According to Wikipedia self-censorship is defined as the act of censoring or classifying one’s own work out of fear of, or deference to, the sensibilities or preferences (actual or perceived) of others and without overt pressure from any specific party or institution of authority.
I hate to admit it but I’ve been totally guilty of doing that. Unfortunately although I thought I’d been doing it for the right reasons, it actually went against my writing instinct and method. In the original version of my novel “Disintegration: A Memoir” it started with the following line:
The first time I saw someone die was when I was seven.
From there it goes into the time when the main character, as a seven year old, kills a class bully. But the doubt that lives in some of us new writers got the best of me. I began to fear that people would be put off with reading about the death of a seven year old, bully or not, and not want to buy my book. So you know what I did two weeks after uploading the original version?…..ugh, I removed the first couple of scenes taking out the death of the kid and the killing of a noisy dog. Totally chicken-shit in hindsight. So a halfway decent Chapter 1 with a first-line hook (or at least an attempt at one) turned into a half chapter of descriptions and the reader having to get through several pages before he/she gets to some conflict.
It’s taken me 3 years to realize that maybe I could be doing better with the book if I hadn’t taken out the hook. Having a hook early on is Writing 101 shit, man.
So I uploaded new versions of the novel to include the original Chapter 1.
Lessons to all you thinking about writing a story:
1) Have confidence in yourself.
2) Trust your instinct
3) Your story is your story. It is what it is…and hopefully people think it’s something good.
4) Don’t kill the hook!