Creative Combat Arms: Your Writing Technique

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.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Creative Combat Arms: Your Writing Technique

  1. Gotta agree. If you read and write then there’s all the writing advice you generally need to do anything – and an imagination obviously.
    I generally think writing advice beyond nuggets is counterproductive and cages people in someone elses world. I’m not saying I couldn’t learn some things, but the actual act of sitting down and creating a story is an intrisic process.

    It’s like how major films all revolve around rules in the script – it’s quite saddening. Three act structure exists without question like in any story, but the bits in between are getting very polished. I hope writing doesn’t suffer the same fate.

    • Besides, I figure people tend to forget the reason there are so many techniques is because enterprising writers from yesteryear invented them as they wrote. Ultimately, if it makes for a good read, mission accomplished! Thanks for tuning in 🙂

  2. I want to hug your neck and say “Amen, Brother, Amen.” I grew up with strong fundamentals of writing. I had an AP English teacher who beat me over the head with the rules until she had properly subdued me. I thank her for it. What she taught helped me sail through college when it came to writing analytic essays. Then I grew up and decided I wanted to write fiction. It was then I realized, after quite a bit of rejection and failure, that Ms. Bellamy’s rules were going to have to be broken. Learning how to break those rules in the right way, however, took even more rejection and failure. I spent a lot of time reading advice from successful writers. I have a beat up copy of Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and Stunk and White’s “Elements of Style” to prove it. Strunk and White are my favorite rules to break of all. Ha Ha. The advice was often useful, but it did not replace jumping in the water and sinking, drowning, clawing my way to the surface, and then doing it all over again. I had to go out and “DO”, not read about it and hope, by osmosis or some other factor, other peoples’ wisdom will transfer into me without having to experience the same things they experienced.
    And the “war on was”. So good! That’s an issue that has taken me years to learn how to deal with. Ms. Bellamy made me so afraid of passive voice. It took me years to learn the true meaning of passive, and how and when to break that rule, too. I’ve written sooooo many awkward sentences in an attempt to avoid using is or was. I don’t know if a teacher could have taught me what I learned for myself by trial and error. Maybe, but every failure I suffered, that I turned around and learned from, I feel it is a part of me now. There’s no amount of advice that I can hear or read about that will do me so much good as actual experience.
    Jeez, I didn’t mean to write a sub blog here, but it’s (obviously) a topic that I am passionate about…I mean, about which I am passionate..er…?

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