Friday, October 21, 2011

Writing Is Not A Formula

For many writers, there is a belief that "if I do X to my book, then it will be good." We see this in synopsis writing, query letter writing and even all of those craft books out there that proclaim you can "Write That Selling Novel." Unfortunately, these writers are missing the point.

The things these books tell you are characteristics of some things that work and don't work in writing a story. Please note the vagueness here in the wording. In other words, every book, every author and every situation is completely different. What works for one person does not mean it work for someone else.

I spoke yesterday of my Master's research. One of the things I had looked at was obviously the role of the teacher. When I set out on the research, I really wanted to prove that the teacher wasn't the factor. I had been doing things in my classroom that were amazingly effective. Yet, when other teachers tried the strategies, things didn't work so well.

The point is, when you read those books, follow our blogs, and take our workshops, listen and adapt that information to what your individual situation calls for. Don't just copy things as a formula.

What this all comes down to is critical thinking. Use your brain!

Have a great weekend. I'm off to a horse show!



  1. I always like reading your blog posts because they are so down to earth and to the point. I've been reading a lot of books on the craft of writing and after I read each one I question what I read and how I can and cannot apply it to my writing. I can take away the basics, but I have to adapt it to my own story and style.

    Have a nice time at the horse show!

  2. I agree with Nicole. Your blog is always to the point and I really appreciate it.

    Nicole - I like your approach.
    It's hard not to follow a formula when you read books on writing, but every writer is different and you just have to apply what works for you.

  3. I think it is difficult for many writers new to the query/submission stage to shake out all of the advice. There are so many directives about having a great hook, log line, elevator pitch, etc. that many emerging writers have never considered. In my opinion the ability to see what is applicable in terms of your own work is a confidence issue. The early phases of seeking publication are overwhelming. Not only because they are directed to vast numbers of blogs, books, websites and so forth that offer sometimes conflicting information, new writers are also standing on colts' legs in terms of their comfort-level with the often unwritten rules of dealing with the publishing world. It makes sense to me that many misinterpret much of what they read. There are so many intangibles in the search for an agent or publishing contract, I can empathize with any new writer who grasps at formula after formula as a means of success.
    Luckily there are some straight-shooters like Scott out there who encourage thought and the belief in your own voice. I don't think that confidence is innate in many creative people, just by nature of who we are. It is usually a slow rise, not a rocket-shot, which I think is a much better foundation for a long-term career.
    Enjoy the harsses, Scott.