling for most and that is just the beginning of the journey. Once you finish the story, book, or series you are working on you celebrate, but then you realize that there is a whole new battle ahead. The battle for the soul of your story and for your own integrity as a writer. 

As a writer/author, our goal is to have our voices heard, to touch someone’s heart, mind, and soul with the inner vision that we summon when we put words to paper. It is an incredibly sacred process.

That is only the writing process, soon you realize that for people to read your work you need to make it ready for public consumption. That means alpha-reading, beta-reading, copy-editing, proofing, formatting, cover design, and finally marketing. When you look at this to-do list you feel small, very small. Not only do you have no clear idea how, but you also feel like somewhere in this process you might lose something precious.

Once you begin the post-production process you begin what I call the comparison process… You begin to notice that there are millions if not billions of stories brewing within the heads of people across the globe making it even more difficult to stand out. You notice that these other writers are good, like really good. Then doubt shows up…

  • Is your story is any good?
  • Is it original?
  • Will people/readers like it?
  • What will my fellow wordsmiths think of my work?

Enter the panicked writer….

You cruise over to your favorite writing blog and realize that what you wrote doesn’t adhere to the RULES, it doesn’t fit in the formula, and it isn’t approved by the Writing Police. You share it with some friends who happen to be writers. They send you some feedback. I like it, but…

  • It doesn’t have the right POV for the genre,
  • Its structure doesn’t follow the Hero’s Journey,
  • Your style is odd, it needs to be more readable,
  • Your characters need more description, more dialogue, etc
  • You have too many info-dumps
  • Etc, Etc, Etc,

These are just a few of the notes you get back. You think, no biggie this is great feedback. Now I can make my story better.

You hurry back to your manuscript and you shred it, tear to pieces, and reshape it and after weeks of work you finish it. It follows the rules, it fits the popular formula, and your writing peers approve of it. But…

It no longer resembles what you originally envisioned. You like it, it has been deemed good by all of the communal standards, but it is lacking something… It lacks heart… It lacks soul… This is your unique brand…

How did this happen?

It happened because we sacrificed the most sacred aspect of our art to the writing gods, simply so that we could feel validated…

Then we release our work into the wild and we find out that our product is somewhat well-received, but it is also very much like everything else… What went wrong? You followed the RULES! How can that be bad? Man, because art is about breaking the damn rules!

Before I get too deep into this, I want to warn you, this is not your standard blog. This touches on something that is intensely personal, spiritual, and crucial to realizing a truth not only about our craft but about our lives. There is a sneaky little virus roaming about in our small writing communities and it spreads through one of the most devious delivery systems ever devised, through altruism.

Sick isn’t it? It is transmitted by the good-will of our closest and most-trusted peers. It infects us when we let our guard down and blindly accept all of the advice we are given on blind faith. When we do this we allow other’s to employ their own personal mythology, their own personal power on our story. It is an invasion by an egregore, a memetic entity that has been created by the community, it is sometimes called the Writing Police. 

Now I appreciate that this is some deep psychology being employed to describe what I believe is happening but hang with me and I’ll unpack it all.

Letting our guard down is the first trap… Rules are great, but they can also be binding, destructive forces. 

Writers are people pleasers, to begin with, it is in our blood, in fact, it is one of the primary drivers to write. We want to tell stories and have them well-received. When they are not well received it wounds. Often our immune response is to “fix” the story, to make it more likable, readable, to force it to conform to the public’s standard. This is how it is, it is part of the process, and I want to tell you why it is also very wrong.

FIRST OF ALL: Your story does not need to be fixed…

It may need to be tuned, it may need to be refined, but its core, its spiritual essence must remain intact, and it is your job as the author to defend this core with reckless abandon against those who would inadvertently seek to disrupt the message that your soul, your spirit must communicate to the world. This is about authenticity, your calling, your gift to the world, your destiny.

How do we lose authenticity in our writing? 

We are told by others, particularly our fellow wordsmiths that the best way to achieve success in this gig is to hone our craft. Brush up, clean up, tighten up and the readers will appear and they will love our work… How do they know this?

Because they did it. They followed the steps that other successful writers have in the past, and it turned out that it worked… For them.

We say, “Oh wow that is great…What’s the catch?”

Then we find out that in order to achieve that level of success we must first sacrifice something very sacred to the writing gods. We must give away a part of our creative control. When we give it away to beta readers, agents, to editors, publishing houses and proofers. We give it away to readers who cast poor reviews, and we give it away so that we can feel validated and accepted by our peers.

I know that isn’t a bad thing, it is a necessary evil and it helps us grow as writers, but it comes with a shadow side. 

When we give away our creative control we must be ever-vigilant to not let other’s dictate the story.  

One of the tell-tale signs that you have given up something precious to your soul is your gut.

Have you ever written something that you loved only to have it trashed by a reader, editor, reviewer? Feels like a punch to the gut, doesn’t it? Why? Because it is an affront to our souls. This is a natural part of the writer’s world, but where we get into trouble is when we allow others who do not jive with our spirit song to control how we create, how we originate, and how we sing our spirit song.

Take the time to think about this… Would you give away your soul for the chance to be famous? For peer validation? 

Often we do this without knowing it. We take the advice we implement it and we let go of things we shouldn’t simply to play the publishing game.  We feel sick about it, but then we see some success and we think yay I have found the silver bullet…Soon I’ll be a millionaire! Then once I am settled I can go back to writing the way I like. 

We’ve sold out, and we know it.

The thing is we all do it, and thus many of us have accepted the chains willingly, for a shot at grasping a phantom. How do we as writer’s avoid the pitfalls of this memetic disease? First, we need to know what the warning signs are…

Pitfall #1: Treating writing advice/suggestions as LAW…

There’s loads of advice on the internet and in writing groups about how to write well, how to craft the perfect narrative, which is the right POV, the proper tense, the correct grammar, lifelike dialogue, how to build an accessible world, etc.

There are widely accepted, DO NOT lists. DO NOT use this technique, do not switch tenses, do not switch POV, do not break the rules (until you know them, then break them like a pro….god I hate that one… It has been said so often by so many that it has lost its meaning entirely.)

When I first started getting truly, really serious about my own craft I was in the middle of writing my first novel, Nemeton: The Trial of Calas. To make sure that novel was the best I could possibly make it, I read countless articles, blogs, and books about the craft. I found a wealth of information that helped me fine tune my roughest areas. In fact, it made me better in areas outside of writing, which was a huge positive. However, after awhile I started to feel the constraints of the advice I had been given by other “more successful writers”. I started to feel boxed in, and what’s more important, I started to feel unlike myself. Soon I couldn’t even recognize myself in my own writing. Everything I wrote started to sound like everyone else’s work. It had lost what was essentially me somewhere in between the lines…

It was a huge RED FLAG for me, and I soon realized that I had broken one of my own life rules.

Pitfall #2: Letting others dictate your own character/voice: 

Be accountable to your heart first, readers and peers second. 

I had become a carbon copy of the writers that I had taken the advice from. I was fitting the mold of the “perfect indie writer”, and in turn, my writing itself began to reflect what I call the “Indie Author’s Straightjacket.”

It was clear, concise, readable, the POV matched the reader’s expectation, and I broke zero rules. Then I noticed something, it lacked heart, emotion, and the ineffable human quality necessary to draw the reader in. It was robotic, constructed, and wholly lifeless. 

Why? Because I had fallen for the same rouse that countless other writers had. I played it safe, and I didn’t take a risk.

This may sound like a rant, from a stubborn rebel who merely won’t conform, and although this is partially true, the real truth is that by adhering stringently to these rules we are STIFLING OUR OWN CREATIVE GENIUS.

I asked myself would my favorite authors do this? Would they be relegated to the confines of fear and insecurity? Would they change what made their voice truly unique and authentic just to sell a few more books?

The answer was and always will be no. Playing it safe will get you nowhere fast, especially in the creative community.

Pitfall #3: Not trusting your gut

Over the past four years, I have noticed that there is something that is quite lacking in the vast community of indie writers. That quality is authenticity. We no longer trust our own creative instincts, and we sacrifice all too easily just to please. 

Everywhere you look there are carbon copies of famous authors, popular gimmicks, genres, or even characters. Whether it is a paranormal shifter romance, hard sci-fi with a strong female lead or another first person POV Teen fantasy that reads exactly like Twilight had a baby with the Hunger Games, inauthentic works exist and they are populous in droves.

Now is this fair? As we all know, there isn’t a truly original idea left in the realm of stories, the wares we peddle are recycled and reshaped versions of humanities most classic tales. Most of us who have been at this for awhile know this to be true. We also know that writing a successful story requires authenticity.


What is Authenticity?

To many, it is a buzzword, a word that has lost its meaning.

Is it your voice? No, is it your truth? Is it originality?

Authentic literally means of undisputed, or genuine origin. At its basest form, being authentic means that we are originating ideas that have never been put forward before. Now before I go to deep down the rabbit hole of the amazing subconscious, I want to offer you a cooling balm, authenticity is not all about origination if it was it would not be possible to succeed in telling stories for a living. What I am stating is that we have already seen, read, heard, or know every story we come across because they all stem from the same place, the unconscious mind.

The human subconscious is a vast as the universe itself, in point of fact we do not know the extent of its function nor if it has limitations. This is the playground of all germinating ideas within the mind of a writer, it is our sandbox the infinite and eternal place where our creations are born.

Imagine a swirling mass of infinite ideas built by a wide range of accepted archetypes and myths. This is where all of our stories come from. Our mind pulls from this infinite web of the collective subconscious/unconscious and it creates a new world, that we then transcribe onto paper. It is a truly magical experience for both the writer and the reader. It is in itself an act of pure creation, not unlike the physical world we live in. Now all this metaphysical mumbo-jumbo might be cool to some, to others it is bull-hockey, but the truth of the matter is that authenticity is hard, if not impossible to achieve. Why?

Because every story ever told, is an amalgam of these accepted ideas, archetypes, and myths.

So how do we as writers and authors guarantee, neigh, attempt to “sound” authentic if everything had already been done?

First, we need to shake off the yoke of the perfected Indie Writer and get back to doing what we do best, create from a heart-centered attitude. What makes our stories even remotely unique is how our individual minds/brains think. While two separate people may have the same general idea to tell a story about elves vs. orcs, two completely different stories will emerge from the writers. One may come at the reader from a serious point of view, with a third-person-omniscient High Fantasy epic, and another may approach the same topic from a point of comedy and lighthearted friendship. Both would be unique when compared to each other, and both would be authentic because they remained true to the spirit of the creator.

Where we get into trouble is when we see a functioning work, a book, series, or author that has had success writing a certain way, and we attempt to emulate that style. At this point, we have stymied the one thing that truly made the other writer a success. He/She remained at least in some part, authentic, or true to his creative muse, whereas we decided to abandon this sacred instinct.

Let’s take a journey back in time…

Remember what it was like when you first sat down to write. How did it feel? You were excited, maybe a little scared, but you were creating. You were doing it for the joy of it. This is the root of all of your creative endeavors. Once you cut off this avenue, you begin to lose access to the source of all creativity. Before our minds became drilled with “the way it is done.” We were blank slates, and we wrote from a completely different place than we do now. We were righting with honesty, we were writing from our hearts. 

All too often, our minds take over and dictate our lives. We have an idea that comes from the heart, a feeling, an emotion that is driving our obsession to scribble down this idea. Once we get started we are excited, we can’t wait to share it with the world, it is everything to us and then… in comes the mind. 

  • We start to think, is this a copycat? Of course, it is, everything is…
  • Is this original? Originality is bunk, what is original is how you tell it.
  • Am I following the rules? Damn the rules, use them to your advantage, but don’t get pinned by them.
  • My story contains techniques that my fellow authors say should not be included? Trust yourself…seriously.
  • Does it fit the genre? Don’t mimic your genre, unless you want to sound like a parrot. 
  • Does it adhere to the rules of narrative? These rules have changed over time, they are not rigid. Break boundaries.

These questions are not helpful…

Soon we find ourselves tearing the idea apart to fit a mold, the mold of the Indie writer. My question to you is, who made this mold? Who determined that this artform must follow a certain formula or else it will be unreadable. Often when in conversation with my fellow authors I come across this very topic. Someone will have a truly magnificent idea, it is heartfelt and brimming with potential. Then in comes the all too eager critique. Slowly this idea gets trampled, dismantled, and forced to fit into the model that we all have accepted without question. Not because of some vicious ploy, but because we just didn’t know any better. We trusted our peers.

Our peers are our only true support system on this journey and although their help, feedback, and commentary are absolutely necessary it is not the word of GOD. I have seen many a writer trash an idea simply because someone they trusted torpedoed the idea because it did not fit the mold.

Now I want to be clear, this is not done in a mean spirit, or simply to bring someone down. It exists because we have fallen into a sinister trap, an egregore, a mental entity that exists because we believe in the falsity of the indie book blueprint.

Be honest with yourself for one minute…

  • Have you compromised your honest, heartfelt creative self in order to validate your craft?
  • Have you gone against your most sacred instinct just to please your peers?
  • Does your writing lack the emotional foundation necessary to craft a truly remarkable story?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you may need to reevaluate the reasons you are writing.

Being authentic in your writing is about following your creative genius, your muse, and your heart. It is not about originality, or story structure, or dialogue, or any formulaic aspect of the craft.

Being authentic is about trusting your own instincts when all of your peers are saying that it doesn’t fit convention. Well quite frankly, convention can go **** itself. Creativity and the arts are not, have never been, and should never be about conformity and convention. Producing a story that is not intrinsically linked to your own spirit and soul is a crime against nature. There is a reason you are a writer/author, it is because you cannot bring yourself to walk away from this life without spilling your innards all over the bleepin’ page.

THIS IS YOUR DAMN PURPOSE, and I want to ask you, are you going to allow someone to stifle what is truly sacred to you?

I would certainly hope not.

Now is the time to really give this some thought.

  • Where have you given up personal power?
  • Where have you sacrificed a part of your sacred creativity to conform?
  • Next, I want you to ask why you did that?
  • Why did you allow another to control the destiny of your progeny?

Then I want you to evaluate whether or not the rule/convention you adhered to is truly worth the cost of your authentic voice.

This aspect of yourself is what is inextricably you. It is what sets you apart from everyone else. Only you can tell the story the way you do. If you allow others to determine how that story is told you will undoubtedly lose a significant chunk of storytelling power. More importantly your story will suffer for it.

To wrap this entirely too long blog post up I want to leave you with a few pieces of creative advice that I have found helpful in maintaining authenticity in my own writing.

Replenish your Authenticity with these simple practices:

  1. Perfectionism cripples your creative genius, keep an eye on your shadow side.
  2. Done is better than good. Write the damn thing, tinker, then let it go. You’ll grow immensely.
  3. Write for yourself first, your audience second, the Writing Police last or not at all.
  4. No one gave you permission to write, and no one can tell you how to write your story, only you can do it.
  5. Keep your craft sacred because it is your magic.
  6. Feed your creative wellspring by writing with abandon, who cares if it sucks. Inspiration comes from release.
  7. Turn off your internal editor, he’s/she’s a jerk
  8. If advice feels wrong, it isn’t right for you, trust your gut.
  9. Don’t ever let anyone tell you it can’t be done, they are scared.
  10. Break down walls often, try new techniques and build a unique voice through trial and error. 

Ramble and Rant ended…








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Writing Life

YOU are NOT an impostor! How to destroy Writer’s Impostor Syndrome!

We’ve all been there…Writer’s Impostor Syndrome is real…

You’ve worked hard to achieve what you have to this point as a writer/author. Whether you are just finishing your first draft, manuscript, or you’ve already published dozens of books, you’ve felt it. It lingers in the back of your mind, and on your best days, you ignore it. With your shield in hand, you fend off the attacks of self-doubt, hyper-criticism, and feelings of fraudulence. Those days feel good. They feel really good. But as it is true in every other walk of life, the writer’s life has a sinister parasite that attacks us when we are down. It has a name. 

Writer's Impostor Syndrome

Turns out just about everyone on the planet has felt this way…

Fledgling writers and seasoned vets feel the same crushing self-doubt, and quite a few have shared their views on this phenomenon. In fact, a quick google search of Impostor Syndrome in writers will show you that greats like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Maya Angelou have spoken out on the subject. The reason I am writing this blog today is that it is an issue that I struggle with. While this article may be cathartic to me, I also hope that what I present can help you if you feel the same weight. There are a ton of perspectives out there, and although this blog is targeted at writers, I think something has been missed.

It’s not a writer’s problem, it is a human problem…

Sometimes as writers we get so wrapped up in our words, and more aptly our label as wordsmiths that we forget that we were first human. Doubt is a human experience, and it is one of the best teachers we have available. It lets us know when we have something to work on, and we have plenty to improve on as writers. It springs from fear. Fear keeps us alive in some cases and cripples us in others. If we take it further, we realize that doubt in itself a mental state, and as such, it can be changed. The best part is that it can be changed, even if it can sometimes feel like it weighs a thousand pounds. To help get a grip on how it comes about I want to ask you three questions.

1. Why do you write?

2. Who gave you permission?

3. Who can take it away from you?

If you’ve answered honestly then you are on track to finding your sword in this battle against doubt. Just for fun, I have put my answers here in case you’ve struggled to answer for yourself.

Why do I write?

I write because it is in my blood. Not in so much as I come from a family of writers, in fact, no one in my immediate living family has published to my knowledge. What I mean is, doubt is a human experience. The same is true about storytelling. I am keen on telling people that I am a storyteller first and a writer second. The reason is that writing is the sacred vehicle for the relation of information that we as humans want to share with others. When we write, all we are trying to do is to tell a story. To share an experience that we have had. I know that when I write, whether it be blogs, fiction, or poetry it is because I want someone else to experience the ethereal worlds that I have. I write because it is in my nature, and I am sure it is no different for you. Of course, there is the aspect of fame and fortune. Who doesn’t want that? But if you are truly looking deep enough you will see that the drive comes from a more primitive, magical place than being monetarily rewarded or critically lauded.

Who gave me permission?

Now logically we can think about answering this question by taking a pragmatic approach. Your readers did right? The people who pay for you to keep writing. Self-published authors or even “aspiring authors”, more on why I despise that term in a moment, are more conflicted by Impostor Syndrome than traditionally published authors. It seems obvious because we require more validation to make us “feel” like we are writers or authors. This entire subject is about feeling. Whether or not we feel like we are true, successfully writers. I want to stop you right there and go over two things that are massively important, at least in my own life philosophy.

1: As long as you call yourself an “aspiring” author, you will always be just that.

2: Validation is good but unnecessary

3: What you “feel” directly impacts what happens externally

Now that may sound like a bunch of new-age hippie dippy crap, but I am here to tell you it is true in more than one way. If you go back to our previous point that doubt is a mental state, one that can be changed quickly and easily then you have to know that by enacting the reversal or the anti-thesis will provide a shift in the mental state. For instance, the “aspiring author” label. It limits our possibilities by creating a mental state that we have not yet achieved our goal, which in the beginning was to write. Now it may have become inflated over time to include other things like being a “best-selling author” or being “critically-acclaimed”, that is fine. But it overshadows the original goal, the building block of your success. To simply write! Everyone who has ever achieved something knows this truth, that bigger goals are only met by achieving smaller goals. When we achieve the smaller goals the bigger goals begin to crumble in front of you. The most productive and successful people in the world have told us this for time immemorial. As writers we know that you cannot write a book without writing chapters, chapters without writing paragraphs, paragraphs without writing sentences, sentences without writing words. If you were looking for validation, then you have it. You’ve written something. If you have done any of the aforementioned things then I want you to take a second and think about something.


NOW…Not Later, Not in a few years, NOW

Take that and chew on it for a minute. Really dig deep, think about it, congratulate yourself, and feel it. Feeling it is the most important part. When you feel the gooey internal goodness of finishing a great sentence, or paragraph, or chapter it leads to the creation of a good feeling book. This is how you crash through feeling like an impostor. How and Why? Because you are achieving the smaller goals. Because you are matching your internal reality with your external reality, and when you do that you can dramatically increase your output in writing. When you dramatically increase your output, not only in quantity but in quality then you set upon achieving the secondary goals like getting on a best-seller list. Now you have more validation, and the good “feeling” keeps on rolling in. 

Then something really special happens… A realization and an answer to two of the questions I asked you to ask yourself.

Christopher Lee, on writing and Writer's Impostor Syndrome

Now I know it sounds easy. It is and it is not!

It is a constant battle, but you can win!

Once you’ve shifted that mental state and gotten yourself back on track, writing yourself into your goals of being a critically acclaimed, best-seller, becomes a reality. You will begin to “feel” good. But wait, self-doubt and its ally Impostor Syndrome are durable demons. They will come back, no matter how much validation you have received, and they will come back when you have let your guard down. 

So What Do You Do When Writer’s Impostor Syndrome Strikes?

There are a great many ways to dig yourself out of the doldrums of doubt, but I have gathered a few quick tips to help you on your way. The first step though is identifying the problem. Because of its nature doubt is also a sneaky little bastard. Often times we will identify a different problem when doubt is the real culprit. Example: I have writer’s block. I don’t feel motivated, etc. So analyzing our situation and determining what is going wrong takes a new level of awareness about our chosen craft. Doubt can disguise itself as procrastination, writer’s block, over-researching, and not hitting our writing goals. If you are experiencing these symptoms then it is possible that doubt is the root cause. If you “feel” that it is, then there are few quick tricks to help you get through it.

1: Talk to other writers/authors and ask them about their experiences and what they did.

Your community of writers, which I hope you are developing daily, is a key resource in this battle. They can help you in many ways, by telling you of their experiences, what they did to get out, and sometimes by validating your work through critique. You need to leverage your fellow wordsmiths from time to time to keep you on track. This is why I always say that your focus on social media should be Good Habits and Good Relationships. The self-publishing community is ripe with helpers, like me, who want to see everyone succeed in telling their stories. So don’t let doubt make you feel like you can’t reach out. I know through my own experience, being afraid to contact an author in an echelon just above me can be terrifying. You think they don’t have the time to bother with a peon like me. Well, it simply isn’t true, some may not have the time, but I know that they will reach out in some way to help. The reason: They have been there themselves, and they know the discomfort you feel. Clearly, they have done something to get over it, that’s how they reached that higher plane. When you see a fellow writer succeed, don’t be afraid to ask them how they did it, or are doing it.

2: Keep Writing by trying another form or work with a different medium altogether.

As I stated earlier, the heart of writing is storytelling, or conveying a meaning, idea, or feeling to another person. When our chosen craft or medium begins to falter, it is good to seek inspiration elsewhere. Remember that this doubt is a representative of fear. That our ideas will not be accepted, or worse that we will not. This stunts our artistic flow, our poetic muse if you will. We tighten up and then start beating our heads against the blank page. We feel trapped and inadequate. It is hell. Remember though that there is a way to move through it. Keep the flow going!

Louis L'Amour on Writer's Impostor Syndrome and Writer's Block

The key thing to remember here is that it doesn’t have to be writing. Other mediums, photography, painting, music, poetry, essays, articles, it doesn’t matter. Get back to basics for a minute and start telling stories again. Fuck the grammar, write free-form, stream of consciousness if you have to. It rocks anyways. Try out a new writing prompt, a new genre, get your feet underneath you again and you will find yourself running soon.

3: For god’s sake go Read, and Read about Writing

Gals, Guys, and everyone in between, I know how hard it is to read. As writers, we have a unique space in the library. We want to belong alongside the greats, we want our stories to be read by the world and because of this drive we often forget the key ingredient that makes our writing better. After all, if we make our writing exceed the standards we held yesterday, and we do this effectively each day with intent we will find ourselves growing beyond what we thought possible. That will bring validation and those good feelings into the equation again.  But how do we improve? By writing, and even more important than writing we must make sure to READ and read voraciously. As Douglas Wilson says in his must-read, Wordsmithy, “Read until your brain creaks. I agree with him, his words have inspired me to fix one of the things that are wrong with my craft.

The simple fact that I do not read enough…

The more you read with intention and joy the better your writing will become. Read the greats, read crap, read comic books, read romance, science fiction, read dictionaries, read etymologies, read quotes, just READ. You will never retain it all, but it will shape you and it will give your voice a reboot. Do this and you will see your voice and style grow. Remember that you never want to mimic your heroes entirely. Remember that most of the ideas in this world have already been spoken about by someone else. What makes your story, your writing unique is how you tell your story. No one in the world can tell the story like you do, your voice is colored by the vast array of experiences you’ve had up until this point in time, and you can leverage that voice. Make it stronger by expanding the experiences and ideas that shape it. READ READ READ!

Stephen King, On Writing. Perspectives on Writer's Impostor Syndrome

4: Reflect on why you are writing in the first place! Journal, Meditate, Get back in Tune!

That last quote brings this final point into closer focus. It sinks us deep into a place of introspection and reflection. This is a practice that is again a human experience first, a writing experience second. Take some time to reflect on why you are pursuing this craft in the first place. Writing is no different than any other craft in that from time to time we lose track of the big WHY? Journaling is a great way to jot down your thoughts about writing, about how you feel, and why you believe you need to be a writer. Meditation is another good way to process the feelings that can get bottlenecked when we face the fraudulent phony disease. After all, in the practice of meditation, we shed the facade that we present to the world. Believe it or not, you do this when you write. Your words, carefully selected and placed in a particular order reveal something about the true you, the deep you, the you that isn’t visible. Writing is meditation, and sometimes meditation can help us through the tougher times. Beyond those two quick exercises, there is one other tip I’d like to share. 

Get UP! Stop staring at this screen!

Get out there in the world. Smell the fresh air, feel the breeze, listen to conversations. Experience. This is one of the most powerful tools in the writer’s toolkit. If you harness the power of your observation not only will you have a better grasp of description, dialogue, and feelings but you will be healthier for it. Go for a walk in the wood. Let nature recharge those batteries. Grab a cup of joe with an old friend and rebuild connections. In my college years a professor I had once said something that has stuck with me throughout the rest of my years. He told us that we were not yet ready to tell stories, because we had not experienced enough of life yet. How could we tell stories about a world we hardly knew? It seemed ridiculous to me, that is what we were paying thousands of dollars in tuition to learn, how could we not be ready? His message was simple. We hadn’t lived enough to effectively embrace the craft. I am now twelve years removed from his classroom and though I feel I have blossomed in many ways, I still think he is right. I need to remind myself daily to step away. Walk, get out, hear sounds, smell smells, talk to people, listen to the world. For we cannot tell stories of this world, or any world if we have no understanding of how it operates.

Take action against the demon of doubt…

In closing this topic I hope that you now realize that you are in fact NOT AN IMPOSTOR! You are not a fraud, You are NOT A PHONY! You are a WRITER and one day if you really go and get it you will be a damn fine wordsmith. Say it and feel it. I AM A WRITER! Go outside and scream it if you have to. Feel the elation that it gives you to embrace the achievement you’ve unlocked. Things will happen if you enact the steps of achieving small goals, balance your internal feelings with your external reality, and work hard at fortifying your position. The best weapons against doubt and Impostor Syndrome are being a well-equipped wordslinger. If you take the steps necessary to address your craft then you have nothing to doubt because you are being the very best writer that you can be. You did that, and you gave yourself permission, and no one can ever take that away from you. Ever. 

I’ll leave you with Neil Gaiman’s view on Impostor Syndrome…

Writer's Impostor Syndrome according to Neil Gaiman
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