Editorial – Mar 2018: Writing is all about confidence.

March 4, 2018 | By | Reply More

Writing is all about confidence.

What you don’t have, you learn.

What you can’t know, you research.

When all else fails, you lie.

And hope no one notices you’re conning them.

writing mantra


Hello everyone

Occasionally, I do wonder just how rare a breed writers are, more so after my thoughts that most artists have a better colour eyesight range than average. Do talented writers, other than being persistent and imaginative, have other in-built talents in communication that make them different to other people?

People like me who can switch from articles to stories to reviews even rarer although, oddly, from my perspective, it’s all writing. Both require problem-solving and then interpretation. Imagination beyond the idea stage is often more involved with presentation hooks but as mine is turned on all the time, it’s just part of the activity of communication. These days, I do it so automatically, I have to remind myself of the mechanics of the process as it’s so ingrained. As the opening line says, it’s all about confidence and having something relevant to say. Anything else is topping or decoration and hopefully someone is reading it. You are reading this, aren’t you?

It isn’t all in the writing but in the art of communication and that can work in any medium. I can tell a story or gag in person or just words on a paper or screen and still get the same attention so something else must be going on. Some people are better communicators than others. You want to tell a story, then it’s the medium, whether its verbal or written that is less important but both share how you impose your imagination on someone else.

People listen or read tall stories because they want to believe so it must trigger some internal mechanism that will get them. This might seem like a test of gullibility but like a magician taking advantage of distracting an audience, writers are less clinical and people just want to believe. That’s probably not always true or we wouldn’t have so many religions but once taken in, you don’t want to change your story and face an angry crowd out for blood. Thankfully, most fiction is there as a means of pleasure or a distraction from the world about us with a dose of morality. Hence, we like stories about people worse off than ourselves to make us think we could have it really bad. Equally, stories where things are or get better reassure that there is light at the end of the disaster. Both give a sense of distraction and assurance and, hence their attraction, in that we have a need to get away our problems for a sense of relief.

Writing is an unusual trade. You are a natural or learn from practice but you definitely combine the two together at some point to develop the skills to enable better communication. They don’t work independently and both need to improve with practice. Having great ideas but not knowing how to put them on paper still means you’ve still got a lot to learn. A lot of my best ideas come from merely thinking about a subject I’ve read or seen and reacting to them. It’s always a learning process that you can’t stop yourself improving as long as you stick at it. At least, I assume those who have the inkling keep going. No one can do anything without practice and more practice until something clicks. The smarter people amongst you might have spotted this. Thinking is good. Expressing your thoughts means you’re telling others. If you do it well, then maybe you’d be in a similar position to myself here. You’re reading this far because I hope I’m communicating well, although you don’t really see how many drafts or polishes I do on anything I write to ensure I’ve covered everything I have to say. Like a magician, a writer tries to hide such things and just make it look easy.

The mental process is looking for and at the detail of anything. You look for the mechanics of what makes things work far more than the average person. This also extends into storycraft. Even if you write not knowing where a story will lead, at least you’ll know the basics of beginning, middle and end. Whether you get them all right in one go or learn how to improve is down to how much you really want to write. That little extra awareness just means getting down to the nitty-gritty of detail. Everything gets down to consistent detail and how much you need to tell the reader in the motion of a story. I can’t ingrain that enough. That’s why it’s also important to read as many books as you can and understand the content, a sly reference to a need for reviewers here. Not that other authors ideas or techniques will necessarily rub off on you but you will end up with insights into storycraft by analysis, unconscious or otherwise. One thing you can’t do is second guess why another author chose one path over another because it is their right to make that decision. When you write your own stories, you can make your own choice yourself. Choice is often what is good at the time not whether it’s good or bad, but how much we care. That will often come out in the material whether writer or reader realises it.

Mind you, there is still a matter of how much detail. With stories, unless it’s vital to the immediate actions of the plot, it’s better to broadstroke and leave the idea flexible rather than lock it down too much that you can’t change it if you continue the ideas in other stories using the same framework. Often, the reader can be left to his or her own imagination in those areas until you put them right. Of course, if you’re ingenious, you learn how to turn mistakes into something that can grow from such things. Misdirecting readers with the same evidence is the basis of detective stories and Science Fiction certainly uses some if not all of the same techniques. It’s certainly a trick of a magician. Who says we can’t share the same tricks.

Most things about writing can be learnt or cultivated. Even the imagination, believe it or not. You’ve just got to look around in things that are happening and give it a sharp twist into the what if. Once you start looking at things sideways, you start exercising the imaginative muscles in ways the so-called ‘average’ person can’t or hasn’t thought of trying. Even so, it’s still problem-solving, only with more options and that can be applies to anything. Does any of the above make any of you think you are writers or just eager to get out a notepad or word processor and explore any talent you might have? Writing is also about motivation and without such a desire, to paraphrase a quote from ‘Blade Runner’, you’re not a cop then you’re little people. Somewhere in the mix there has to be a touch of ego to stand out from the crowd if you’re a writer. Mind you, any ego I have tends to be to ensure I write decently and communicate well than to be smug.

I think the biggest thing is why there aren’t more talented writers out there superseding their market? Has the media grown or shrunk on the Internet by too many writers? Entries in social media and emails don’t really count. At most, you’re relating things about your life or what’s going on in the world rather than telling something fictitious, which is essentially lying. There is a difference. In real life, I tend to be very honest so any lying comes out in my stories. If anything, my articles are probably closer to the real me because there, I have to be totally honest with information and opinion. With fiction, I can imagine any situation and get you to share it but convince you of the reality of the situation. Then, it’s a matter of how good you are doing it. Even with ebooks, there are far too many to make a mark and a significant fanbase to stand out from the crowd. The future generations of writers might look back in wonder how the earlier generations of writers could make such an impact on society when they can’t.

So what makes for an imagination? For my generation, the geek mentality comes from being isolated and/or bullied at school and the talent tends to flourish. A common occurrence for a lot of SF writers. In the Internet world, people are less isolated and probably feel less alone. If you’re not in with one crowd, then you would certainly seek out like-minded people elsewhere. I contributed ‘The Fate Of Fandom…As We Knew It Once Upon A Time’ a piece elsewhere last year https://downthetubes.net/?tag=fanscene (second zip section page 129-130) that what existed for the comicbook fandom I was involved in back in the 1970s-1980s is never likely to come around again in that form again. It was a lot easier to stand out from the crowd simply by self-publishing a fanzine but so few took that path or stayed for long until the printing costs burnt the wallet. With the Internet and so many websites, it’s become a lot harder to stand out and be noticed no matter how good you are. If anything, I suspect there will be an implosion at some point and the writers will come to places like ours, although I hope some of you will jump that queue and come now rather than later. There might even be a discovery as to what slowed down your success, which I hate to say, can often be put down to poor communication skills in the grammar department. Even if you don’t know something is wrong, the reader might unconsciously.

Another problem is that even geeks are never alone anymore. I often wonder if the really isolated geeks would even consider using the Internet as they would see it as an intrusion on their lives. That might not be entirely true. The Internet as a global village has different facets and they might go shopping or look for information and ignore the social side of things. Hmmm…that’s not too far removed from what I do, so I guess I’m still actually an isolated geek but using my communication skills to reach out to people when I want to let loose my imagination. It doesn’t mean I have to embrace everything, just enough to poke my head up over the parapet and talk to my audience of one. Thinking in terms of millions would scare anyone.

However, when it comes to getting your fiction or articles out there, then it is important to be seen and needs venues like ours to give the needed break to bring out the material so you’re seen. It’s hardly like I don’t want you to write, I’m just surprised so few come to me. Am I that intimidating or frightening? The real dilemma is why aren’t more people doing so? Without that resolution, I’m tending to see myself in a very isolated world. Maybe, you, my audience of one, feels that way, too.


Thank you, take care, good night and isolation doesn’t mean you can’t narrate or lie in a story, it just means you have to do it well.


Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info


A Zen thought: An ignorant man is never likely to be right.


What Qualities Does A Geek Have: Continuing the thought from last month, the realisation that many people don’t have our particular kind of talents. I wasn’t so much disappointed, more like realising how rare we really are.


The Reveal: I wrote most of the above editorial before reading Ursula LeGuin’s last book that I’m reviewed this month.


Observation: For those who use twin monitors and get no sound, something I discovered recently is go into the Control Panel and in ‘Sound’ and ‘Playback’ there should be two speaker options, switch to the other one and your sound will return. Taking the second monitor off, only the new default setting will show.


Observation: With ‘Aliens’, the number of xenomorphs killed by the Remote Sentry Weapon Systems would surely have produced enough blood to have melted through the tunnel floor and made it easier to get into the medical centre.


Feeling Stressed: Walls have doors and windows. Don’t feel shut in.


Missed Opportunity:

            If you aren’t seeing the types of book or authors here you would want to read, chances are that I don’t have any reviewers who do them. I’m stocking up on reviewers right now. The extended info is below but essentially, if you can write and breathe and make good observations, you stand a chance. If you make grammatical errors, then I have your back. Email me at: gfwillmetts at hotmail.com

NOTE: Although there are details below, please observe the bigger message elsewhere on site. I’m always recruiting reviewers and this is the time of year to recruit as the nights are shorter and so you might be sleeping less If you’re living in the UK, love books and feel a bit geeky then read the notes below. You have to love reading anyway. You might be what I’m looking for and I do train people up and it’s good for your writer’s CVs and books to feed your reading habit. As some of my team are discovering, they can also interview writers and write articles as well. You can do that without reviewing as well but reading and reviewing is a good discipline. We’re a good team to belong to.

Polls And Opinions: We did have them for a time but the new version was causing a mess in WordPress so until a new version that doesn’t cause conflicts comes around, we’ll have to do without them but please use the answer option at the end of any material to express comments because we do read them.

For the record: For the odd query I have about being linked to media contacts. I do not have either a personal twitter or facebook account. There’s enough of me here to not outstay my welcome. I’m also puzzled why some people see SFC as a blog site when we’re not. We were in this format long before blogs. It’s getting to the point that people can’t tell the difference between blog and butter.

Beware Of Virus Attacks: December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job. I’m still seeking reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything. Humans and aliens can apply. Monsters need to prove they can read and write. We could do with some reviewers who like fantasy right now. Don’t be scared of the instructions, you’d be surprised how easy it is to learn. So, if you want to contact me, build these words into an email address: gfwillmetts at hotmail dot com I won’t bite, although that doesn’t preclude others. In fact, I’ll settle for any more willing reviewers who love to read. Did I say I was after reviewers?

NB: We do get digital books and if you live abroad and not in the UK, then this avenue could be open to you. I’m not putting it in as a link to avoid spam. Just copy and paste into your emails to contact me with my address noted in the paragraph above. I’m always recruiting and details are through a link on the top of the SFC main page articles and stories as well. Just because it’s sunny, doesn’t mean you’re going to read any less. We could do with some more fantasy readers right now!

If you’ve on a budget, a book for a review is a good bargain and I can teach the nervous how to do it by seeing what you do when you present a sample. It’s a good deal. We get books in a variety of formats these days so all things are possible to those with the knack for putting words into sentences and saying what they think.

For potential book reviewers in the UK, it’s a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. There are detail links scattered over the website and on the forum. If you don’t think you’re up to scratch, you’ll discover why I’m the dutch uncle. Repeating this several times is for those who only scan and who don’t want to wind back up the page.

Another real Zen thought but this time for potential writers: If you can express an opinion independently of others and aren’t likely to bend to the masses then you might show potential as a writer.

Zen for those who are scared by all the instructions below: Many of the instructions are things you should be doing automatically if you’re developing your writing skills. If you do them already then focus on the ones that you don’t get right. They are there to help you as much as me to get the best writing from you. If you think you’re 80% there then I’ll help you get the final 20%. Trust me, I’m an editor and I can get things right.

BOOK REVIEWS    – Don’t feel intimated by all the info below or linked to. If you’re any good as a writer, much of it should be second nature already. This is just the long hand version.

Do you love books? Do you like curling up and reading a book in preference to socialising, even on the Net? You might not even want to curl up, that’s only an option. Do you have a preference for fantasy, SF or horror? We really could do with some fantasy readers!!! Do you find it the greatest pastime you have next to being on your computer?

Are you very vocal about what you like and don’t like in what you read?

Would you like to share your thoughts with others about books?

Would you like an endless supply of books to do this with?

Do you live in the UK?

Can you spare an hour every day to read?

Do you think you can write about what you’ve read?

Are you finding the recession is hitting your book buying habit?

If you’ve been nodding your head up to this point then link in below and see if you have what it takes to be a reviewer at SFCrowsnest. If you have that special knack to read and write or want to develop said skill then the only way you’re going to find out is to take the plunge yourself rather than wait for others to do it first. Reading a lot of books is a requisite for any writer. Being able to say what makes them good or bad hones your own skills. Even if you’re just happy with reading with a little writing on the side then this might be for you. It’s got to be better than waiting for the sun to come out in this weird summer and now cold winter. It’s also amazing how much you can read in an hour a day.

If you’ve survived this far in the editorial, let me reiterate something from the website newsletter and the above editorial. As you can see from the main page, we have one of the biggest SF/fantasy/horror monthly reviews columns on the Net. Our success has increased the number of books that comes in and our policy is to read everything and give it a roadtest before giving a review so you have some idea of what you’re letting yourself in for. You want the bottom line about what you’re going to choose to read. That means we need people actually willing to read the book and tell others they’re opinion in reviews. For that, we’re always on the outlook for more reviewers.

Do you think you have what it takes to review a book? It’s a skill that can be easily mastered and we need a few more. If you love fantasy, we have more than enough to keep you busy for instance.

Apart from the ability to put words into sentences, you also need to know how to précis, do a little research on associated subjects and can express opinions constructively about the good and bad points about the books you read. We even let you choose from our pile of received books rather than foster something on you that you wouldn’t normally read. You’ll even get a little editorial help in how to write good copy and that can always lead to other things. I’m not as scary as I sound editorially and it’s better to do the test review and see how you fare than not attempt to see how well you did. I did say you have to love books and willing to read beyond your favourite authors, didn’t I?

If you like reading books in the genre and can average two or maybe three a month, can really think and show you can write a decent review and, most importantly, live in the British Isles (sorry, expense, time and distance travelled mostly prohibits elsewhere), then use the link below and see our requirements. We can’t pay you but writing a review has to be cheaper than buying a book and a good incentive to see if you have what it takes to develop your writing skills.

Do you think you’re up to writing a review? If you think you can, then you’re really going to think you’ve landed your hands in the biscuit tin. It won’t hurt to try and see if you have the right stuff by sending me a sample review to show me you can write. If you want an added incentive, it can also be good for your CV.

Look up the Review Guidelines by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_reviews.php”></a> with a press of a mouse button.


We always have an interest in running short stories which can be anything from one to thirty or so pages long. We’re always willing to give short story writers a chance to be seen if they can withstand my scrutiny even if we can’t pay for their efforts, your material will be seen by a lot of people if it’s shown on the SFCrownest website. If you can get a short story written well then it’ll make it easier to move up to novel-length.

Look up the Short Stories Link by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse.


We’ve also a teaching ground of one page stories, so check out the rules elsewhere on the website. It’s a lot tougher than it looks and far too easy to just write and write and hope something good comes out of it. What writing a one page story does is test your ability to control your word count and still tell a story in a concise way. This doesn’t mean we don’t accept stories of different lengths – a short story can be anything up to 30-40 pages long after all – but opens up the means for really short stories from ideas that don’t need as much space.

Flash fiction stories by linking here: <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_flashfic.php”></a> with your mouse.


For those keeping track, I’m actually now caught up but don’t tell everyone as I’m undecided as to whether to keep looking at novel-length story samples, move over specifically to short stories – which we do anyway for the website – or get a couple of my own book projects completed. The latter, I still intend to do anyway and now actually working on but don’t let that put you off too much. If you want me to look over a sample, you can contact me through the links on this website.

Before you submit, study the next section below as it’s there to help you do some of the right things and reduce the number of times I’m repeating myself over silly grammatical errors and spelling mistakes that you shouldn’t be making if you’re serious about becoming a writer. It makes editing a lot easier if any editor has less work pointing out poor English which you should have been sorted out in the first place and more focused on other areas of your work that deal with plot and the other serious elements of storywriting. As a writer, it is your command of the English language and its grammar that will show how serious you are about writing.

There might not be much of a wait unless I get a deluge, however those sending in ebook samples, please read the Guidelines by linking here <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_bigfiction.php”></a> with your mouse here or through the bottom line menu on the opening page of the SFC website.


General advice for those who want to become writers of any sort: There’s an old editorial adage: If you can’t aim for perfection why should an editor nurse-maid you to that state? Nominally, my job is to catch minor glitches not total mishaps. If you’re a writer, then you should understand the words, sentences and grammar of the job you’re supposed to be writing or are you considering it as mundane and boring as any other job to get right? Fall in love with making every sentence the best you’re ever written, read up and understand the rules of grammar. Put the time in researching any subject you’re using in the story. Be prepared to put a story away for a few weeks and go back to it for a self-edit until it’s as good as you can make it. Even I do that. You look good. I make you look better but you have to start off with good.

A lot of the time, errors will just stare you in the face when you didn’t see them the first time round. Once you know where your weaknesses are, they can be sorted out and allow you to move a little higher up the ladder towards making your material look its best and more importantly, getting your material seen by readers.

The link here will show you the Common Problems Link page and what I see mostly <a href=”http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/contribute_commonprobs.php”></a>

with your mouse. It’s the smart writer who doesn’t get caught out with these.

Good luck.



Category: Culture, Offworld Report


About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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