There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. . –W. Somerset Maugham
There are so many rules, and guidelines, must-do’s and must-not-do’s, that it’s easy to forget that one is left standing there scratching one’s head, trying to make sense of the often-times conflicting advice. Here’s what I’ve learned: every writer is different.
Just like some writers are strict Outliners, and some are dedicated Pantsters (writing by the seat of the pants, or without an outline of any kind), while many fall somewhere in between, so it is with everything else. No piece of advice applies to all writers. For some, getting up early to write (an often-repeated bit of advice for getting in daily writing) is the worst possible thing to do. Those people would be better served by staying up later, or maybe writing at lunch, in their cars if necessary. And some (gasp!) just can’t write every day, no matter what. But every other day if perfect for them, and in this way, in a week’s time they’ll exceed the output they’d make if they attempted writing daily. Because that “daily” bit just doesn’t work–for them–now.
Things change over time. We change, our minds change, our habits and our circumstances fluctuate. So we need to revisit things occasionally, to see if what once didn’t work now will.
When I first started writing, I couldn’t write on a computer. The clacking of the keys distracted me, made me feel horribly self-conscious. “Who the heck was I,” my internal editor demaned of me as I was cringing at the sound, “thinking I can write a story, a novel, even? The nerve!” For me, at that time, writing in a notebook with a pen got me over my initial fear of writing. Eventually, I moved past that fear. The ease of editing in a computer swayed me, at last, along with a quieter keyboard. Now, while I sometimes go back to pen and paper, I usually write on my laptop.
Some folks start stories with nothing more than a gentle prompt. Others need at least two days to contemplate the character, the plot, and the storyline. Some people kill if you don’t use the Oxford comma, others smack you if you even think of using it.
Don’t sweat it. If it gets you writing, try it. If it works for you, do it again. If it doesn’t, try something else. End of advice.
So, what writing advice has worked for you? Or what hasn’t worked at all?