Not for General Consumption

I don’t know what people love more – giving advice, or having people take it. That’s probably more cynical than I really want to be about it. I do get a little kick whenever the advice I give to someone is helpful, but if they find another method that helps them out, that’s what I care about. I’d rather someone be writing without mental blocks than them take my advice.

It’s why it bugs so much when people push their own beliefs about writing as though they’re the only way. I know that the things I say here probably won’t work for anyone. They might not even work for the majority of writers, but if I hear from just one or two people that I’ve been able to help, I consider it time spent right.

The other thing that bothers me about the way many people push the topics, is they throw out staples of all education about writing as though they’re recent discoveries.

The Hero’s Journey is a fine thing, but it’s not the only way to write a novel. I’m so tired of people pimping it as the only possible how-to for writing fiction, and can’t conceive of people doing something outside that. The monomyth isn’t new to most writers, even if you’ve only recently discovered it, or more likely, you find that particular approach is what works best for you.

It also gets tiresome when people say you can’t write a novel a certain way. Some people can take a premise and a pencilled in ending, and get a workable first draft out of it. Others will come up with an overall roadmap of what they think will happen, and follow it until an unexpected story emerges from its beginnings. Some writers even meticulously map out every scene, conversations and outcomes, and don’t take a step off their carefully constructed path. If you’re one of these types, it’s not implausible that the other methods don’t fit your style of working, but that’s never grounds for dismissing the methods entirely.

No method is immune from needing an editor.

Yes, there are generalised ideas that exist in fiction. There’s numbers touted saying that there’s only seven stories, twelve stories, twenty stories or so on. If you summarise a story as “character deals with obstacle to goal, causing conflict”, you’ve reduced the number of potential stories at the expense of much clarity.

Does the reduction provide any benefits? Does telling people to follow a fixed structure lead them away from the cliches of the genre, or toward it? I don’t believe so.

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