I am a HUGE advocate of studying writing craft books, listening to author interviews, and writing advice videos and podcasts. I take a lot of online classes in a variety of subjects to improve my writing. One of my pet peeves, the thing that will make me so angry, is when an author tells me their way, is the ONLY way to write! Now, I am hardly a genius or even a bestselling author but Neil Gaiman, who is a story telling god, said during an interview at the end of his ten-year anniversary edition of American Gods (paraphrased) that he told his friend and fellow author, he’d finally learned to write a novel, but his friend said, no, you’ve learned to write this novel.
Indie author Michael La Ronn whom I discovered via YouTube, tells of writing his novels using several different methods. He even rates the methods on one of his videos. Like Mr. La Ronn I have tried different techniques, some with more success than others. But the truth is, you have to find what works for you or what works for this book.
Every author has their own style, their own method of writing. Some writers have to plot out every minute detail before they can start, but others prefer to discover the story as they write. They have to do what works for them or they cannot create. When I hear an author say you have to do this or that in order to write, I cringe. As a new writer, I wanted to learn to outline and plot my stories and do character analysis and diagram my stories so I could give readers a better story. BUT that didn’t work for me. That is not to say I did not learn important information in those classes, books and programs. I learned what works for me and what didn’t. I learned to adapt things to fit my needs and that is the key point I’m trying to make. Do take the classes, do read and learn from other authors but do not feel that you have to do things exactly as they have done in order to write a great novel and be a success.
One of my favorite authors to follow and listen to is Sarra Cannon. She is the author of several young adult series and new adult books, her most famous ya series, Beautiful Demons has sold over a million copies and her Heart Breathings YouTube channel has over forty thousand followers. She teaches a course called Publish and Thrive which is an amazing program for any writer but especially if you are an indie or hybrid author. While her method of writing, which requires a lot of planning, outlining and then post writing discovery, which I admit I don’t always use, but it has taught me what to look for to be sure my story is complete. I have learned to adapt many of her ideas in a way that best works with my style of writing. I truly love Sarra’s way of teaching because she doesn’t say her way is the only way.
I’m on this soap box because of a recent book I purchased for a program, Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. Now, not to completely bash Ms. Cron, I loved her Wired for Story, and there was much in Story Genius I also thought was well, genius but when anyone deals in absolutes, I get a little antsy. I was angered by what the author had to say about pantsers and especially what we do not do our due diligence which results in our failure. As a pantser, or now I might admit to being more of a plantser, as I do plan some of the details of my stories prior to writing. And while I’m not a famous author with several best sellers under my belt, but Mr. Lee Child is, and he is also a pantser. Like me, Mr. Child likes to discover the details of the story along with the reader. To plot or outline it in advance would kill the joy.
While I disliked much of what this author had to say in her how to guide to be a better storyteller, it was her lack of respect for other methods that truly angered me. Do not get me wrong, the author has some valid points. I kept reading because I could glean some nuggets of genius from her book but at one point, I became angry enough to return the book and demand my money back. I don’t do that. I have even tried to go back through the book and to see if I was just being too sensitive or over critical but when I started reading the second time, I got mad much sooner. This is one of the caveats I believe we as writers need to be aware of, even well-meaning people can crush your spirit and derail your efforts if you allow them to. Had I read this book when I first started writing seriously, it would have kept me from publishing. My self-esteem was so fragile that I would have felt trapped and unable to write.
To those authors who wish to share their hard learned knowledge with other writers, I ask that you remember not everyone processes information the same way nor do we produce in the same manner. Be careful of stifling creativity in your desire to show authors a new and better way to write. I will leave both the newbie writer and the master with this, thank you for your inspiration, your words on the page for they fill my dreams with possibilities and hope.