27 Dec

Your Writing is Special – And It’s Not

Banner - Fountain PenYou’ve got to realize that your writing is special.

Not special in the way that you are a fabulous snowflake that will melt the literary world, but special in the way that nobody but you can do it.

Comparing yourself to others destroys this idea.

Why? Because however you want to compare yourself, you’ll find someone that excels in that particular area.

So you write a 1000 words a day? Chris Fox writes 1000 words per hour.

So you write 1000 words per hour? Rachel Aaron writes 20 000 words a day.

But that works for them. What will work for you will be something completely different. And that doesn’t matter! Patricia C. Wrede writes 250 words a day. That’s it. She’s had a career in fiction for decades. On 250 words a day.

Will that work for you? It might. It might not. It’s your job to find out.

Same with story structure. KM Weiland does elaborate outlines of her books (she teaches it as well). Dean Wesley Smith sits down, grabs a random title, and starts writing. Both have long-time careers, sales, and fans, even though they do it completely differently.

Only you can figure out what will work for you. Only you can discover what makes you special.

But you’ve got to overcome two things first:

  1. Your pre-concived ideas of how working “should” be done and
  2. Your fears.

Of these, the fears are the most damaging. I don’t know anyone who likes to do what they fear. Even people who love roller coasters, and screaming their hearts out while riding them, aren’t truly afraid of them.

Humans avoid what we fear. If you fear writing, you will avoid it.

So you need to remove that fear. My best advice here is to find a long-term program (months-long, at least) that you can follow. For me, this was Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It turned me from a scared aspiring writer, to a slightly less scared actual writer.

Not in one go. I fell of the writing wagon when my fears accumulated after a few rejections and had to go through The Artist’s Way again. But I did it, and I’m writing.

The first point is insidious – once you agree that something should be a certain way, your brain will try to find ways to confirm your views.

Challenge them.

Hemingway said you should write drunk edit sober. Does that mean that every successful writer is an alcoholic? Far from it. It simply means that Hemingway was full of bull, and apparently liked to make fun of other writers, especially aspiring ones. And he was an alcoholic who stopped writing later in life (The Old Man and the Sea was written in about a week, under the direct threat of his editor and agent…)

This goes for any advice you hear. “Write crap drafts, then edit.” Might work great for you. For me, it’s lethal. I’ve thrown out novels over my inability to edit them. “Write clean, and never edit.” Might work great for you. Does for me (mostly). One of my writing buddies tried it, and broke down in tears. He needs to edit, or his writing, and writing ability, suffer.

You can find what you need to write. But you need to experiment, and you need to do so without fear.

Because in writing, there are no rules. Like in Pirates of the Caribbean, the Writer’s Code isn’t a law, it’s a recommendation. You break any rules at your whim. You decide what works for you.

But in order to do so, you need to experiment, you need to figure out how your brain works (Becca Symes videos on the CliftonStrengths are great for this), and you need to adapt anything you hear, or read, about writing, to yourself.

Including this advice.

Luck and persistence!

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