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View Full Version : What are some misconceptions/things you had to unlearn after you began writing?



johnsolomon
12-01-2015, 12:11 AM
What the title says :D I've always wondered what other people had to unlearn.

I have tonnes. I think my two biggest are:

1. I saw editors as emotionless machines (not unlike terminators) with an idea of what books "should" be like and no flexibility (...how I imagined editors to be, pretty much (http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lyfprg2sNo1qkukto.gif)). I just pictured these super super literary people who would shoot down anything without beautiful wording and an ocean of meaning. I think I built up this picture from all the comments I saw all over the internet where people talked about how impossible it was/is to get into print.

2. Maybe because at school my teachers would always point to literary fiction as the purpose of writing a novel, I figured that fancy wording was necessary. I guess this is linked to 1. I had no concept of voice and used to think that most first person books were for kids or written really badly (which is funny, because they make up the vast majority of the books I love now).

So... anyone else start writing with silly misconceptions? xD

Glyax
12-01-2015, 12:17 AM
When I started writing, especially poetry, I thought that there was a 'set' way of writing. That there were rules which had to be strictly followed, in order to write a piece of poetry. Obviously, that is not the case, and I understand that now haha

Maze Runner
12-01-2015, 12:21 AM
I realized that it was less about making readers think than it was about making readers feel. Which turned out to be a good thing for me because I'm a lot more emotional than I am smart.

ebbrown
12-01-2015, 12:28 AM
I realized that there is no magic formula. Either you have a story that grabs a reader and keep 'em reading...or you don't.

Toothpaste
12-01-2015, 12:36 AM
That I had to write every day in order to be a "real" writer.

Mary Love
12-01-2015, 01:01 AM
That my first draft would be pretty awesome.


...if only.

Roxxsmom
12-01-2015, 01:18 AM
That you're only a real writer if you've published something.

That most of the trade published novels I buy, read, and love are actually profitable to their authors and publishers.

And that there was some general consensus about what constitutes good writing or a workable process for writers. In fact, many of the rules and statements about what constitutes good writing are tautological, non-falsifiable statements that feel more like opinions, or maybe even magical thinking ("if you're good and work hard enough, you'll get published," or "all writers who are any good do X, Y, and Z as their process") than testable hypotheses.

Dennis E. Taylor
12-01-2015, 01:19 AM
I was a little taken aback at the lopsided supply/demand ratio. I mean, I knew there had to be more writers than slots, but so many?

Also, and I don't know why, but I always thought there was more to the writing part. I mean, not as in writing rules/suggestions, but more of a formal process.

nastyjman
12-01-2015, 01:51 AM
That you need an outline before you start writing a novel.

Five years ago, I completed an outline, and I was ready to write my novel. But three chapters in, I lost my enthusiasm.

Despite some writers who start their novels without outlines, I honestly believed that I cannot do it, that I am too green to even begin a novel without an outline. But this year, I just did that--write a draft without an outline. So it was this year that I stepped out of my fear and just started telling a damn story. And it was a fun and exciting journey!

Pantsing (or discovery writing) worked for me, but it might not work for others. But do experiment and try other methods. My mistake was believing that I was an outliner without even considering the other method.

LBecktell
12-01-2015, 01:59 AM
That you're ever going to be done editing.

Just kidding, I'm sure someday you're done editing.

When you're dead.

Roxxsmom
12-01-2015, 02:30 AM
I was a little taken aback at the lopsided supply/demand ratio. I mean, I knew there had to be more writers than slots, but so many.
This, definitely. I had this strange idea that writing was a fairly weird hobby, and that actually completing a novel, let alone feeling good enough to submit it somewhere, was pretty rare. I also believed those people who told me that the slush piles were mostly full of crap by people who couldn't write a coherent sentence or follow directions. I naively thought this meant that if you write well and sub a well-written query that answers those three questions, it means you'll get a decent numbers of requests, at least.

I also thought that agents who request fulls would give useful feedback if they reject you.

lizmonster
12-01-2015, 02:31 AM
That The Muse was required, and would carry me through.

kuwisdelu
12-01-2015, 02:41 AM
I had to unlearn the idea that race and gender don't matter and that the future is colorblind.

I had to unlearn my fear and discomfort with writing about them, and the feeling that I wasn't allowed to write about them in the first place.

I had to unlearn the idea of "good ideas".

I had to unlearn my desire to make every sentence beautiful.

I had to unlearn the idea that genre fiction and literary fiction are different things.

I had to unlearn my perfectionism.

April Days
12-01-2015, 05:59 PM
That I could get published.

Milenio
12-01-2015, 06:07 PM
1. My background in business writing - you have no idea how that influences any kind of fiction writing.
2. That I don't have an imagination big enough to write a book (as a follow-on from #1).
3. That I don't have enough time to write. I realise now that I do, I must just structure my time better.
4. That I have to find a shop that sells self-confidence :Thumbs:

DancingMaenid
12-01-2015, 06:57 PM
I had to unlearn the idea that anything less than aiming to write critically-acclaimed bestsellers wasn't good enough. It took me a while to feel comfortable writing stuff that doesn't have broad commercial appeal, and I'm much more in my element now that I've dropped those preconceived notions about success.

WriterBN
12-01-2015, 08:54 PM
What DancingMaenid said :)

KTC
12-01-2015, 09:23 PM
I had to unlearn that I was not worthy of such a lofty goal as writing. I had shamed myself against it. I wasn't educated enough. I wasn't smart enough. I wasn't worthy...period.

Turns out any ole asshole can write. I'm living proof!

gettingby
12-02-2015, 01:15 AM
What the title says :D I've always wondered what other people

I have tonnes. I think my two biggest are:

1. I saw editors as emotionless machines (not unlike terminators) with an idea of what books "should" be like and no flexibility (...how I imagined editors to be, pretty much (http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lyfprg2sNo1qkukto.gif)). I just pictured these super super literary people who would shoot down anything without beautiful wording and an ocean of meaning. I think I built up this picture from all the comments I saw all over the internet where people talked about how impossible it was/is to get into print.

2. Maybe because at school my teachers would always point to literary fiction as the purpose of writing a novel, I figured that fancy wording was necessarily. I guess this is linked to 1. I had no concept of voice and used to think that most first person books were for kids or written really badly (which is funny, because they make up the vast majority of the books I love now).

So... anyone else start writing with silly misconceptions? xD

The idea of editors is far more intimidating than actual editors really are. But when you start working with editors, you see the human side. Every editor I have worked with has been really smart and good at what they do. And if they work in the literary scene, they will have a lot of literary knowledge as thy should. But this does not mean they are snobs or witches (as your link picture shows). They are looking for great new work all the time. Yes, there is a lot of competition for writers, and editors have to make smart choices. They want good stories and strong writing. If you can produce that, you've got a pretty good shot at impressing an editor.

To your second point, it sounds like you hadn't read very much when you thought that way. Literary writing isn't always fancy writing. In fact, quite often it's not, but sometimes it is. Teachers can only assign so many books per semester, and they often use works they personally like or books they feel are a good foundation for future writers and future members of society. I do believe what we read can shape us. Get what you can out of those books, but they should never be the only things you are reading. There are so many genres and styles. It's good to read as many different styles and authors as you can. If you do want to write literary fiction, don't push yourself to write fancy proses if that's not how you write. Pick up a copy of the Paris Review which is probably the top literary journal. I bet you will find the fiction is there is far from what you think or once thought literary fiction is supposed to be like. Or read the new book by Marlon James that just won the Booker Prize. It's not a book that's hard to read or overly descriptive. James takes this slang-like approach to tell a remarkable story. It's quite good and I recommend it. Also, I think it's a good thing to read a book or two that your teacher wrote. It will give you an idea of their style and taste. Not that you should try to write like them, but it might give you an idea why they assigned certain works and the feedback they give you on your own writing. Most teachers are well read, and if you ask them for reading recommendations, they will give you some. You can ask about more current titles or styles. It's not a bad place to start when you are looking for books you might connect with better. But almost all books you study in school have something to teach writers and readers. Try not to resist what the assigned books have to offer. And, as you now know, first person books are not bad. Far from it. But that just comes down to reading more and exposing yourself to different writers.

I don't think there has ever been something I had to unlearn. Teachers and professors aren't trying to mess up their students. The only misconception I can think of when it comes to fiction is that I thought it would be easier than it is. Easier to write it well. Easier to publish it. I learned I had and still have a lot to learn.

NateSean
12-02-2015, 02:13 AM
I had to teach myself not to care what other people thought of the story until after I finished writing it. Too often, I would show people what I have written so far, only to be discouraged by their offers to "help". My confidence is slowly returning, though.

Ken
12-02-2015, 03:30 AM
That you have to read a lot. Fiddlesticks.

Captcha
12-02-2015, 04:18 AM
I had to learn that there are different kinds of publishing, and they are more-or-less different levels. So even getting published on one "level" didn't mean I'd made it and was done growing and improving.

(Unlike others, I actually found it was easier than I'd expected to get published. But that was because I was writing in a genre that really only operates at the not-as-competitive niche publisher level).

Viridian
12-02-2015, 04:26 AM
I had to learn that there are different kinds of publishing, and they are more-or-less different levels. So even getting published on one "level" didn't mean I'd made it and was done growing and improving.

(Unlike others, I actually found it was easier than I'd expected to get published. But that was because I was writing in a genre that really only operates at the not-as-competitive niche publisher level).
^Took the words right out of my mouth.

andiwrite
12-02-2015, 07:06 AM
1. I saw editors as emotionless machines (not unlike terminators) with an idea of what books "should" be like and no flexibility (...how I imagined editors to be, pretty much (http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lyfprg2sNo1qkukto.gif)). I just pictured these super super literary people who would shoot down anything without beautiful wording and an ocean of meaning. I think I built up this picture from all the comments I saw all over the internet where people talked about how impossible it was/is to get into print.

Same here. I was nervous to get my book back from the editors. I prepared myself for a lot of criticism and committed to not getting hurt by it. But there was nothing painful about the editing process. They didn't really change anything other than formatting and a few typos. Relief! :)


I realized that it was less about making readers think than it was about making readers feel. Which turned out to be a good thing for me because I'm a lot more emotional than I am smart.

Very true.


That you need an outline before you start writing a novel.

I discovered the opposite. I need to know the story before I start working on it. My imagination could go anywhere. Without an outline, I'll constantly change things and end up rewriting for years and years.


That I could get published.

Aww come on. :( You absolutely can.

The biggest thing I've had to unlearn is that you have to do things a certain way. I've often found that the advice I've received from others wasn't true for me. Do what works for you and follow your gut.

Jamesaritchie
12-02-2015, 09:58 PM
I was a little taken aback at the lopsided supply/demand ratio. I mean, I knew there had to be more writers than slots, but so many?

.

But there are always slots available to good writers, good storytellers. Always. There are not more really good writers than there are slots, there are far fewer.

nighttimer
12-03-2015, 08:25 PM
I had to unlearn pandering for the approval of the world and win over my toughest and hardest to satisfy critic: ME.

Once I figured that out and made myself happy with being a writer, the rest of the world followed along. Or not.

LBecktell
12-03-2015, 09:37 PM
I had to unlearn pandering for the approval of the world and win over my toughest and hardest to satisfy critic: ME.

Once I figured that out and made myself happy with being a writer, the rest of the world followed along. Or not.

Still working on this. Was it just time, or..?