Beware your inner fan club

We all know about the warnings to push aside the doom and gloom of our inner critic. But what about our inner fan club? Read on to see what happens when they start cheering a little too loudly ...

I was zipping headlong towards the David Fickling submission deadline, working on a fresh opening to my Work in Progress. It felt good. Yeah. I was on target. It didn't matter that I was doing exactly what I always do - running breathlessly towards the finish line with only a week's frantic training. Nah. My head was lost in the story, the words were flying. This time, I thought, this is really taking off. The story's getting nailed.

Then this happened:

My eyes opened. I could see the wood.

Luckily for me (and all the readers of the slushpile) this moment of truth happened on the morning the submission slot was closing. During my Morning Pages of the previous day, my inner fan club had written:

'... this is way better than it's been before...'
'... less ambiguous...very different...'
'... on the way to being there...'
'...great. Keep all this info coming out in the dialogue...'

Oh dear. You can read all the how to's and how not to's, but it's not until you tumble headlong in to the dark hole of bad writing yourself, and scramble out, face smeared with mud, bits of leaf and twig stuck in your hair, that you know the truth of just how bad it can be. Believe me. It can be very bad.

I'd merrily gone through a whole stash of what not to do's - as clearly laid out in How Not to Write a Novel. And my fan club had cheered all over them. These are the main howlers:

1. I introduced my protag in the least attractive light possible (aside from having them doing a big number two). My protag vomited violently in the first paragraph. He continued to vomit, wiping spit from his mouth on to the back of his hand, throughout the first chapter.

2. I used a reflective surface (essentially a mirror) for my character to look at his own reflection and describe it (My fan club thought this was clever).

3. I dumped all my information in a stilted conversation between my two opening characters. One asked the questions. The other answered (None of it was authentic, or believable. My fan club thought this was subtle).

4. My main protag (a 16 year old boy) is naked (and covered in sick). The character he meets for the first time is a girl of similar age. (Awkward).

5. My main protag heads to bed at the end of the scene (a massive no no).

Sorry poor crow - I will put your untimely death to good use

When I realised the awful truth, I laughed - somewhat painfully, but I laughed. I will now hold this up as a warning to myself - how my inner fan club allowed me to believe that bad writing was good.

Don't forget to check out all the good advice and shared experience from last week's Words & Pictures:

Monday's wonderful inspiration piece from K M Lockwood, enticing you to try out different skills and guises
Tuesday's Pick of the blogs looking at Picture Books, from Nick
Wednesday's Proofreading tips from Catriona. Just where do you put your commas...?
Thursday's Network News all about the Pulse Events coming to the North West. And Event News reporting on the recent Writers' Retreat
Friday's Part 2 of the Open Sketchbook

Nancy Saunders is the new Editor of W&P. You can find some of her short stories here, and on Twitter @nancyesaunders


  1. My new book has a "mirror scene" does my first book, come to think of it. In fact, both my books are full of stuff you're not supposed to do...(gulps). Managed to get published anyway. Good luck with your submission.

  2. Thank you, Jane. There is hope, then! My submission was withheld, for safety reasons - I wouldn't have dared impose it on anyone.

  3. What a great post! I thought it was just me that did that! There are so many rules out there, I think I might just get it all down and clean up the mess later. It can only get better, right?

  4. Thanks Sarah! You have to hope it gets better, eventually, after all the spilling of guts....


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