Comparison is the thief of joy

Today, I wanted to talk about something all creatives struggle with at some point in our lives and careers – comparing ourselves to others.

As writers, it’s easy to pick up a book by a published author and compare our writing to theirs, usually finding ourselves inferior – we are our own worst critics. It can be even more discouraging if we read a book in our particular genre and see similarities in the plot, characters or world-building.

Many famous authors avoid reading within their genre whilst writing for exactly this reason. Not only does it prevent them from comparing themselves to others, but it lowers the risk of unconsciously borrowing from their fellow writer’s story.

The thing we often forget is that every author’s journey is different, and we are all at different points in that journey. You can’t compare your saggy middle to someone else’s happy ending.

Is it fair to compare a relatively new writer’s work to that of the greats, like Tolkein or Austen? Of course not. But we do it to ourselves all the time, expecting our abilities to be far more advanced than they have reason to be. Would you do that to a good friend? No? Then don’t do it to yourself!

Comparison is the thief of joy Lyndsey's Book Blog

So, how do we quiet that voice of doubt in our own minds? How do we prevent ourselves from constantly comparing our work to others’ and only seeing the negatives?

No one is you, and that is your super power

The thing to remember is that we are all unique, and our voices and our stories are unique because we are. Even if a story has been told a million times, it hasn’t been told by you, with your voice and experience shaping it.

There is nothing new or original in this world, everything is either an updated version of something else, a slightly changed and modernised adaptation, or takes inspiration from several different sources. We make our stories fresh by finding new ways to tell them.


Every writer’s process is different. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you create your characters or your plot first? Do you write in the morning? At night? With music? In complete silence? Prefer tea or coffee?

What works for one writer doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, so remember to take all advice with a pinch of salt. And a slice of lime. Read craft books and writing blogs, and take the tips you like, leave the rest.

Remember that every author’s journey is distinct, whether they are published traditionally or they self-publish. It takes some writers years and hundreds upon hundreds of submissions and queries before they sign with an agent and publish their first book. Others receive offers of representation within weeks. It’s part luck, part networking and four parts hard work.

So, next time you find yourself reading a great book and wishing you could create such vivid worlds filled with vibrant characters, just remember that someone else will read your work one day and feel the exact same way. There is room for all of us in the literary world, and more than that, someone out there needs your book. You are someone’s favourite author, they just don’t know it yet. So, write your stories, share your creations, and remember that the only writer you should compare yourself to is the writer you were yesterday.


Can’t resist comparing? Need a little self-esteem boost? Try this. Paste your current WIP into I Write Like and find out which famous author’s style yours most resembles. Make comparison your friend, not your enemy. (I write like Agatha Christie apparently!)

Until next time, writer friends!

Lyndsey

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Comparison is the thief of joy Lyndsey's Book Blog

Caring for plot bunnies

In today’s post, I thought I’d talk about something we have all done battle with at some point in our writing lives – plot bunnies.

We’re well into week three of Camp Nano, and I’m just under halfway to my goal of 35k words of draft two for The Fair Queen. So, naturally, I’m being besieged by plot bunnies.

Now, the most important thing when you’re in the middle of a big project is to not let the plot bunnies distract you from your work. You might be losing momentum, struggling to stay motivated and finding your current work-in-progress boring – we’ve all been there! But, writing isn’t all about the shiny and new sparks of inspiration, sometimes it’s about hard work.

That said, what do you do when a brilliant idea pops into your head whilst you’re busy working on something else, or not in a position to sit down and start writing?

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Make a note

If you’re a smart and sensible writer and human being, you will have one of two things within reach at all times – a notepad or a mobile device. If not, grab any stationary surface and inscribing implement (your sleeping cat’s back and an electric razor are not recommended).

Write it down.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a 300 word synopsis or a single phrase, write that idea down right now. You will not remember it when you come to sit down and write later, I can almost guarantee it. How many times have you been to the supermarket and thought “I won’t make a list, I know what we need”, and come home with everything but the one thing you went for? It’s not just me. Write that line of dialogue/character name/plot twist/cover design idea down.


Make it legible

Hands up if your handwriting is terrible? Some of you are probably thinking “I’m a writer, my handwriting is carefully crafted calligraphy, how very dare you”. Well, I’m not one of you, and I’m sure I’m not alone. There have been many times when I’ve come to read my own handwritten notes, usually quickly scribbled, and had no clue whatsoever what they said. Don’t let this be you, do not waste your beautiful plot bunnies by scrawling your notes in chicken scratch that not even an FBI handwriting expert could decipher.

Write in all caps if that helps you to read it later, draw a picture if it’s easier than describing your mental image. Just make sure you will know what the hell you were talking about later.


Proper care and feeding of plot bunnies

It goes without saying that you should keep track of all your notes, use a separate page or document for each project or for ideas that have no specific purpose as of yet. This will help when it comes to raising your plot bunnies into fully grown WIP rabbits (I just made that up, can you tell?).

If you’re between projects, or need a break after completing a first draft or round of edits, then now’s the time to whip out your notes and get turning those plot bunnies into fully-formed ideas. Lay out all your notebooks and open your phone or laptop to your document of notes (I use OneNote on my phone, it syncs to my laptop so I never lose any ideas). Now start trying to connect words and phrases together to make a story concept.

Maybe you’ve scribbled down a couple of great character names, pop them into Google and see where they originate from, which era they suit best, and what characteristics they are associated with.

If you’re a visual person and have a collection of photos saved in your phone why not mine these for potential locations, architectural details and scene prompts? Then, see which of these might fit together with your other ideas. Maybe you’ve got a photo of a gorgeous sunset over a plaza in southern Spain from that holiday three years ago, an elaborate fountain from a Turkish bath, and a dress you’ve always dreamed of buying – could you combine these ideas to create a scene, or even an entire story?

If you take care of your plot bunnies, they’ll take care of you by providing endless inspiration for new writing projects.


Hunting those wiley wabbits

Not sure how to get started collecting plot bunnies? It’s really simple, you just need to make it a habit to write down any little sparks of inspiration you get throughout the day. Carry a notepad and pen, even if you always have your phone on you – for some just the action of handwriting a note can set the muse free.

When you’re out and about, take notice of the little details around you and take a quick photo or jot down a word or two. Listen in on other people’s conversations (subtly, don’t be that guy) and write down any turns of phrase you like or find interesting, record accents you want to use or even steal plot points from real people’s lives. You’ll be amazed at the places inspiration can spring from if you just open your eyes and ears and pay attention.

And there you have it, you’ll be farming an entire herd of plot bunnies in no time, and you’ll never struggle for something to write about. What are your tips for finding inspiration and keeping track of all your ideas? Give me your advice in the comments, I’d love to hear how other people do it!

Lyndsey

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Caring for plot bunnies Lyndsey's Book Blog