D is for Delusions


All writers have them. In our heads, they often masquerade as confidence. Confidence is a GOOD thing. We need to be confident, to believe that our work is (or will one day be) worthy of being read, and that our efforts aren’t for nothing. We need confidence in order to press on.

Delusions are confidence’s evil step-sister. They keep us from moving forward, from honing our craft, and from growing as writers. They can be incredibly disadvantageous. Delusions keep us from reaching the success we dream of.

A few delusions I’ve entertained over the years:

Plot and structure are for conformists.

I don’t need to have my work critiqued; no one knows my story as well as I do.

Revisions are unnecessary; my story will be perfect the first time around.

I don’t need to abide by word count guidelines; every word of my (133,000 word) manuscript is golden.

Just wait until agents see this FIRST DRAFT of my FIRST MANUSCRIPT… They’ll be falling all over themselves to sign me.

I’ll definitely be one of those rare debut authors who sells at auction for six figures.

I know. Ridiculous, right?! It was sort of embarrassing even typing that insanity out, but looking back reminds me of how far I’ve come, and how vastly I’ve been educated.

Confidence = Good ~ Delusions = Bad


Admit it… you’ve entertained a few writing delusions of your own. Care to share?


36 thoughts on “D is for Delusions

  1. Leigh says:

    Too true! Your comment about your “133000 words all being golden” made me giggle – I hear ya!
    Couldn’t help but stop by for a second visit …from the A to Z challenge (#970)
    Leigh @oneandoneequalstwinfun.com

  2. Alison Miller says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It makes me feel better about my own delusions of grandeur. (Me and my 175K first project thank you.)
    I actually think I’ve gone from the thinking I have the next big thing to the other extreme. Which is why I am very thankful for the people who support and encourage me when I’m not feeling so confident, and who toss me off my pedestal when I get a little delusional. Great D-post, Katy. πŸ™‚

  3. Sophia Richardson says:

    Holy cow, I love that picture, and your delusions made me smile. To be a writer, I think you need to be a little delusional, though. Otherwise you’d realise how insane it all is. “I’m going to spend every spare moment writing while I ignore family, friends, and good hygiene in order to produce thousands of words that may never see the light of day.”

  4. Sara McClung says:


    My biggest delusion from when I started out: “I’ve always loved and excelled at writing–so completing a novel should be a piece of cake.”

    DOUBLE HA. πŸ™‚

  5. Kristine C. Asselin (@KristineAsselin) says:

    I’ve never had a delusion. Never thought “oh, as soon as I get an agent, I’ll have a book deal” or “just wait til that editor sees my work, she’ll sign me up for a three-book-contract”

    Nope, not me. Not delusional over here. Nope. (D can also stand for denial.)


    • katyupperman says:

      HA! You totally made me laugh, Kris. I think you’re right: Delusions and denial are related by more than just their beginning letter. πŸ™‚

  6. Rebecca B says:

    I’ve had so many cringe-worthy delusions–the worst is probably sending a first-draft off for a critique. I *know* that perfect first drafts don’t exist, but there’s always a part of me that hopes that I’ve done the impossible. (I think it’s the lazy part of me.)

    • katyupperman says:

      Been there, Rebecca! And it’s laziness on my part too. But also, none of us wants to be told that we’re not good enough, even when we know it deep down. I’m so thankful that my CPs and betas don’t entertain my delusions. πŸ™‚

  7. Colin says:

    I agree with Liz: we have to watch for those negative delusions too. For example, “Everyone’s only saying nice things about my writing because they don’t want to see me cry,” or, “I’m too old to start a writing career,” or, “I just read LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard and I can’t compete–she makes my writing look like baby drool.” Now, the last one may have an element of truth to it where I’m concerned, but still, we need to balance these with *reasonable* (i.e., not delusional) confidence.

    Great “D” article, Katy! πŸ™‚

    • katyupperman says:

      Totally agree, Colin! Confidence is what keeps us going, trying and trying and trying even though the odds are admittedly horrible. Oh, and WANDERLOVE totally made me feel unworthy as well. Such a beautiful book!

  8. Jaime Morrow says:

    I have to say DELUSIONS and DOUBT simultaneously like to have their way with me (which wasn’t intended to sound dirty, but kind of does). I go back and forth like a ping pong ball between both of them, and it’s hard to find the right balance. I’d like to trade delusion for confidence, and doubt for a healthy dose of reality. In either case, I’d be honing my writing, making it worthy of readers’ attention and time. I think we all run into these big ‘D’s from time to time.

    Awesome ‘D’ post, Katy πŸ™‚

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Jaime. πŸ™‚ I’m constantly bouncing around the emotional scale as well. I’ll read one of my sentences and think THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER, and the next will make me wallow in I’M THE WORST WRITER EVER. So glad to know I’m not alone in my Writer Crazies. πŸ™‚

  9. stephscottil says:

    What’s funny is I read your list and thought, I’d never think any of those things! But I’ve definitely been deluded about my writing going into a critique session; having worked furiously on improving my grammar and mechanics of writing, I thought nothing of the plot and pacing of my story. Even short flash fiction pieces need a plot. Whoops!

  10. Elodie says:

    Hmmm I did mention my first attempt at query writing, right?
    I thought…”I read a couple of articles on the topic. I just finished a draft of 60k. How hard can it be?”

    When I was done, I continued my naive/delusional thinking: “Wow that first sentence has so much voice and the rest sounds very original. IΒ΄m just going to post it on AbsoluteWrite to get one or two opinions,,,TheyΒ΄ll probably change the place of a word, something tiny…” When I checked the feedback of people, I wanted to hide in a hole. After maybe a few seconds (i.e. in this case, minutes, hours, maybe a day), I realized that this experience was much needed and helped me grow. It helped me to go back to my novel and look at it a bit more critically…

    Thanks for sharing, Katy!

    • katyupperman says:

      Nothing like a anonymous message board to take you down a notch (or twelve!). I had a very similar experience at Absolute Write with my first query. While it felt crushing at the time, looking back, it was one of the most helpful experiences of my writing journey. Honesty can be KEY (but I do appreciate it in a constructive manner!).

  11. Meredith says:

    Oh hi, did you crawl into my brain and write this post for me? Because I’ve suffered from every one of those delusions at some point in time. It’s a good thing we can look back and laugh at ourselves now, huh?

    • katyupperman says:

      Yes! My delusions aren’t from all that long ago, but oh my… I feel like a completely different person (and writer!) now. So glad we’re not alone in our writerly delusions. πŸ™‚

  12. Rachel says:

    My delusions tend to be that my book is perfect and it needs no editing. I actually minimally edited my book before querying (eep!) and an agent asked me if it was a first draft (nope it had been line-edited a million times lol). Now that I am really revising and editing it I’ve realized that it basically was a first draft — I was just too scared before to do the edits I needed to do to make it better. But hey – everything is a lesson,right? πŸ™‚

    My other delusion is tricking people. MWHAHAA! I’ve been known to write such convincing *fake* Publisher’s Marketplace blurbs that people thought those writers had actually sold their books. Whenever I am feeling frustrated with my own book – I write them for myself. I doubt they’ll come true (i know, pessimisstic thinking. shush) but its nice to think/see/write about πŸ™‚

    • katyupperman says:

      Hey, if fake PM blurbs are what keep you motivated, I say: Go for it! And yes, before I started writing with the goal of publication, I thought editing and revising were one in the same. Turns out… Not so much!

  13. Nicole Mc says:

    This was fantastic. Let’s be honest, some of these delusions are hard to let go of!! haha. I saw that photo on pinterest and liked it. We all become conformists in the end. πŸ™‚ (Hopefully!)

    • katyupperman says:

      They are SO hard to let go of! When you finally let go of the drafting delusions, you move on to querying delusions, then on to submission delusions. It’s never ending! πŸ™‚

  14. Yahong says:

    TOTALLY. My delusions consisted of, “It’ll be fine if I send this draft off… even though I haven’t completely revised it yet.” Yeah. And the thing is… I’m scared that I STILL have delusions even though I think I don’t, haha. (Which is basically the definition of delusions. :P)

    • katyupperman says:

      Ha! Your comment made me smile, Yahong. I KNOW I still have delusions; they’ve just morphed from drafting/querying delusions to submission/publication delusions. I say: You’re not having fun if you’re not hoodwinked in one way or another. πŸ˜‰

  15. elschneider says:

    I LOVE this post! As I was reading your lines of grand delusion, I realized I was nodding along to the beat. Um, yeah, my first manuscript? 120,000 words of supreme writing, let me tell you. Huh, I wonder why it’s in a shoe box, that’s in a bigger box, shoved under my bed, with 2″ of dust coating the top?
    But it’s amazing how we grow and learn about this whole process. And with that, I’d like to remain optimistic – at least about that six-figure deal. Oh, and maybe I’ll let you pet my unicorn. πŸ™‚
    Loved. It. Katy.

    • katyupperman says:

      Thanks, Erin! My mindset when drafting my first manuscript was “Bigger has GOT to be better!” Had a done a little research, I would have known that’s definitely NOT the case! We all have to start somewhere, though, and learning is half the fun!

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