Saturday, January 21, 2012


Lately on Saturday's I have been posting under the lose topic of tools for writers. Basically I try to think of something that has helped me with my writing - and share. Sometimes it degrades into ranting, or is totally off the wall.

But today I would like to discuss something that I feel is a really good tool for writers: skeptisim.

Skeptisim: an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object.

Before you hyperventilate from gasping at my words - let me explain. I do not think that we should be doubtful or incredulous towards ourselves. But we should look at everything around us - including our work - with skeptisim.

Why? Because by scrutinizing everything, by questioning everything, we can uncover the greatness lying beneath the surface.

Remember that movie IQ - where Meg Ryan's character is analyzing a formula. The hero in the story has told her to question everything. It is only by questioning everything - even the truths that she took for granted - that she discovered the real truth behind the numbers. The formula was a fake.

Skeptisim as it leads to unavailing truth - can help writers in two ways.


Next time you are watching the news, listen carefully to the stories and approach what you hear from the point of view of a skeptic. Do not believe anything. Then, begin framing the story in such a way that your inner skeptic cannot punch any holes in it - and tada! - you have an air tight plot.

This works in reverse to. Take a story that is one hundred percent believable, turn on your internal skeptic and ask what would make this story totally unbelievable. Add it to the story and see where it takes you. Now of course you will eventually have to find a way to at least explain what you have added but that is not a job for the skeptic.


Self editing is hard. I am very hard on my own writing in certain areas, and in other area's I am too lax. I have several critique partners that help me sift through some of the muck. But I personally believe that for the very reason that the writer is closer to the work - we must be our own hardest critics. That is how we polish our skills to become the amazing writers we are.

Be skeptical - question everything! Now I do not mean over edit. Not at all. What I am referring to is looking at your work in a way that will let you see past the surface and inside to expose the plot holes, the inconsistency and so on.

Now that I have beaten this dead horse to death, I have a question for you:

How do you use skeptisim? Or do you think it has no place in your writing?


  1. I'm likely too skeptical and often say, "Oh, that could never happen." So I need to take care not to limit my imagination by dampening it with too much skeptism :)

  2. I love the new design, BTW. I absolutely think we need skepticism. Without it we would stop learning and our skills would decrease. As we writers we should always strive to be better!

  3. My skepticism helps a lot with writing. It helps me build realistic and strong characters and give them obstacles that really challenge them.

  4. I have found that great optimism has been more elusive. I do understand that critical thinking plays an important part in any creative venture. ;D