Leo X. Robertson

News of my latest publications, events, and episodes of the Losing the Plot podcast!



Writing advice!

Who doesn’t love writing advice? Well, me, actually. I can’t remember the last time I, or really anyone I know, took advice. (I know one person who takes advice and he only takes it from like two people anyway.)
That’s one of many reasons that it takes a long time to become a good writer. Being a writer is, I think, more a question of temperament than anything. Artists in general are people who can’t really be told what to do. So then good advice is just annoying because if you want to follow it, you have to forget having read it and pretend you came up with it yourself.
Except recently a horror writer asked me if I had any tips! It was super flattering. Here’s what I told him, and we agreed to share it here in case it helps anyone else 🙂
So: I have a group of four writer friends and I send them my work for feedback. (Any more people than that and it gets confusing, at least for me.) I found my trusted people through Goodreads—LitReactor is a good source also, I think, though I haven’t used it myself. You might have to try a few different groups/options before you find “your people.” Might surprise you from reading my fiction, but I can’t stand snarkiness/meanness/ridicule—it’s so unhelpful/unnecessary when it comes to feedback—I respond better to gentle encouragement and refuse to accept anything else, haha. As for what feedback is useful, technical stuff like “There are too many passive sentences” or “The story doesn’t seem to begin until the third paragraph” is great. Nothing to be done about, “I object to the story you’re telling”, so, uh, just ignore it, maybe?
As for what to read: read the top litmags in/outside of your genres of choice and find the authors whose work you like. You probably already know them, but for horror, mags like Nightmare, Black Static, TheDARK and Unnerving Magazine are good places to start. Read stories once for enjoyment and read a second/third time to study. You don’t have to like everything you read, and if you’re anything like me, you probably won’t. But once you’ve found authors you do like, see if they have short story collections or other works to read. Using this method, I found Gwendolyn Kiste’s “And Her Smile Will Untether The Universe”, Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” and Rich Larson’s “Tomorrow Factory.” (I’ve since been published alongside Gwendolyn Kiste and also Rich Larson—which I don’t think is a coincidence.) All these authors use mostly conventional story structures—beginning, middle, end—mostly short sentences with simple vocabulary, and deliver compelling original stories with new and complex ideas. I would bet that this is why they get published so often. (Not concerned with showing off their vocabulary or needless experimentalism—both things I used to love doing!)
You might like to know about my podcast, “Losing the Plot“, on which I interview authors and other creatives. It’s hosted by Aphotic Realm, who also have a magazine and enjoy publishing new authors—if you submit, they may even give you kind feedback also. Might be a great place to start! (Duotrope, The Horror Tree and Submission Grinder also useful sources of horror markets.) You could even start your own horror writer interview podcast—all you need is Skype and a mic. Authors are lovely people and almost all of them like to chat. Of all the many authors I’ve asked, only one or two said no—but even they responded!
All I do know is that there are no iron-clad rules when it comes to writing or advice that you “must follow.” (Well, that and that rejection really isn’t personal, unless 100+ editors a year really do want me to suffer, haha!)
Anyway, there are nothing but really good suggestions. I hope you find some of mine helpful. They’re all things I’ve done and continue to do, because I find, as all my favourite authors do, that writing is a lifestyle/continuous practice. It’s nice to think of it this way because, whether you get published tomorrow or in a decade, you’d still be doing the same thing anyway. Reading and writing, reading and writing.
Hope this is helpful to whoever read it! Have you picked up any tips you wanna tell me? Let me know! Cheers and best of luck with writing and all your endeavours 🙂

New Losing the Plot, with Renee Miller!

Renee Miller is a prolific indie horror author from Canada, and an undeniable inspiration to us all!

She has a slew of great material out with Unnerving, such as Church, Stranded and Cats Like Cream (now collected in the paperback Licking the Devil’s Horn) and she has a forthcoming short story collection, Flesh & Blood, out with Deadman’s Tome.

We talk about the trials and tribulations of the indie lit world, joining Scientology and Christmas ouija boards!

Renee’s site

As always, if you’re a reader, writer, creative type, someone with something to say, you can always get in touch with me using losingtheplotpodcast [at] gmail [dot] com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Marshall, who provided Losing the Plot’s intro music, has a new EP out now! Check out “Emerald Shitty” here!

New Losing the Plot, with Christa Carmen!

Christa Carmen is the author of the horror short story collection “Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked”, out with Unnerving. We talk about writing stories, going to conventions, and the subjectivity of horror!

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked

Christa’s site



As always, if you’re a reader, writer, creative type, someone with something to say, you can always get in touch with me using losingtheplotpodcast [at] gmail [dot] com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Marshall, who provided Losing the Plot’s intro music, has a new EP out now! Check out “Emerald Shitty” here!

New Losing the Plot, with author Darrin Doyle!

Darrin Doyle has lived all over and worked all kinds of jobs. He has an MFA in fiction from Western Michigan University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati.

He is the author of the novels Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet: A Love Story (LSU Press) and The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo (St. Martin’s), and the short story collection The Dark Will End the Dark (Tortoise Books). Currently he teaches at Central Michigan University and lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan with his wife and two sons.

We talk about his latest short story collection, Scoundrels Among Us (Tortoise Books)—as well as the merits of writing for yourself, living in different cultures, and Sturgeon’s Law!

Darrin’s links:

Scoundrels Among Us




As always, if you’re a reader, writer, creative type, someone with something to say, you can always get in touch with me using losingtheplotpodcast [at] gmail [dot] com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Not only does Marshall, who provided Losing the Plot’s intro music, have a recent album out with Captain Crook Records, he has more exciting stuff in the pipeline! Keep an eye out for him in future and remember you heard him here first!! 😀

New interview on Kendall Reviews!

Hello again!

Here’s the interview I mentioned in my post yesterday about all the flurry of my latest news 🙂

Love the formatting with the images and gifs! 🙂

Many thanks to Kendall Reviews for the opportunity–hope you enjoy reading!

Cheers 😀

All of the news!

As is so common in the writing world, nothing happens for a long time and then loads happens at once.

Here’s what I’ve been up to of late:

  • I was on the Horror with Marchese & Buller podcast
  • I woke up at 04:30 this morning to appear on the Deadman’s Tome podcast. Which explains why we talked about moon Jedis, Scandinavian hallucinogenic mushrooms and washing feet, among other things!
  • (On both these podcasts, we discuss my upcoming release, Jesus of Scumburg [Hindered Souls Press, Dec 25th 2018])
  • Steve Pool interviewed me on my own podcast, Losing the Plot! It was his much-appreciated suggestion, and we had an interesting chat thanks to his efforts and well-considered questions.
  • Kendall Reviews will feature an interview with me some time this week (no sign yet, but I’ll post about it when there is. Do check out the site in the meantime!)
  • Unnerving and Deadman’s Tome had sales recently, which I’ve tweeted about etc. before, though I think they’ve ended now. Still, as good a time as any to check out the content from these great publishers!
  • The Anti-Austerity anthology, which I had a piece in with many other talented writers, reached #4 on Amazon for fiction anthologies. And Penguin-published author Kit de Waal bought a copy too.

I’m somewhat keen to reassure the writers reading this that news comes and goes in waves, and that I’ve been quietly writing and submitting and chatting to folk for months nay years to make this kinda stuff transpire. But the main point of the post is, 1) Check out all this great stuff and support these cool people, and 2) This is far from the last you’ll hear of me 😀

Harsh truth 8 (of 8) for writers

People don’t take advice; they look for examples of what they want

Therefore you might argue that I’m just writing this for myself. I hope not. And I do thank you for reading.

Sobering truths are one of life’s most important components. How you respond to them determines how you will grow. And growth is the only justifiable option.

However, sobering truths are like the whole grains of your diet, or the cardio of a fitness routine. While perhaps healthy in moderation, if they’re all you consume, you’ll die.

So enough of all of this. You did well to get this far. And it counted as work, I promise you that.

I give you permission to watch 30 mins of silly YouTube videos—at least!

One last bonus harsh truth: Shun enforced breaks and silliness at your peril, writer friend of mine—for shunning fun will make you a worse writer, and, more importantly, a worse human.

Harsh truth 7 (of 8) for writers

You must slough off baddies

Networking is important. Networking with everyone is impossible and, quite frankly, a destructive thing to try.

It is your duty to stay away from people who are doing you no good. You know who they are. You might’ve had some in your life that you shed already. Great.

If you stick around with someone who makes you feel bad because you think they offer you something of value, you’re wrong. All they’re offering you is bad feels. By keeping them around, you are telling yourself, and the world, that this is what you deserve. By shedding yourself of them, you’re saying that you are worth better.

Freeing up your time, for the potential of having it filled by someone better for you, is so much more important than keeping someone worse for you around. And, my God, someone else will fill that time for sure! There are no shortage of people about!

If you like the people you associate with, fantastic. If you don’t, you need to spin that networking wheel again and hope you land on someone better.

Stay (blog equivalent of) tuned for a new harsh truth asap!!

Harsh truth 6 (of 8) for writers

Networking is important, but it’s not the same as “improving as a writer”

It helps us writers to know each other. The world of writing is one that requires constant work to remain within. Networking with other writers is a way of doing that.

But, being friends with an exceptional writer is not the same as being as good as them. That’s like if you said, “I have Elon Musk’s email, therefore I will send a Tesla into space next week.”

I’m super proud of that analogy for the following reasons:

  • The weakness of the connection to Elon Musk.
  • For you to be successful, you’d have to do exactly the same thing he did.
  • The idea that repeating his exact actions would make it as big of a success the second time around. It’s like saying, “It’s not important that I do good, original work, only that the work is done by me.”
  • It completely disavows the hidden decades of hard work that might be necessary to accomplish something that appears simple on the surface.

I only heard of the guy a few years ago, by which point he was decades into a career as an entrepreneur. That’s much the same as many top writers I read about: they’ve published a few books but have been writing for many more years than I have.

We must respect all that hidden work. Almost every successful writer today has f**king earned it.

Saying you’re a writer today is to say that, despite the many many other people out there writing, and all the literature already available, you have something sufficiently original to say—and you are good enough at saying it—that your writing deserves to exist. Vertiginous af!

The act of submitting something for publication implies that the above is true, whether you’ve even thought about it. Don’t pretend you think your story’s worth a damn: you do think it. Act like it!

On the other hand, as big as this is to imply—regarding the originality and competence of your writing—that’s all you have to imply about it. Don’t let arrogance convince you that you’re way way more amazing than anyone else. No one has a guaranteed acceptance coming. If you think your amazingness as a writer protects you from that, you’ll fall hard, become bitter and angry and a dick of a person to be around.

It’s implied by the fact that you present yourself as a writer and submit pieces for publication that you know what the hell you’re talking about. The skill of your writing, and nothing else, will prove your worth as a writer. Listing shit you’ve read, or people you know, as if its equivalent to writing skill… ugh. Just do your damn job.

Again, it’s possible to do everything I’ve written about so far as a writer without understanding it. But quantifying things keeps you sane and improves your chances of doing something properly. Delusions make us unstable, make it anyone’s guess if we’re doing something properly or not.

Stay (blog equivalent of) tuned for a new harsh truth asap!!

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