The Make-You-Feel-Bad Myths about the Writing Life
While a lot of the plumbing of the depths is spiritual, I did ponder some myths that I’ve bought into the writing life that may have set me up for a certain amount of failure.
I’d like to share my two-cents worth about them.
Write a Certain Number of Words Every Day
While writing daily can certainly up your word count and your productivity, the expectation might be a grand one for some. Granted, setting a daily word goal can help someone who needs a push. Setting a daily goal is not a bad thing. To the contrary, goal setting is the way we achieve. However, if you’re working an eight-hour day, have children to raise, dinner to get on the table, extra-curricular activities, etc., a daily goal might not be best for you. Perhaps a weekend goal or a monthly goal to eek out a count when you can is more in line. As long as you pick the goal that’s best for you and stick to it, there should be no guilt when someone brags about their daily word count.
I sit down and write in spurts, and I do have a daily word count that I rarely reach. Sometimes though, I bountifully exceed that count–and then I brag.
A Real Writer Can Work Any Where
Yeah, really? While some folks can write in a crowded coffee house, I’m too busy making sure I don’t spill the coffee or that I don’t have crumbs on my face. When I’m satisfied no one will find anything to use about me in a novel, I’m searching for people to write about–I’m not writing.
Sometimes, my office is a little too quite. Sometimes, my office is a little too loud. I’ll move to my porch. I’ll write with the music blaring, or the house will be as silent as tomb. I’ve written on the beach. I’ve written in my car during a long ride. Other times, I can’t seem to find the right place to click away on the keys.
I wish I could say that I’ve persevered through my inabilities, but the truth is, if I’m not comfortable, I’m not writing–anything of value, that is. I don’t use it as an excuse not to write. I use it as an excuse to find a better place to write.
I Don’t Need Criticism
I’ve seen authors who enter critique groups and spout off how no one understands. They get their feelings hurt, and they storm off and … well, they self-publish a book that isn’t as good as it could be. Balanced criticism is always helpful. You’re not always going to hear what you want to hear about your work. You’re not always going to get good criticism. By that I mean that the criticism you receive might not always be right. That’s why it’s good to have three to five people critiquing your work. That gives a balance. Two people might suggest changes while three others don’t pick up on it. Place the critiques on a scale and decide what is good and what is bad advice.
Just as a fool appears in court as his own lawyer, a writer who can’t take criticism and publishes what they alone think is wonderful has a fool sitting at the typewriter telling their story. And that’s a criticism you can take to the bank.
There Is Only One Way to Tell a Story
At a writer’s conference, I was surprised to hear an editor declaring stories non-publishable because a format wasn’t followed. Now, I know there are publisher guidelines, and a writer who wants to be published by XYZ Publisher should follow those guidelines. For that publisher, a formula might work. However, the advice given by the publisher was that all stories must follow that same formula. Oh, what a dull world that would make. I live for the rare story that breaks the mold.
As to the declaration that there’s only one way to tell a story, I say hogwash. Yes, there are elements that should go into a good story, and the way an author uses those elements creates a voice. One element might be used heavily by one author while another lingers in the background. Formula is just a guideline used by certain publishers to create a work that has been proven by their readers to be popular. An example of such a guideline is having the hero and heroine of a romance meet in the first chapter. That formula doesn’t always work for me. In Better than Revenge, the hero and heroine met in the past, so the tension is amped by the reader’s anticipation of them seeing each other again, which occurs in chapter seven. I’m glad that this editor didn’t have that book.
There is nothing wrong with being a renegade so long as an author knows where to pitch a rebel story line.
Runaway grammar rules are often set forth by someone who knows what they’re talking about and given to someone who doesn’t understand the rule and runs with it. I fell victim to one early in my career, and I managed to write an entire novel without a form of “to be” in my manuscript. However, my sentence structure was lacking. Not all forms of “to be” are passive. In fact, passive writing has everything to do with sentence structure.
Then there’s the runaway rule that drives me insane. Please note that “that” is a viable word, and it has a place in the English language. To take out “that” from some sentences creates vagueness. Yes, make every “that” prove its worth before you take it out, but for goodness’ sake, use common sense.
While you’re reviewing the “that’s” and the forms of “to be” in your manuscript, look at the writing advice you receive as subjective and not objective. This means that what works for someone else, might be a good idea for others, but it could derail your writing if you’re not careful. Set goals and thicken your skin with criticism. Write your story so well that whether it is traditional published or self-published, the reviews will set you apart as someone to be read.
Fay Lamb is an editor, writing coach, and author, whose emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. With the release of Everybody’s Broken, three of the four books in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series, which also includes Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on two Christmas novella projects: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, and A Ruby Christmas, and the Write Integrity Press romance novella Heart Seekers series, which includes A Dozen Apologies, The Love Boat Bachelor, and Unlikely Merger. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.
Future releases from Fay are: Frozen Notes, Book 4 of the Amazing Grace series and Hope (Coming March 2017) and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind series.
Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor, and Goodreads.