There’s some cliche about there being ‘no right way to skin a cat’ or something, but that’s just gross. The gist of the statement is that there’s no one way to do things. On r/YAwriters there was a discussion about bad writing advice. The original post tackles such tried and true ideas as ‘write what you know’, ‘show, don’t tell’, ‘raise the stakes’, and ‘kill your darlings’. Mary Robinette Kowal does a fantastic job at taking some of these things apart; especially dear to me is the ripping up of ‘kill your darlings’. For the love of God and/or Satan, don’t you dare rip up the good parts of your book just because you believe you have to be more critical of the things you love the most. Readers can feel that passion, so be critical, but no unnecessary book surgery.
The discussion on r/YAwriters delved deeper into other tried and true aspects of writing advice, which shows one thing: we all do this writing thing differently.
There is no one right way to write a novel. You’ve got to write it one way or another, but trying to ape another author’s writing style might not work for you. I go days (months, sometimes) without writing fiction, but I’m a speed drafter. I can write 2000 words a day, sure whatever, but I personally feel writing more words per day helps me link up the emotions and pacing between scenes better. That said, I get very few days to sit down and write 6000+ words a day, so yeah, there are plenty of days I just won’t write. There are others who’d get twitchy if they had to write for more than an hour or two a day and can’t speed draft.
Harlequin Valentine summed up the issue with this piece of advice:
It’s not quite the same as the ones here but one that gets me is “write every day” – I unfortunately took that to mean that if you don’t write every day then you’ve failed horribly and need to give up being a writer…
I’ve always thought that better advice (for people who take things too literally like my younger self) would be: “set yourself high but achievable writing goals and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t always make them”.
When I wrote about not doing NaNoWriMo, I didn’t include this reason, but my reaction against this piece of advice is probably another reason NaNo doesn’t work for me. It’s just not what I do. Writing everyday can make my story feel like suck. (I don’t want my story to feel like suck until I have to edit it…I’ll have plenty time to contemplate how bad it is then.)
Let me put this one to bed: writer’s do a lot of things. One of those things must, by it’s very definition, be writing. That said, writer’s also can edit, market, tweet, blog, book sign, book tour, read contracts, negotiate with agents/publishers, approve cover art, and a whole mess of other things I cannot think of. There’s way more to this gig (and being a successful author) than just writing. You’ve got to write, yes, but there are so many other parts of this career. One thing people often over look is hustling and branding. Whether they do it intentionally or not, a lot of successful creative people have branded themselves and are always on, always selling themselves and their work even if it’s subtle. Being an author is about more than just the work itself, and if you’re famous enough, there’s always ghost writers.
Write What You Want to Read
There is a niche for everything in the world. The larger that niche, though, the easier time your story might have finding readers. Writing an alternate history about were pigs struggling against monarchy in 17th century France might be great, but the number of people who want to read that story could be shockingly small. Or not! You don’t know. When I write, I do have a (vague) audience in mind–but it’s not always the same audience for every story. You might want to read some erotica, but those readers aren’t necessarily the same ones who might like your sweet-romance YA (even if you like both). Today, self-publishing can eliminate the need for pen names, but plenty of authors still use them to cross genres because what you want to read doesn’t necessarily line up with the groups of readers you’re trying to reach. This is more of a marketing thing, sure, and some authors do genre hop successfully (Delilah Dawson comes to mind). But the main point is this: what you want to read may limit your readership. Some of you (and sometimes me) don’t really care, but it’s worth pointing out the cynical, business aspect even if it is considered the Dark Side of being a writer.