Monday, October 3, 2011

The Dos and Don'ts

What are the dos and don’ts of writing? I admit that I am not extensively schooled in the refined techniques of writing. Apart from possessing an Arts degree, I haven’t done a writing course; nor have I poured over books about writing; and I didn’t spend years researching the best writing methods. I just knew that it was in my heart to attempt to write something. I also knew that the Lord was prompting me to try.
So when I first heard other writers talking about daily word counts, courses, and writing technicalities, I started to get very nervous and began to seriously doubt myself. Was I even qualified to be a writer? What did it take? What did I need to do to improve? Was I doing enough to advance my craft?
It really worried me. In the end after much pondering, prayer, and words of wisdom from my husband, I drew a simple, yet powerful conclusion – Do What Works.
I think there is great value in every course of action for improvement, weather that is a writing course, research, mentorship, or any other. But it can be detrimental if it’s not the right course for you.
Just like everyone, I could certainly benefit by advancing my skills. But, for now I have to admit that I find myself content with my writing. I am doing what works for me, and my life. My writing schedule and process provides me with, enjoyment, growth, productiveness, a ministry, and a purpose. What more can I ask for than this?
So if, like me, you find yourself being bamboozled by the dos and don’ts; sit down, take a deep breath, and cut yourself some slack. Remember – there is no right or wrong – only what works for you.
We are all individuals in possession of our own unique strengths and weaknesses. We have been deliberately given varying forms of expression. We do not all write the same way or produce the same work, but we are all a part of the same body of work – the calling to serve the Lord through the talent He gave us.
If you are unsure of what course of action to take; ask the Lord. After all, he gave us a talent for writing, and has directed us to use it for His purpose. He knows best how to nurture, grow, develop and cultivate that talent.
Don’t get wrapped up in the dos and don’ts. After all, what works for you will ultimately produce your best work for Him.
Rose Dee's first novel 'Back to Resolution' is being released at the Word Writers Fair in Brisbane, November 12th 2011. Visit Rose at http://www.rosedee.com/



20 comments:

  1. I think you're right, Rose, and relate to what you say. We can listen to the "Dos and Don'ts" and take them with a grain of salt, but I've made the mistake of trying to follow rules which self-appointed experts have tried to carve into stone, but they haven't been right at all for me. These include the character mapping type of tool in which we're supposed to know everything from their favourite breakfasts to their bathroom habits before we can dare begin our chapter one. After giving this a good, hard go, I realized it was restricting for me. If I was a character in someone's book, it'd drive the poor author up the wall to work this way, so I figured it was the same for me and dropped it without guilt. I got to know my characters a lot better by inner imagery, listening to music and lots of daydream. But the formal mapping method obviously does work for many as it's still being widely spread.

    So along with your "Do what works" I'd add, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And I'm looking forward to the release of your book and appreciate your biggest "Don't" which is, "Don't get stuck rigidly doing what doesn't work for you."
    Blessings,
    Paula

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  2. Hah, you're so right! You've just got to be true to your own style. Mind you, we learn constantly by our mistakes, and what really works for us. And as you've probably alreay discovered, Rose and Paula, there are two clear schools of writers. The Plotters and the Pantsers. The Plotters know nearly everything in their story before they even begin. The seat-of-the-Pantsers work it out as they're writing, because they're guided by the development of their characters. Both work well for these different personality types. However, some writers(and I'm one)fall between these two. They have a rough idea of how the plot's going to develop, but their characters often steer it in another direction. This can be an exciting challenge. Staying on the edge and keeping it sharp comes through our work and our readers will never be bored!

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  3. Great post Rose. I often wondered that stuff myself when I first started writing. And then "falling" into publishing was the same! I never really know how to take the next step. Thankfully God has lead me and I have (tried to) listen and I think we know a bit more about stuff now! Anyway I ended up doing a course to learn more about editing and publishing and learnt more even though I was doing it as well. I reckon a good combination of education, common sense and following your heart and passions are the best. After all God put those passions there in most cases!

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  4. Good food for thought Rose. Thank you.
    Anusha

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  5. Yes, Rose, it is very easy to get bogged down in dos and don'ts. I try to forget about rules when I write and then go back and apply them if I see the need later on. But, like you say, it works differently for each of us unique individuals. :)

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  6. It's certainly something to keep in mind. Thanks for the thoughts.

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  7. Hi Paula, I absolutely agree with the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy. This was exactly what I was told when I was stressing about my self-professed inadequacies as a writer. My writing could hardly be touted as literary genius – I so could use improvement, and in fact, have improved dramatically since I have started. If the Lord led me to a particular course or mentorship I would be there with bells on – but I can’t stress over the things I haven’t done. Or talk myself into believing that I need to do it all. I just have to trust, and go with what works.

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  8. Rita, I’m most likely a bit like you. I have a basic plan as to where the story is going. But ultimately the characters can take on a life of their own and often my storyline changes direction – always for the better though.

    Thank you all for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

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  9. Hi Rose! At last! I think I can comment again. Whew! Big relief it is and thanks for your help and suggestions. No - I haven't installed Google chrome. But... mine works. I think! :) Let's see if it will post this.

    I did enjoy your post and yes, finally we have to do what works for us, I do agree. I too haven't studied writing in depth but have been reading lots of books on the subject to help me on. And most writers give similar tips - like 'Show, don't tell' or write for your readership and so on.
    I think as Christian writers we have more resources because we have our Father's guiding Hand apart from all the dos and don'ts! :)

    Appreciate your thoughts Rose!
    Blessings,
    Anusha

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  10. Thanks for that, Rose. I was getting a bit worried when I heard that some of you have your daily writing goals. I considered trying that but discovered that it would never work for me. When I'm working on a new project, I have to pour my all into it (usually because of dead lines), but then I may have a time of doing something entirely different, which involves no creative writing at all. It seems to work for me and I get done what I need to, so thanks for your post :)

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  11. An interesting topic. Maybe it depends on how much of a 'natural' you are, hence 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. When moving from non-fiction to fiction writing, I did several courses and studied (to the extent of precising!) quite a few 'how to write' books. I learnt heaps and my fiction writing is vastly different as a result. Ergo, perhaps I'm not a 'natural' but one who has to work on it.

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  12. I wondered if I could ever write anything that anyone would want to read. My English was not the best subject a school. But I think as reading you get a bit better with all the grammar and spelling.
    As you said, do what works for you. The so called "rules" don't work for everyone.
    Great post
    MEL

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  13. Some rules are meant to be followed and some not. The important part of writing is growth. If we're not growing and seeing change in our own writing, then there is something wrong.

    We have to constantly be aware of changes in the writing world, otherwise we're left behind and our readers will move on.

    Not every successful writer has a daily word count. But, with the ease of self-publishing that exists today, we need to do everything in our power to make sure our work not only stands out...but shines. :)

    I'm like Paula, character mapping doesn't do it for me. But, I do like to know where my chapters are going.

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  14. I have always been amazed and a little admiring of people who can slog away at their writing each day. I try to devote a day or two a week to writing, but apart from that, I find that life gets in the way. I can identify with you, Margaret, as I am more of an 'all or none' person. A book got written that way, so it seems to work for me.

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  15. Great post and great discussion through the comments. Thanks peeps. Xx

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  16. I must admit I am a rule follower. I have learned so much about writing by listening to other people unpack the rules and explain how to apply them. I guess I'm wired that way. Give me a plan and I'm a happy girl. Show me a formula, tell me why it's a winner, and I will happily obey. I think we are all different, but I can see as I compare older pieces of my writing to more recent polished pieces, I have sharpened my skills by embracing the dos and don'ts :)

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  17. Just wanted to thank you all for taking the time to comment. It has generated some really thought provoking conversation. That’s one of the big benefits of this blog isn’t it? – The opportunity to share and connect with each other. Anyway – end of gushing – thanks to all. Rose.

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  18. Hi Rose, I'm sorry I'm chiming in late - crazy busy week with my kids on school holidays. I try to forget the rules when writing a first draft, otherwise that pesky internal editor keeps tapping me on the shoulder and pulling me out of my creative zone.

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  19. Hi Rose, Great post. I'm lagging behind, with too much to do and not enough time. I believe writing comes from the heart and in the heart is where our true selves belong. So it means we need to follow our own rhythms. I'm someone who likes to see progress in my work. I write on a schedule every day trying to write a certain number of words, but I also need to take time out to fill the creative well on weekends. When I'm on a project, it's boots and all until I'm finished especially when the words are flowing. Thanks for the great reminder that God has made us all different, which means our writing and our approach to writing is unique.

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