Four Writing Tips, Part 1

by Leo X. Robertson

Hiya Aphotic Realm enthusiasts! I get to write stuff for you now! Isn’t that cool? (Plus, writing this has distracted me from writing fiction. I love getting distracted from writing fiction.)

Over the next series of blog posts, I want to share four writing tips that I’ve picked up now that I’m entering Year 8 of writing. Hey, there’s a mini-tip already: have no shame in telling others how long you’ve written and precisely how far you’ve come! You’re not anyone else, so it’s not like there’s a yardstick of comparison. What’s the rush anyway, and what precisely are you trying to achieve? I sure don’t know.

On that note, the issues I have faced on my own path as a writer likely relate to who I am as a person. That is, someone who enjoys being seen as clever and who is known to try and achieve stuff whether or not it’s actually stuff he wants to achieve. These are somewhat useful properties, but they often go awry. That I can tell, there’s no way of reaping the benefits without the negative consequences. They’re probably why I took so long to arrive at these relatively simple tips.

It’s also not that I’m so unique in these ways that my advice is non-transferable. I’m surely just one of many writer archetypes to whom these tips apply. They may be useful to other writer types, to artists in general and so on—but you’ll be the judge.

Writing Tip 1/4: Read Stories That Are Close To What You’re Aiming For

I read a handful of stories every day (although at weekends often nothing at all—busy playing video games and eating burritos.) I don’t often read them closely or with care, because I don’t know whether I’ll like them, nor do I know how they will relate to what I’ll later write. (Because I don’t know what I’ll write later.)

But the subconscious works all this out for you. All you need to do to keep writing is provide a constant stream of content.

I was once interested in making my own DJ mixes, and some articles I read at the time advised DJs to catalogue their favorite music by genre and tempo (beats per minute.) This work comprised a DJ’s competitive advantage. There’s surely software that can do this for you now? I don’t know. But this tip applies to writers as well. If I like an online story, I’ll save a PDF of it. If it’s from a book or magazine, I scan it and file it away on my laptop. This is my “competitive advantage” material.

When I have a new idea for a story and I start to develop it in layers, I see the connections to the material I’ve read. This often results in a reading list of adjacent stories, so I can remember what elements of the stories I enjoyed and how they relate to what I’m now writing. (When not writing blog posts, this is another excellent procrastination tool!)

They say you should read a whole balance of stuff, but I feel my writing improving when I almost exclusively read content that resonates with me. I’m slightly better versed at finding this content. The realm of fiction, being so much greater in size than I am, is impossible to navigate perfectly—but I understand my taste a little better, as well as the typical content of my stories, so I’m able to work out everything a little faster.

Writing is intuitive, and the intuition isn’t missing a beat. I don’t judge what it provides either, I just write it up. I have some very creepy motifs that keep coming back around, and I don’t know where from or why. Surely that has something to do with style and voice. It’s just strange when you find these elements and still feel a lack of ownership towards them. But voice and style are constantly evolving, and we only get a vague outline of where they’re coming from.

That’s all for today! My next tip is a weird one, but has resulted in some of my proudest work, which has all gotten published somewhere eventually. I hope you get the same results when you apply it too!


About the Author

Leo X. Robertson is a Scottish process engineer and writer, currently living in Stavanger, Norway. He has work published by or forthcoming with Flame Tree Press, Pulp Literature, Helios Quarterly and others. His latest novella, “Jesus of Scumburg”, is out now with NihilismRevised. Find him on Twitter @Leoxwrite or check out his website,