Wednesday, September 21, 2011
One Size Doesn't Fit All
There's a lot of writing advice out there. If you add up all of the blogs with tips on writing, editing, querying, ePublishing, and more I'm sure there's enough every day to fill a good-sized book. It can get overwhelming trying to make your way through all of the information. You're wanting to tell your story, and you've got dozens of "Do"s and "Don't"s floating through your head, crowding out your characters, plot, and dialogue. What's more, you can easily find one person touting an approach that worked for them and another suggesting that writers should do the exact opposite.
There's a simple explanation for this. Not every tip is going to work for every writer. In fact, I'd go so far as to say for every writing suggestion, there's at least one writer that it just won't work for.
Take one of my pet techniques -- the Seinfeld Chain. I love it. It's encouraged me to write every day so far this month, even on days when I really would just as soon have skipped it altogether. On the other hand, some people in the comments on my blog post about the Chain said that having a daily word target didn't work for them. At least one person even said that it made them sort of lock up and have trouble writing at all.
It's important to understand that everyone writes differently. If you don't understand this, you can end up feeling like you're doing it wrong when really you're doing it right -- just in your own way.
At the same time, you want to take care to not use this "one size doesn't fit all" fact of life as an excuse. If you find yourself rejecting the vast majority of tips you read then you might want to step back and take a closer look at some of them. Do they really not work for you, or is saying "I just don't write that way" a way of avoiding doing something you find challenging but which could make you a better writer? If you're not sure, maybe you could take one or two ideas which are just a bit outside your comfort zone and see if you can make them work for you. If not, there's no reason you have to stick with them.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the value of any particular technique will depend in part on the goals of the writer. Someone who views his writing as essentially a hobby may benefit from a different set of advice than someone who is hoping to make writing her career.
In the end, you have to write in a way that works for you. If you're making steady progress towards your goals, then you're probably doing the right things for you, even if your practices don't line up exactly with what you've been told you "should" be doing.
What are some tips that haven't worked for you? How do you "break" the "rules"?