Saturday, December 13, 2014

Death by List

Some know my story, how I got into the writing business. It was a shock when my first manuscript was accepted.

Later, after my third book was published, I asked my editor if she thought I should get some writing education? My brilliant editor literally said, “I forbid it”. It was cute and funny but also serious. Looking back I clearly understand her caution.

Currently in perusing various writing related material I keep seeing the lists. I used to read the lists, now I intentionally ignore them.

I’m talking about the lists of “rules for writing”, “plot requirements”, “essential writing elements”, “words to NEVER use”, “plot devises that kill a story”, “plot devices that a writer HAS to use”, and it goes on and on. The lists I mean. Everywhere, on every writer type media these lists are screaming their message. I used to read them, mostly because I thought I needed to educate myself on writing. But in reading them I found so many I couldn’t agree with. Some of them were actually the worst thing a writer could do, creating formulas instead of inspiration. After I got over thinking the lists were there to help me, I could see them for the dangerous things they are.

Imposing someone else’s creative process on me essentially stripped my own voice of its natural music.

Not everyone gets to being a writer organically, but still, the lists are so misleading. As if the writer just has to do the few things directed to create a fascinating manuscript.

“That’s not how it works,” to quote a current TV commercial.

If I were asked by an aspiring writer, what makes a manuscript work? (And since I have a blog and can do what I want, I’ll pretend I’ve been asked) I’d have to beg them to write passionately.

Okay, Okay, there are indeed things a writer MUST do to create a good story. However, the lists will not lead one to the Promised Land.

Having the latest “Writer Program” will have almost nothing to do with writing a good story.

Having the best writing education would be a great base but still doesn’t assure fascinating writing.

Another writer said it best and I wish I could remember who to attribute it too.

“We start in middle of the action and fight our way out.”

That is writing.

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