I think writing is probably very similar to other crafts in certain ways. You start out with passion and little or no actual knowledge. Through practice, study, more practice, more study, you follow the age-old path from apprentice to journeyman to initiate to (one hopes) mastery. It’s a long process, and if you don’t have a deep-rooted love for what you’re doing, you may reach a certain point, you may even start making some money, but then you’ll probably either abandon it, stagnate, or worse, go backwards. I think the same could be said for a lot of things; sculpting, carpentry, sewing, painting, designing clothes … in general, that learning curve is pretty much the same no matter what you’re doing.
Writing’s a labor of love. Somebody (I think it was Stephen King) once said you have to write like a million words before you write anything decent. I believe it. If you don’t love writing, chances are you won’t get that far. I have tons of notebooks and typewritten fanfic-ish pages about 80’s heartthrobs and metal bands that literally make me wince when I read them now. But that was my learning ground. I very rarely wince at recent stuff, unless I find I went somewhere too personal with it. I may not love everything I’m doing now, but I don’t have the urge to burn or delete that stuff either.
I guess every now and then you just level up.
There’s a pretty wide chasm between theory and practice when it comes to a lot of the standard writing ‘rules’. Write what you know. Show, don’t tell. BIC. Raise the stakes. Kill your darlings. Conflict, conflict, conflict. Etc., etc. etc. You can know these things, and apply them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re applying them right. At least not at first. Every now and then some piece of writing lore or some mantra or bit of advice you’ve heard a million times just clicks and hits home. And every now and then you figure something out for yourself.
I just figured something out for myself.
In the age-old bloody debate between outliners and brainstormers, I fall on the side of brainstormers, usually. (Everything I’ve done has had a different process -I wrote one thing backwards, for instance- but that’s a whole other topic. It’s safe to say I’m a brainstormer.) I’m not sure it’s the best approach, as it frequently leads to me painting myself into corners, getting stuck, facepalming, etc., but for me writing to an outline takes the life out of it. I think that’s one of those things that just falls under ‘to each their own’ and there is no right or wrong way – only the right way for the individual.
I have to finish up five queries and synopsis over the next week or so, including two for incomplete WIPs. Usually I never do any of that stuff until I am done. But hey, opportunity knocks, so here I am today, writing the dreaded synopsis for something I’m not quite finished with yet. I’m several drafts in and at 105k, so the bulk of it is behind me, but I’ve still got missing pieces, worldbuilding to do, and plot holes you could drive a truck through. In other words, what I have left on this are the kind of key points that may not mean a lot more work word-count wise, but need to be just right in order to tie everything together.
Did I mention I hate writing synopsis?
Guess what? The damned thing just helped me fill in a few key gaps and sort out some pacing and sequencing issues, and just moved me a helluva a lot closer to nailing the Final Battle.
The next time I find myself headdesking while I am a good portion of the way through a project that’s when I need to write the synop. Because then the crafty storybuilder advicey stuff that’s soaked into my brain over the years will just fill in the gaps.
I’m pretty sure that somewhere out there some author already said that in an interview. I probably even read it. But it didn’t click until I experienced it.
Suddenly I no longer hate writing a synopsis. Well, not as much anyway.
Methinks I might have just leveled up …
The other ghastly terror? There’s a huge palmetto bug lurking somewhere in my apt. I’m sure at some point tonight my neighbors are going to hear a bloodcurdling scream coming from my apt. Sometimes I really really really really really hate living in Florida. Its wildlife is NOT OK. I HATE THOSE THINGS!!! Blech. Shudder.
Ok, I’m done now. Carry on.