The Not-Helpful Scribe

When I started this blog, I thought it would be a place where I would tell you about my writing. Not just about what I’ve written but also how to write in general. I wanted to be one of those helpful people who give advice on how best to do ‘the writing.’

Now that I’ve written a few posts, I don’t feel like that will happen. Mind you, I find blogs of writers who give advice helpful and entertaining and all kinds of great – but I’m not that kind of helpful. In my whole writing ‘career’ – which now spans about 20 years – I have only ever read one book about writing. It was On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and I only read it because it was written by Stephen King. King is kind of my go-to guy, the first adult author I’ve read and approaching this book, I thought, ‘I kinda don’t do writing help books, but it’s King, so, whatever.’ And I liked it, and it was helpful. But even with Stephen King, I had times and chapters where I was like: ‘uhhh, nope!’

Am I that much of an overly-confident asshole that I can’t even take advice from one of the most successful authors still alive? Not really. I mean, I can be overly confident and certainly an asshole but not in a way where I would simply shut down advice because I feel I know better. I always appreciate constructive criticism of my work (even if it’s hard and I struggle against it). I do listen to people who edit my stories and most of the time agree that their suggestions make my writing better. The problem is not about me being stubborn, it’s about me being an intuitive writer.

Intuitive writer – what does that mean? Hmmm… well, in my case it means that I don’t write down an elaborate structure for the novel I’m planning to write. I don’t write down an overview of every chapter and what I want to put into it. I don’t plan ahead that much. It means, that I’m lying awake at night and formulate whole chapters in my head without writing anything down. If I remember in the morning, I may make a couple of notes but I rarely read those when the time comes to write the chapter. If it’s a good idea, I repeat it in my head, change things, add to or edit it. Other ideas I simply forget and not think about again.

Being an intuitive writer also means that I can’t tell you what to do with your writing. If you give it to me, I can beta read it, tell you what’s good and what’s not. work with the text. I’m good at that. But if you ask my general advice on an I-narrator versus a third person narrator or whether to write a prologue or not… that’s your decision. I can’t give you general advice, I can only tell you what works for me and what I would do differently if I had written the story you so bravely entrusted me with.

Does that make sense to you? I’m not sure it does to me. I don’t want to critique anyone who does that kind of thing. I’m in awe of people who know the rules and can make a clear decision on what to do and what not to do. I’m far too shifty to do that. If done right, many modes of style have their value even if they’re not in fashion anymore. For example, I love the omnipotent narrator. But they’re not in style right now and even if you can use them, they are not the kind of narrator you want to use in a romance – the genre I write in. So, I’m not using them. But sometimes I slip – not on purpose – and jump from head to head, from train of thought to experience to dialogue of different people and LOVE it. And then I get it back from my editor with a note that says: POV! And I flinch. And then I have to rethink the scene or chapter, to rewrite it, to leave some of my style, some of my preferences behind to have my readers understand me again. But at the end of the day, I still love the omnipotent narrator and dream of using them in maybe just one story, one time…

That’s the kind of writer I am. I’m not a rebel, really. I’m going with instinct rather than pre-thought. Maybe it’s a lazy mode of writing – I’m most certainly a lazy scribe – and maybe I’m guilty of doing what Darcy accused Bingley of, the kind of pride in negligence, self-congratulatory… maybe. But that’s the way I roll.

There (probably) will be no writing advice from me – I’m good at changing my mind, hence the ‘probably.’ No ‘you may not,’ ‘you should not,’ ‘don’t do that,’ ‘absolutely not.’ No, ‘yes, that’s the way to do it,’ ‘you’re right,’ or ‘I would suggest you did it like this.’ What I’ll tell you will be more on the lines of, ‘I’ve done this and I think it’s good,’ or, ‘I’ve done this and it sucks and now I have to rewrite the whole shenanigans.’

So, this is just to say what you can expect of me in way of ‘writing about writing.’ The bottom line is ‘nobody’s perfect’ and ‘your story will take you there.’ Lazy, maybe, but it works for me.

 

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