A math guy's random thoughts.
|One of my writing groups recently discussed how to plot. Wouldn't it be awesome if there were a magic formula on how to plot? Better yet, how about a magic formula on how to write a novel? There's lots of books out there on exactly this topic.
But then I realized something.
There is exactly one correct way to write: the way that works for you.
Lawrence Block, the Edgar award-winning novelist, once surveyed a score of best-selling authors regarding their method. Each one was certain they had discovered the one and only route to success.
Here's the thing, though. There was no consistency in any of the survey answers.
Some authors insisted on detailed plots. Some, like Block, wrote entirely seat-of-the-pants, with zero idea where the story was headed. Some wrote spare first drafts and then expanded them. Some wrote first drafts double the length of the final novel, and then cut. Some kept detailed character files, some did nothing of the sort.
Each author had found their own, unique, way to organize their writing.
Now, it's useful to read about how other authors do things. I've learned amazing things that way. I've learned about the "middle muddle," about the three act play structure, about plot beats, about "scene and sequel," and many other useful concepts. All of that influences what happens when I sit at the keyboard and start to write. But Frank Sinatra may as well be crooning in the background when I start to type: I have to do it my way, whatever that is.
That's not say that there aren't tried-and-true elements of craft all authors should know and practice. Most of my reviews--of myself and others--focus on some simple elements of craft deduced from the theory of the "fictional dream." We'd be idiots to have not learned from centuries of experience of other authors. There's a *reason* no one uses omniscient narrators any more, and it's more than just the fanciful whims of style. There's a *reason* why "murmured" is better than "said softly," and that one should be obvious by just stating the two ways of saying it. There's a reason to avoid info-dumps and head hopping. But I digress.
There's a difference between craft and creativity. Anyone who can write sentences can learn the former. It's hard, tedious work, but it's just an acquired skill. We learn craft because it will make what we write more effective.
Creativity, on the other hand, comes from deep within the soul. You can't learn creativity. When you're an author, a real author, you write because it's impossible not to write. It's an obsession that won't go away unless you feed it. Don't look for a formula on how to do be creative. There isn't one.
It's like Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”