There have been a few hot takes in writing Twitter since the last time I posted. Most of them I’ve already made comment on in older posts either here or on my personal blog; mostly refuting these hot takes… though sometimes with caveats.
Let’s see, there was the ill-conceived screed against fan fiction by an author whose published work is ironically a ‘retelling.’ I don’t have the time or the energy to go over her nonsense and point out all the ways it is, in fact, nonsense, not least of all because writing Twitter did such a thorough job of it on Twitter. It’s highly amusing, if ever you want to seek it out.
The other one I’ve noted is the recent wave of harsh writing advice (™). Twitter immediate took the original poster to task, writing some of the funniest, silliest harsh writing advice (™) I’ve read of late. This gentle mocking of the idea of harsh writing advice is, to my mind, the perfect way to deal with harsh writing advice (™).
Here’s the thing about writing advice; it’s all rubbish. Sometimes, however, there is a nugget of broken glass in that writing advice that someone can pick up, polish and turn into something useful or beautiful. Though I frequently dole out advice, there is always the caveat that mileage may vary for anyone else. It is, I think, necessary for anyone giving advice to understand that the process of writing is highly individualistic, and that what works for them won’t work for a whole bunch of other writers.
That’s not to say that they’re wrong at all. Clearly their way works for at least one writer. It may work for more.
However to say that there is only one way to write a story – that’s when I start to get my back up for every story and on behalf of everyone for whom that is simply untrue.
It would be a wonderful world indeed if we could all just follow a set of rules and acquire success, but that is not how this works. That’s not how anything works. There is no prescription for a good story. There is not uniform process for creating one. Writing advice that demands that something must be done one way, and one way alone show an incredible lack of understanding and, rather ironically, imagination.
How dull would the world be if all the stories were the same?
Harsh writing advice (™) is often presented as the way to story completion and or success, which is why I think it was so fitting that writing Twitter took to mocking it. What it ignores is the fact that every writer is different. Every story demands an individual approach, and the one way one was taught in school is not the only way it can be done.
The three-act structure that Western story-tellers are told is the structure for a story, for example, ignores the plethora of other kinds of story-telling present in other cultures of the world. These structures are not wrong because they don’t present a story in three acts. They’re not wrong if the characters react to the plot, rather than act upon it (survival stories, for example, are all about how characters react to the world around them). They’re not wrong if there isn’t a single central hero or collective that wins the day.
Insisting a story-telling concept (such as the three-act structure) as the only way to present a story, and prefacing that insistence with harsh writing advice, proves only that the author of that advice is perhaps not as widely read as they could be.
Image by… uh… me. I tried.
So this is my harsh writing advice (™):
Read. A lot. Read widely. Read outside of your genre, your culture, your comfort zone.
Play. Don’t let someone else’s idea of a good story stop you from telling the story the way it demands to be told. Play around with character, with structure, with process. Let your mind unravel from the unnecessary binds someone else’s expectations have wrapped around your words.
Persevere. Unfortunately, sometimes the idea of what makes a good story makes stories that are outside of that rigid ideal difficult to find a home for. It may never happen. Write all the same. Keep writing.
Harsh Writing Advice (™): there is no magical path or process that will grant you success. Sorry. Here, eat a cookie. You’ll feel better.
When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, and cuddling a furry murderer. Her most recent titles include ‘Daughters of Britain’ and ‘Skylark.’ www.smcarriere.com