In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Three Kinds of Fiction Writers
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
Quotes of the Day
“Being ‘good at things’ is not the point. Enjoying the ride is. [R]emember to take joy in the process.” PJ Parrish
“Given the growth in the audio market, I use far more dialogue tags than I used to. On the page, I believe they become invisible, and on audio, it keeps the listener on track.” John Gilstrap
Topic: Three Kinds of Fiction Writers
I used to say there are two kinds of fiction writers, but I’ve come to realize there are three. All writers that I’ve encountered fall into one of these three groups. I myself was not immune. I have belonged to all three at one time or another. But you can belong to whichever group you want. It’s your choice.
The writers in Group 1 are Writers or Authors (always capitalized in GroupThink) who don the Authorial Robes of Power and ascend into an Authorial Ivory Tower. I spent many wasted years in this group.
From that distant, elevated vantage point these writers outline and plot and plan. They write character sketches, carefully devise signaling charaacter names, research and world-build.
Unfortunately, most of these (like 99% or more) spend weeks, months or years planning their masterpiece. (Guilty.) In the meantime, they most often can be found on writer boards and in critique groups, where their fears are supported by like-minded writers as they collectively exchange ancient myths about writing as if they are true and being uttered for the very first time.
But many (like 90% of more) never get past that point. Many of them never actually write.
The few who do eventually move on to actually committing the story to the page are certain it’s their story. They control every word their characters utter, every aspect of their characters’ lives, and every twist and turn of the story, per the character sketches they’ve carefully written and the plot they’ve carefully outlined.
They generally see writing as a Labor of Love, the key word being Labor, or as Work, as in something you don’t want to do but have to do. They generally tell all the right people that writing is a special kind of travail and utter drudgery, and they really wish they could do something else for a living. And they would, but for their Calling.
Unfortunately, even the 1 to 10% of these writers who actually write will never know the sheer joy of storytelling. They will remain safely locked away and protected from their fears as Stage 1 and 2 writers.
Group 2 consist of writers who have come to understand the story will be better if they don’t control every aspect of it. Some of them, still in need of at least the framework of a safety net, set up a shallow outline or use “signposts” or “touchstones” to guide them along the way. But by and large, they’ve come to trust their characters—to a degree.
Some actually break free (for example, during NaNoWriMo) and just commit the story to the page. These writers are most often heard to utter, “You can’t edit a blank page.”
But all is well. The safety net is still in place. Anything “wrong” with the story can still be corrected in critique and revision and rewriting and polishing, during which they don the Authorial Robes and ascend into the Tower to “correct” what their creative subconscious has wrought. Most never understand they’re rewriting and polishing their original voice off the story. Like the writers in Group 1, these writers will remain locked-away as Stage 1 and 2 writers.
Group 3, of which I can proudly proclaim I am finally a member, have enjoyed an epiphany. They have come to understand it isn’t their story at all. That it is the characters’ story. After all, the characters, not the writer, are the ones who are actually living it.
These writers never don the Authorial Robes and never ascend into the Authorial Ivory Tower. Instead, each day, they roll off the parapet into the trenches and race through the story right along with the characters. As Bradbury once wrote, “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
These writers have come to trust the characters to tell their story. These writers sit down, put their fingers on the keyboard, and simply write what happens, what the characters say and do.
Now and then, the characters say or do something that seems a little “off” to the writer, or the story starts to bog down. At those times, these writers take a breath and remember that the characters, not they, are living the story.
Then they put their fingers on the keyboard, excited to be reunited with their characters again, and write the next sentence. And the next, and the next. And soon the story is flowing again, the oddball event that happened earlier has been explained, and the characters lead them through to the end. Whereupon the writer takes an hour or a day to mourn, then begins the next story.
And those stages of a fiction writer? These writers are certain they don’t know everything, that there is always more to learn. They turn their mind to learning from Stage 4 and 5 writers (to my mind, only Stephen King currently ranks Stage 5). Then they Practice what they learn by putting Story on the page, and the more they practice the more quickly they advance through Stages 1 – 4.
Disclaimer: This is far from being an exhausive look at these groups. And of course, all of that being said, every writer is different. If you find you are successful (by your own definition of success) doing things in a given way, by all means continue to do them.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Lots of Interesting Comments” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/lots-of-interesting-comments/.
See “On Chandler, Dilettantes, Getting Paid, And The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Writer” at https://killzoneblog.com/2021/07/on-chandler-dilettantes-getting-paid-and-the-loneliness-of-the-long-distance-writer.html. A ton of good stuff in this one.
See “Find Your Topic, Not Your Voice” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/find-your-topic-not-your-voice/. I didn’t list this for the OP but for PG’s take.
See “Writing To Be Heard” at https://killzoneblog.com/2021/07/writing-to-be-heard.html. A tone of good stuff in this one too.
See “10 More Naming Words Ending in -nym” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/10-more-naming-words-ending-in-nym/.
See “The Art of Fiction” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-art-of-fiction/.
The Journal…………………………………… 1080 words
Writing of WCGN 4: William J. Pinchot (tentative title, novel)
Day 1…… 1965 words. Total words to date…… 1965
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 4589
Day 3…… 1824 words. Total words to date…… 6413
Day 4…… 3160 words. Total words to date…… 9573
Day 5…… 3504 words. Total words to date…… 13077
Day 6…… 4704 words. Total words to date…… 17781
Day 7…… 2552 words. Total words to date…… 20333
Day 8…… 2234 words. Total words to date…… 22567
Day 9…… 2227 words. Total words to date…… 24794
Total fiction words for July……… 71702
Total fiction words for the year………… 600381
Total nonfiction words for July… 18370
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 144160
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 744541
Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 12
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 65
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.