You guys know how I am, I typically go against the grain of all the standard writing advice out there, my lone voice of dissent whispering “writer beware”. It’s not that I don’t heed advice or think it’s all bad; I just don’t think it’s comprehensive enough generally. Plus there are pitfalls to following advice headlong. The war on was has maimed countless innocent sentences…
Unlike most of my advice columns this time, I’m actually parroting advice. I found it to be one of the best nuggets of wisdom available for free out here in these webz, and it bears repeating. The advice comes from Bruce Holland Rogers in a Flash Fiction Online column called Collaborating with MICE: Using Theory as a Creative Partner. In the column, Bruce Holland Rogers talks about both the excitement and trepidation of learning new techniques to apply, and how he would sometimes feel overwhelmed by all there is to know. It’s something I can agree with… there’s reams and sheafs and binders of writing tips, techniques and tools to employ to bring power to your prose. How do you manage all those writerly tricks, sort them, and know when and how to apply them when you’re writing a story?
Simple: you don’t. A writer builds these things slowly into their own writing nature as they continue to write more and more. Granted, sometimes you may have all the theory in place before you start writing, the POV, the tense, the character arc, etc. It happened to me with Past Tense. Sometimes theory’s nowhere to be found; perhaps you just have a solitary idea or just a phrase that you want to build a story around. Whether your theory’s all worked out or you’re just pantsing through this time, it’s important to not get hamstrung while you’re writing thinking about whether or not you’re applying the right techniques at the right time. That’s what your editorial eye is for, after you’ve written your draft. See what works and what doesn’t, if the theories and techniques you’ve put into your current draft meet reader expectation or if there are shortfalls and opportunities to increase emotional impact.
What I’m saying is unless those inspiration sparks hit you while you’re writing, don’t worry about all this stuff in the middle of the writing process. It’ll make for a long, bumpy road to get that draft finished. And when you finish you’re gonna do an editorial review anyway.
When in doubt, listen to my man. Don’t sweat the technique.