I was thinking about writers who say you must write/edit a certain way. “Of course the magic number of edits is five, more or less and you fall of the cliff of oblivion and are consumed by monsters.” “Heaven save you if you do not make at least ten perfect graphs of each of your character’s emotional arcs.” “There is no way you can possibly create a decent book without an outline.”
Pretty much if you’ve gone to any writer’s conference or workshop- you’ve run into these folks. The “MY way is the ONLY way” writers.
Now they aren’t evil, most of them sincerely want to help their fellow writer. Whatever way, trick, or formula they are proposing worked…for them. Therefore, they believe they have hit on the magic secret that should work for everyone.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
The problem is that writing is subjective. It’s subjective when someone reads it, not everyone will love the same book (thank goodness!). But, what many writers forget is that is also subjective how we create it.
Some folks have to plan, that’s how they work. A dear friend of mine has that down to a science- she color codes everything on cards (and someday I want her to come post about it here- some of you may love it!). This works extremely well for her. She’s fast and good and just landed two multi-book contracts.
And if I were to try it my head would explode. Seriously. She tried explaining it to me and I could feel my eyes glazing over. I’m a seat of the pants writer, I often jump in with very little beyond my characters and just write it as I find out what happened.
So who is right?
Both of us. And anyone in-between.
My friend and I both have different writing styles- and both work great- for each of us. But if I were to walk into a class of new writers and tell them they could NOT outline or plan their books, that they had to do it just like me, I’d be ruining a bunch of future writers. Even worse, what happens to the newer writer who goes to my workshop, soaks in the “way of the wild” (aka pantser) then goes to their next workshop- taught by my dear friend the card outliner? That poor newbie writer would end up babbling in the corner and probably never write again.
As we make our way through the writing jungle on our journey towards publication, we learn these things. That if someone- ANYONE- says, “this is the ONLY way to write/edit/revise” to take what they say with a grain of salt (or an entire shaker full). But newer writers, still wobbling about on their newly found literary feet, are at risk for failing to weed out what doesn’t work for them. To take the tips that sound true to their heart, and walk away from the rest. Humans are absolute creatures- we like concrete things. To get my graduate degree I had precise steps to take and when I followed them all, they gave me my diploma.
Writing doesn’t work that way.
There is no magic “one size fits all” formula. And anyone who says there is is lying or delusional.
The only rule to writing is that you must WRITE.
If you’re a more experienced writer, watch how you present your wisdom to others. If you’re a newer author, remember it’s YOUR path, take only what works.