Friday, May 28, 2010

BRMCWC Lesson #2: Everyone Has an Opinion

After realizing that I didn't know nearly as much as I had thought I knew; I quickly learned that there are as many different thoughts on how to write as there are writers! Don't get me wrong - there are some 'rules' that are fairly universal - like 'Show, don't tell'. But I also found that many of the very successful writers that I met at BRMCWC have very different ideas about the process.

Generally, writers appear to fall into one of two camps: the 'outliners' and the 'ad-libbers' (to borrow a phrase from Don Brown). But even within these groups, I found diversity. Many of the outliners write at length using a variety of techniques to get to know their characters. Some journal. Some interview their characters at length. Some write lengthy biographies of their characters that will never be part of their final work - but will be integral in determining their characters' responses in a given situation.

Similarly, 'ad-libbers', also known as 'writing by the seat of your pants',  generally layout some plan as far as the plot. While they may not sketch out a skeleton and fill in each 'bone' before writing, they invariably have in mind a particular inciting event and a climax.

The bottom line - as a writer, we need to recognize which general camp we fall into, but we also need to realize that even if we are a 'seat of the pants' writer - we still must have a general idea of our plot. If we are an outliner - at some point, we have to move beyond the outline and structure and flesh out the story! Getting feedback and critiques on our work can be invaluable, but as the author we have to decide which feedback to apply and which to discard. We should be teachable, but should also be firm in our convictions. Allow our craft to be polished, but don't lose our unique voice.

"5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does." James 1:5-8

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