Thank you for sharing this! I agree with most of what he said. I do think single third or first person narrator can be just as good as multiple, it just depends on the story and the writer. Two things that I disagree with are the advice to write short stories first and not to write fan fiction. Short stories are a different species of writing entirely and while some writers can create both, I don't think that's everyone or even most. I was going to say that I agree with not starting with a multi-novel epic, but then I can think of many writers who have successfully done so. I think you have to write the story that you need to tell. Finally, on fan fiction, I think it can be great practice -- no reason you have to develop every technique at once. And it is better to do so honestly, rather than writing a novel that every reader will see as a thinly veiled rip-off of some famous work (why do these get published???).
He's raised some interesting points in this article and there are two things that stood out to me.
The first one was stance on sex scenes. Sex is awesome, I won't disagree with that, but if I don't feel the scene adds anything to the story, then I won't write it. Do characters in my stories have sex? Abso-freaking-lutely! They usually do it behind the scenes, though, and reveal their exploits through dialogue with other characters. Or I'll take the Old Hollywood approach and "shut off the camera" just as they're removing their clothes. I've also read plenty of published material where characters don't do the deed and I didn't feel the books were missing anything without them.
Although I don't usually follow the advice of writing every day (I write almost every day, but there are days where I'd rather just curl up with a book for hours and hours on end or play guitar), I agree whole-heartedly with his statements about beginning writers needing to learn to create their own characters, worlds, settings, etc. instead of just writing fan fiction. While penning fan fiction can be a good time for some people, it's really a good idea to learn how to write something that is completely and 100% their own. Yes, dabbling in an already-established world is easy, but it is lazy and if one wants to be a good writer, they need to know how to build something from the ground up. I know that sounds cruel and if you're offended by those last few sentences, I apologize, but trust me - you're much better off creating your own worlds, characters, stories, and such than you are just writing about someone else's world.
Lucy-MerrimanFeatured By OwnerDec 28, 2012Student General Artist
The tapping in to emotion thing, I learned that in my acting class! That's emotional recall! And it's absolutely real, and it definitely works. The actors, and writers, who are the most believable, are the ones who can make that genuine emotional connection. They may not really have just witnessed a murder like their character, but if an immense, fearful memory is running through an actor's head, that fear is real and we can see it on the screen.
Actually, don't know how well that translates to writing, but it seems to fit. Definitely translates into writing monologues. If I can feel the emotional core of the character, their words are more natural.
"Write every day" is useless advice. I read somewhere, I don't remember where, but this isn't original to me, something much more practical, that makes sense to me: "The time you put into it is what you'll get out of it."
Basically, the article was talking about, like, if you want writing to be just a hobby, then feel free to write as much or as little as you want to. One hour a week, two minutes a day, whatever. If you want writing to be a part-time job, then treat it like one: write 10, 20, or even 30 hours a week, just like you would a regular job, and submit things you write to paying markets if that's an option. If you're in a place where you think you can be a full-time professional writer, then write 40 hours a week; it's your full-time job.
It's possible to write 20 hours a week and really only write three days a week if you feel like it, and you will gain so much more then just writing for ten minutes a day every day.
Honestly, right now, even though I'd like writing to be a part-time job, I'm still at hobbiest level. And as a result, I don't hate myself when I don't work on things for a while. There's no pressure except the pressure I put on myself.
That being said, obviously, there's a lot more to improving your writing than just writing a lot. Get a lot of feedback, study the craft in books or classes if you want, read a lot, all that good stuff.
"I think if I outlined comprehensively and stuck to the outline the actual writing would be boring."
he's looking at this the wrong way. word choice is important here -- he uses the term "outline", which is a dry description of what he's doing, which is plotting. he's acting like he's got no free will just because he's mapping out the course his story should take. i extensively plot my stories, lots of folks have seen my arc worksheet; all that does is let me know where to go and what to hit and when. you've also seen my results. this mindset of his is kind of disappointing. my way isn't the ONLY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY but i've been using it for at least 2-3 years and it works every time without fail. it works. and besides, he's basically admitting here's a method he doesn't use and already assumes it won't work. weak. what he does works for him but there's people out there who are new to writing who will clamp on to this because he is who he is, whoever he is. He's just another human out there, just like the rest of us.
"Write every day, even if it is only a page or two. The more you write, the better you'll get."
I fucking hate anyone who says to do this. hate it. it's fucking horrible advice. it's not guaranteed, why do they think it is? i also don't necessarily believe in reading everything you can get your hands on. it's good to be well-read but i think it's better to read what you are primarily interested in writing. i'm not going to read something that isn't going to help me accomplish my goals, that is a waste of my time. Cormac McCarthy and Raymond Carver and Mickey Spillane are who I need to read, not Asimov or Rowling or King. Time is precious and reading takes a while if I want to retain what I've read.
"Emotion is really what fiction is all about."
Fuck this guy. In the ear.
I know bullshit when I read it. We all should. I know people will think I'm full of shit. But there's a difference between me and this guy. People aren't hanging off my every word as if it's gospel.
I hate the "write every day" too. What if I don't want to write today? What if I'm doing something else because writing isn't the only thing I do? What if it's a beautiful summer day and I should be outside enjoying the scenery?
Because people say this so often I used to actually believe this was true and felt bad about not writing every day, until I realized it was a load of rubbish that you have to.