Thursday, July 18, 2019

5 W's and an H: Today we talk about HOW and WHY

I wanted to clump these two together today since both really deal with a writer's understanding of how to write a truly strong novel.

Too often, writers put things into their plots, structure their stories a certain way, or have the characters do certain things without thinking. The end result is a story that is truly weak and elementary in style, voice and craft. For most, these authors are doing these things for several reasons. For some, they just took a workshop or read a book where "the expert" claimed that doing this particular thing would make the story amazing. For others, they made these decisions simply because one of their critique partners or their "beta-reader" told them to do it. For this final group, they did this simply because they saw another author use it and decided to incorporate the idea into their own book.

All of these are valid reasons and all of these COULD work.

The problem is that authors don't know the HOW or WHY of using that approach.

Truly strong authors know how using a technique or an approach would effect a story or how the story is read. It is crucial to understand how that tool works on a small scale within your book, as well as on the larger scale across several chapters.

I always like thinking of this as being similar to cooking. Choosing the right oil  for example when cooking any meal... Canola, Olive Oil, Vegetable Oil, Sesame Oil, Coconut Oil, Butter, or Margarine will all have a different effect. How these oils work in each meal, with each temperature or each appliance will be different. The same goes for writing techniques. Each is used for a unique situation.

Along the same lines, an author needs to know why a technique was used or recommended by another author. In many ways, this is very similar to the HOW. You just read an author using a technique, but you don't know why the author chose that approach. The odds are, they knew why they were using the approach. Maybe it was a random lucky move. For you, however, you have to know why you are taking that approach. What is making you do this. If it is simply because someone else told you, then you are making a mistake.

Writing is about internalizing your craft. It should almost become muscle memory. You do things because it is the right thing and it works in that situation. Remember, every story is unique. Every author is unique and we will each use a different approach.

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