I’ve been reading blog posts about writing for about 7 years now (wow!), and there’s one thing that drives me crazier than anything else: advice implying that there’s only one right way to write (or do any part of the publishing process, really).
If we’ve been around the online writing world, we’ve seen us vs. them attitudes for many aspects of writing—plotting vs. pantsing, traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, etc. Heck, I’ve even seen the attitude that there’s only one right way for an editor to edit. *shakes head*
Here’s the thing… (And we all know this, but a reminder never hurts. *smile*) Just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.
Or to take it a step further, just because something works for us one time doesn’t mean it will work for us all the time. Our process might evolve with more experience, or adjust as our situation, our mood, or our connection with the story itself changes.
I call myself a pantser (as in, writing by the seat of my pants), but for some stories, I’m pantsier than others—and that’s okay. The point is to find—and use—whatever works for us. In the end, there’s only one thing that matters.
Why There’s No Such Thing as “One Right Way”
I can’t go more than a couple of days without coming across a post by someone proclaiming “Here’s the right way to do X.” (Of the hundreds of articles I read a week, I refuse to tweet many of them because I don’t want their “one right way” attitude to mislead other writers.) Their “evidence” for such a statement usually comes down to “This is what worked for me.”
Great! But everyone’s brains are different: what we notice, how we process information, what gets us stuck or unstuck, what motivates us, what helps us connect to our characters, etc.
Our situations are different: our free hours in a day, the distractions or other obligations in our lives, our budget for pursuing our dreams, our support system, etc.
Our goals are different: the types of stories we want to write, the income we want, the sacrifices we’re willing (and able) to make, how we define success, how we hope to connect with readers, etc.
The process that works for someone who wants write plot-focused stories with flat character arcs and lives on their own with no kids underfoot is likely to be very different from the process that works for someone who wants to write character-focused family sagas and has to squeeze in words between loads of laundry for a houseful and taking care of an ailing parent.
The Cure? Experiment with Different Processes
Yesterday, Orly Konig-Lopez wrote about how she discovered that her tried-and-true process didn’t work when she switched genres. Whether it comes down to genre, story, characters, themes, our moods, life chaos, or anything else, our process is going to be personal to us and might change over time.
So whether we’re just starting off and trying to discover what works for us or we’re struggling with how to adjust a process that’s not currently working, let’s talk about some of the options we can try:
- writing in the morning vs. at night
- using music vs. silence
- setting deadlines vs. not
- seeking support from other writers (NaNoWriMo, writing sprints, etc.) vs. answerable only to ourselves
- writing only when we have big chunks of time vs. writing in stolen moments
- aiming for a certain number of pages or words or hours a day
- researching in advance vs. researching as the story calls for it
- using a story seed of a plot or a character or a theme or a premise or a turning point scene or a first line, etc.
- outlining in advance vs. beat sheets vs. pantsing (or anything in between)
- writing linearly vs. jumping from scene to scene
- focusing only on dialogue (or whatever) in the first draft vs. writing a fully layered draft
- thinking of each scene as a short story (beginning to end and an arc of change) vs. keeping the threads of the overall story in mind
- editing as we go vs. only going forward during drafting
- fast-drafting vs. taking as long as we need
- working on one project at a time vs. bouncing between projects as needed for writer’s block or other reasons
- knowing how the story’s going to end ahead of time vs. figuring it out when we get there
- setting a story aside for a different idea when it’s not working vs. putting in the work to make it come together
- only reading through the story first vs. making changes while doing a first read
- focusing only on big picture stuff at first vs. fixing anything and everything we find when we find it
- relying only on beta readers or editors within our genre vs. listening to revision and editing suggestions from any source
- fixing everything we can before sending to an editor vs. saving time on nitpicky stuff by relying on our editor to find the errors
We might write our ending first and our beginning last. We might draft in “telling” mode and add in the “showing” details later. We might write all the scenes from one POV and then write the other POV scenes. There’s no wrong answer.
If something’s not working for us, we can change up our process. Or we can try something different the next time. We’re not stuck with anything because of this wonderful invention called the delete key. *smile*
The Only Step That Matters
There’s a reason none of those choices (or plenty of others I didn’t mention) come down to “right” or “wrong”: None of those choices will prevent us from putting finished stories in the hands of our readers.
Every single option (even “setting a broken story aside to work on another idea”) can result in a quality finished story. And isn’t that really the point?
Readers can’t tell from reading a story whether it was pantsed or plotted. Or whether we tore our hair out with writer’s block for 3 months in the middle of drafting it. Or whether we *gasp* edited as we drafted.
That’s because none of that affects our ability to end up with a quality book. Readers don’t see the sausage-making, only the sausage itself. As long as that sausage is yummy, they don’t care about our process.
We will never see a reader proclaim, “I refuse to read any story that was written at night. Morning writing is better.” The very idea is ludicrous.
The only difference between the options is whether they work for us. Some writers tout their process as being more efficient, but that’s an individual measurement. So the question should be, is one method more efficient for us than another?
For example, do we take the time to write clean prose because that’s more efficient for us than fixing it in editing? Or would we like to be a morning writer, but our sleep schedule isn’t cooperating?
The reasons why something may or may not work for us are personal. They depend on how our brain processes information and how our situation and our goals affect our writing.
None of those reasons are wrong. Others just might not understand our reasons because they are personal. But if they work for us, they don’t need to work for everyone else too. *smile*
Have you seen advice that assumes there’s only one right way to do something with our writing processes? Does that attitude stop you from sharing the advice? Or do you share it but add disclaimers? Has your process had to evolve or adjust over time? Do you agree or disagree about the only step that matters?Pin It