I love when I come across an article, as I recently did on a blog, where a person is so enamored with their way of writing that they insist it’s the only way to do it correctly. Pantser v. Outliner: it’s an old debate. And I think it takes most of us a long time to sort out where we fit on the very broad scale. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it may vary by project. Sequels, for example, do take more planning than the books they follow, perhaps. And certainly much experimentation is involved as one learns and develops writing craft to sort out what works and doesn’t for him or her. The only advice I feel absolutely confident in offering to everyone, as much advice as I tend to offer on this blog, is to Be Who You Are.
Don’t get me wrong, these advisors mean well. They’re very passionate about what they do. They have rightfully put a lot of thought into it and develop the understanding an comfort with it over time. But the writing journey for me, and most writers I’ve spoken with, has always been a process of discovery. You try something for a while then hear something knew and try it on to see if it fits. Sometimes you adapt it in full, sometimes you just take parts, and so on it goes as you fill your toolbox and learn new skills. In the end, much of it tends to become intuitive anyway. Some things need to be intuitive to be effective, others need more thought and deliberation every time they’re used.
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. We are individuals, after all, unique beings with none exactly like any other. So why assume that such unique beings could have only one way to do something as complicated as writing? It doesn’t even seem possible when you think about it. No, I mean really think about it, setting aside those preconceived ideas. There. See what I mean?
So don’t succumb to any pressure to be like some other writer, no matter how famous they are, how much money they make or how much you like their work. You will never approach writing exactly like them. And that’s absolutely fine. Your journey is not their journey, and their journey is not yours. You have to find your own way. Sure, you can learn from their mistakes sometimes. You can even borrow their shortcuts, but there is no real shortcut to being the best writer you can be except trial and error and writing itself.
Along the way, you choose your tools, and no, they don’t all have to come from Sears. Ace Hardware has good stuff, too, and so does Target sometimes. Even Walmart. It doesn’t class down your writing to use what works for you and toss what doesn’t. That’s just smart. After all, writing is a personal activity and it’s also a business. Run it the way that allows and enables you to be most successful and never look back.
Be Who You Are, writers, and be proud of it. It will continue to change as long as your on the journey, and here’s hoping it’s the journey of a lifetime.
For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.