Monday, October 26, 2009

Writing Technique is fine...But...

I think that a lot of writers hold too much stock in writing technique. In other words, they have attended a conference or a writing class and have walked away with a ton of skills to put in their "writer's toolbox." At that point, they start inserting these techniques into their writing with the belief the writing has now been improved.

Unfortunately, for many writers, they fail to understand several things. First, how the presenter determined what worked and what didn't work with these techniques; and secondly, why each of those techniques work.

Let's start from the presenter side of things.

When I get ready to do a conference or a presentation, I have to take some time to "dissect" the elements that make what ever I am talking about work. In other words, I identify all of the individual pieces of the big picture. By doing so, I not only understand how each of those elements are used individually, but also how each of the pieces work together.

Now, when I go to the seminar, I present each of these elements so a writer can pick and choose which item works for their writing and which one doesn't. It is the hope the writer will be a critical thinker enough to realize the writing may not need it all and to also realize when and where to use the technique. In many ways, it is like teaching someone about spices and herbs. We learn when and where to use these supplements to the food. We don't use them all.

The second element comes from understanding why the techniques are used and what the impact will be on the reader. This is where I find many writers really messing things up. They have learned the techniques are cool but fail to realize that with their story, it may create an opposite reaction. I think a good analogy is that of Ritalin (o.k. I may have spelled it wrong). In any case, I am talking about the drug used for kids with ADHD. A psychologist once told me the drug has the right effect on someone with ADHD, but will actually create the opposite response for someone without it. The same goes for writing.

Now where I am I going to with this? The answer is simple. I want writers to learn technique. But you have to THINK! Why do I want to use it? Will it work here? What is the impact on the reader? And so forth... Writing is much more than simply writing words. It still requires thinking.



  1. Thanks for another informative post. I get a little bogged down with things sometimes. So it was refreshing to learn I don't have to :).
    Glynis @

  2. Bravo! on this post. So many of us writers take things very literally. So when a presenter says, "Hey, this is how you do it."... we say, "Great! Where's my WIP?" When really we should say, "Thanks for the great tip." and then file it away to determine if it fits our voice and story when we're not so fired up about the latest and greatest technique.

    Thanks for the great reminder that techniques are just that- techniques.