Below is a fantastic article about the writing process and why no single piece of advice, no matter who provides it, is ever perfect. The bottom line of the article is that we are all different, and what works for someone else may not work for you. By all means, listen and absorb advice from others, especially noteworthy authors, but take it with a grain of salt. And don’t be afraid to buck the trend. If something works for you, stick with it, even if it contradicts someone else’s advice. When its all said and done, your writing process only needs to have one thing in common with other authors: you have to actually write. As long as the writing gets done, nothing else truly matters. #writerswrite
P.S. Make sure to read through to the end of the article and check out the wonderful quotes Massimo provided. Definitely inspiring.
P.S.S. – For those of you following my Bobby Ether series: I recently had some interest from an agent on book three. Unfortunately, it didn’t materialize into a deal, leaving me still to decide whether I want to continue the search for an agent or self-publish number three the way I did the first two. Stay tuned!
Among the questions writers torture themselves with are whether we should write the complete work then edit, or edit as we go along. Should we create biographies of our characters before hand or invent them as we develop the story? Should writers do the first draft by hand then type into the computer or go directly to the keyboard? Should they have fixed writing hours or not? Is it important to write daily or not?
The answer is yes to all of the above, or not. Confusing? You bet.
The Writing Process. (My apologies, Dr. Seuss)
I can write in a car,
I can write by a fire,
I can write in a boat, I can write on a float.
I can write on a table, I can write when I’m able;
I can write anywhere.
I’ve read a few how-to-write books, followed online creative writing courses, read blogs of established authors. All of which I have come through, the amount of contradictory advice is only limited by the number of pages I have read. Does this mean that all writing advices should be disregarded? Not at all – if so I’d give up writing this post or past others about writing techniques.
When I had the venture to discuss with other successful writers about their working habits, I have discovered they are as varied as their personalities. Some are extremely disciplined, they set aside a time each day to write, stick to a minimum number of words no matter what. Others cram writing time around the many responsibilities. If any common factor exists, it is their extreme seriousness about their work.
Many things in this world can be standardized, but standardized creativity is an oxymoron.
The secret is to find what works best for you, and throw away any guilt or inferiority that you are disregarding the advice of Best Selling Author X. Remember, Jeffrey Archer once told would-be writers that the only way they can be successful is to quit their jobs and write full time. Tell that to a single mom trying to finish her first book. The alternative is — of course — getting fired, but that’s another story.
Am I saying the advices of Best Selling Author X, Y, and Z are baseless? Absolutely not. Try their methods, but twist their ideas, adapt them to your needs. You are what you are, if a ‘rule’ existed to describe how to write successful novels, everybody would be a Best Selling Author. Testing allows us to develop new skills, too.
So, shall we continue with the poem?
I can write on my head, I can write in bed,
I can write as I eat, I can write on my feet,
I can write with ink, I can write in a sink;
I can write everywhere.
The important thing to keep in mind is that what works for you might be different, and still be the way to go. Have the confidence to do it as well as the wisdom to know when it needs to be changed. And do it without guilt, or shame.
And now that you’ve got here, you can follow my advice, or not, and disregard every word if it doesn’t work for you; and do it with my blessing.
Some Best Advices
“I merely took the energy it took to pout and wrote some blues.” – Duke Ellington.
“Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time… The wait is simply too long.” – Leonard Bernstein
Note: I know the first two quotes are about music, but writing music and writing words are variations of a creative process.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” – Henry David Thoreau
Note: I know this is often quoted, but whenever I realise the crowd went in the other direction, I realise that it is okay if I don’t follow.
“Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it.” – Jesse Stuart
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” – Joan Didion
“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ” – Thomas Mann
And the last one, which I read almost every day to remind myself that the perfect novel doesn’t exist, and there will always be those who will find diamonds in your stories and those who will find nothing:
“’Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem to be confidences or sides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profound thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson