Hello friends and welcome to another defined edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
Friends, I’ll admit I am coming to you a little chafed today. I’ve been consuming a lot of reading and writing videos on Youtube lately, and, though I damn well knew better, one of these videos was about harsh truths that new writers need to hear.
There Is No Such Thing As a Cookie Cutter Creative Process
I’m not a big fan of writing advice in general. The creative process simply cannot be legislated into a trendy list of dos and don’ts. What works for some writers would be as a poison pill to others. The big pantsing vs plotting debate is the most famous example of why writing advice will never be one-size-fits-all, but it’s not the only way writing processes differ. Writing every day vs binge writing, writing chronologically vs writing out of sequence, editing as you go vs the vomit draft. And don’t get me started on the said vs descriptive verbs debate.
In my view, the only “right” way to write is the one that is working, particularly working for you. If you’re finishing manuscripts, congratulations: your process is a good one. (Don’t at me, I know already.)
So, I already went into this particular “harsh truths” video a little skeptical. For the most part, the host didn’t say anything I necessarily disagreed with out of hand. Yes, your first novel will probably be pretty bad, and that goes doubly so for your first draft of any novel you write. Yes, you will be told no and rejection is just a part of the business. No, your super awesome idea isn’t all that original after all (RIP my worldbuilding idea that it turns out the Witcher did first).
But there were two items on the list that I fundamentally disagree with. The first was that writer’s block isn’t real (a topic for another time), and the second is that brainstorming doesn’t count as writing.
Only the Word Count Counts?
Look, I get what the host was really trying to say. That is, fantasizing about your story is all well and good but if you never actually get your butt in the chair and write the fucking book, then what have you actually accomplished?
But I roundly disagree on the whole that worldbuilding and brainstorming don’t count as writing. And maybe that’s because I write fantasy, or that I’m a plotter at heart, or maybe it’s just because it calls me out a little too accurately. Either way, if I didn’t spend significant time fleshing out my story ideas in advance, I’m never going to finish a draft anyway. See: my most recently shelved project.
For example, right now I’m in the planning/outlining stages of my next WIP. It’s a portal fantasy largely set in a secondary world. It’s got a few different non-human races, its own language, obviously wildly different geography, and a culture that is distinct from my own life experience (therefore requiring extra forethought and research).
I’ve been at it for about three weeks now. And, sure, I could have spent that time drafting instead. But then I would have gotten to the first plot point that hinges on worldbuilding and all progress would come to a complete standstill. How do I know? Because that literally just happened to me a month ago in my previous WIP. Are there some writers out there that thrive in those kinds of scenarios? Oh, undoubtedly. But I’m not one of them.
Moderation In All Things
The point is, that – as is the case with almost everything to do with the creative process and writing advice – there is nuance to be found here. Obviously, if you’re spending months and years on perfecting the world without crafting a story to fit inside it, then it might be time to just throw caution to the wind and write the damn book, whether you feel ready or not. However, if you’re the kind of writer that feels paralyzed by questions without answers, the kind you’re responsible for answering, then brainstorming and worldbuilding is a valuable part of your writing.
After all, Middle Earth wasn’t built on the pages of The Lord of the Rings, at least not solely. And while I would not suggest that anyone should (or even can) go to the lengths Tolkien did to create his world, abandoning pre-draft brainstorming entirely in favor of banging out a quick and dirty draft feels equally folly.
Before I go, just a quick note about what you guys can expect from the blog in the near future. I am once again playing with the format of my blogging schedule. I plan to pre-write a bunch of topic posts to schedule in advance, so that I’m not scrambling for ideas all the time. I also intend to fill out the rest of the week with additional content, instead of solely relying on my Drabble Rock writing to carry the down days.
I’m still fine tuning the details, but for right now Thursday will remain the day that I talk about writing-related topics in general. Fiction Fridays will return, wherein I talk about reading instead of writing, and Wednesdays I will dedicate to talking about my WIP and craft-specific subjects. Monday Motivations will remain in its current format, but I’m still looking for ideas for Tuesdays and the weekends.
And yes, I am theming the days by their first letter. What of it?
And I think that’s just about it from me today. Tomorrow I’ve got a post lined up for you talking about when and why I decide to DNF a book I’m reading. Until then my lovelies, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
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