You may have noticed that here at Traveling Light I maunder on about writing as if I actually know something about it.
And I sort of do. I have a huge amount of reading under my belt, and some professional experience in actual writing, and I have a pretty good handle on the mechanics of spelling and grammar and so on.
But here’s the thing. You should not mistake any of the things I write as actual “advice”.
I read those advice blogs and columns and websites all the time. Some of them make me cringe, some make me laugh, and some just leave me wondering what it is that I apparently don’t understand about the connection between reader and writer.
And sometimes there’s even a nugget I can use, or that sparks a thought or illuminates some dark corner of my mind.
But what you need to know is that no one can tell you how to write from that kind of distance. Not about actual writing. Because they aren’t writing for you.
No single person or Borg Collective ad libbing on the internet about those kinds of prescriptive generalizations can solve your problems. They are just throwing out conceptual things that they’ve figured out about how they write, how they read, and what they do or don’t like in things they pay actual cash money for.
It’s especially noticeable when writers, frustrated and blocked, go on their writer Facebook groups and say things like “I have a character who needs to go to a place they have no reason to go to.” And everyone – really EVERYONE – comes up with equally general statements like “You’ll just have to close off all other options.” Or “Is there a character they love who could be put in danger?” Or “Maybe they could get kidnapped or have amnesia or something.”
And the problem is that the writer looks at the screen and mutters “Do you think I’m an idiot? Of course, I’ve thought of all those things. You aren’t telling me HOW to do this – you’re just telling me WHY.”
Only the writer knows the intimate specifics. Only the writer can really solve the problem, because it isn’t in the idea – it’s in the doing.
Ideas are easy. Ideas pop up every twelve seconds. If ideas were worth anything, writers would be rolling in dough. It’s taking that idea and doing something with it that’s hard. The doing is opaque, and frustrating and occasionally a complete impossibility.
It’s all about the doing and that’s what gets you. Every time.