What do you think of Stephen King
You just started writing and you really enjoy doing it. Whether this statement is true or not, it is important for my example that we assume that it is indeed so. So: you just started writing. More precisely: books. Maybe you want to publish these books too, maybe you don't. Imagine that you are sitting at your desk, on your sofa or lying in bed, wherever you like to write said books. And suddenly there was a knock on the door. It opens and, surprise, it's Stephen King.
When you ask what he's doing here, he doesn't even answer. No, he comes to you, bends down and says: “Write 2,000 words every day. That's how I do it, and it works. Do that too. "
In the first moment you may be confused. And that is more than understandable. But after Stephen King leaves and you get back to writing, you ponder his advice. You have to listen to him, don't you? After all, it was Stephen King, he is a master. Writing is a craft, and if you wanted to become a carpenter, you would do well to listen to a carpenter who has over twenty years of experience. So you should plan to write 2,000 words every day. Or?
In fact, Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day, and in fact, it works quite well for him. I don't think there's anything wrong with this tip either, on the contrary. Setting a fixed writing goal every day can be hugely helpful. Just not for everyone. So the problem with Stephen King's visit and your assumption that you have to listen is that writing is a craft that works differently for everyone.
There are hundreds of books on the craft of writing. The author communities on Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram are always full of useful tips and advice. In countless videos on YouTube you can spend hours familiarizing yourself with novel structures, characterizations and worldbuilding. So it makes sense for many who want to start writing to deal with it as well. At least it was with me like that.
The writing tips start with little things: Don't start your books with descriptions of the weather. When describing how your protagonist looks, don't let him stand in front of a mirror and look at himself, it has been done too often. Use as few adverbs and adjectives as possible. But of course there are also tips that encompass more: Use the three-act structure. Show, don’t tell. Or tips that are about the process itself: Write 2,000 words a day.
If you take these tips to heart and try to follow them all, you will quickly run into problems. If the three-act structure doesn't fit your novel but you try to force it on it, the result will be a worse work. If you adapt the magic system featured in your fantasy book to Sanderson's Laws because you think you have to, you may be damaging what your magic system was supposed to be. In other words, taking all of these tips too seriously is harmful.
To come back to my example: Stephen King will most likely not show up at your home, but you can still get writing tips from him. Namely, he wrote the great book "Life and Writing", which is about exactly what the title says. The statement that you should write 2,000 words a day, which you often hear from authors on the Internet, comes from this book. But the difference is: Stephen King doesn't give any real ones in "Life and Writing" Tips to write. Rather, he reports on how it works for him, but emphasizes that it can be different for everyone. He never said it was the only way to write a book.
In general, I have the feeling that there are rather few authors who uphold their own methods as the only correct ones. Sure, there are those too. Christopher Paolini, for example, has claimed that you have to plan a book completely before writing it, otherwise it could not turn out well, even though Stephen King, for example, does exactly the opposite. But as I said, I have the feeling that such authors: Inside are outnumbered. In most cases they share their experiences, but explain that these are just their own methods. So this is not necessarily the problem.
No, I think the problem lies more with the people themselves who want to start writing. All these tips and advice from successful writers: Inside, Internet communities flourish particularly well, in which, obviously, there are also many newbies. Often this general spelling wisdom is held up as the only correct way to write. That can then turn into very strange arguments. I once read an absurd rant on Twitter about an author using the word "lava" twice on a page in his book, while the author of the thread always tries not to use a word twice on the same page - words are repetitions yes bad. Or the people on Reddit trying to apply Sanderson's Laws of Magic to every book and movie.
New writers: Inside often look up to people from whom they hope to receive help. For example, to bigger and more successful writers: inside. They have already had success, they know what they are doing. You want to learn from them, understand their secret. They want to be taken by the hand.
But it can also happen that you take to heart the advice of people who really have no idea: writing guides from people who have never written a novel. Literature professors who only have a clue about theory. Or worse, the one guy who, through his excessive consumption of writing advice and his little experience, thinks he's the best at the craft. Any of these examples can cause harm, but unfortunately each of them also has some credibility from their confident portrayal.
And this is how new authors are: Inside tries either to rely on successful writers: Inside and to follow methods that may not work for their own writing, or to believe the words of false heroes and to obey their advice that is impractical.
I used to feel no different. I've seen videos of writing many times. I wanted someone more experienced to tell me how to do it. And whenever I did that, I felt productive. I felt like I was studying. But do I have that? No. You learn to write by writing and reading.
The truth is, writing works differently for everyone. And even if it's fun, it is not always easy, especially at the beginning. So it's easy to give in to the temptation and listen to a (maybe self-proclaimed) expert in the hopes that they can give you everything you need to write. The truth is, each of us has to take care of ourselves to understand how our own process works best. We shouldn't blindly follow any general statement about writing. Especially not when someone wants to take us by the hand and impose their own method because this is the only correct one. No, it's about understanding how to write a book that you find good.
Does that mean you should ignore any advice? No! I think there are quite a few things that make sense. Not starting a story with a weather description makes for a less clichéd beginning. Applying novel structures to your own book can add incredible value to a story - after all, nobody has sat down and thought of a nonsensical, non-functioning structure. And listening to what successful authors do: Inside and how they do it can give you completely new impulses.
One should not ignore the tips and advice and dismiss them all as bullshit. That would be arrogant at best. There is nothing wrong with knowing them. But it should be questioned and not seen as the only truth. Find out how you can use them to improve your work. Brandon Sanderson divides his Stormlight Chronicle books into three parts because he thinks that works well for longer books. Does that mean I have to do that too? No, but it means I can worry about it. And should you decide to start your story with a description of the weather because you think that's the perfect start: Go for it.
Rather than focusing on increasing your knowledge of the theories of writing, whether you have just started writing or have been writing for many years, it is important to keep yourself busy practicing and getting better. And instead of looking up to more successful writers and believing you have to do it just like them, think about their tips and adapt them to work.
Should Stephen King come to you, you would do well to listen to him. He has experience. Listen to what he has to say, then decide if that works for you too. And if you find that writing 2,000 words every day isn't working for you, then don't do it. This is how you get to know your writing process.
Most importantly, if someone comes up to you and claims they have the truth, you just have to listen to their advice, ignore it. These people do more harm to you than help you.
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