Wisdoms from my writers society meeting …

I just got back from my monthly London Writers Society meeting, and there were a lot of interesting thoughts and opinions floating around tonight, so I thought I’d share some of them. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with some of these — in fact, several of them I think are totally wrong — but I figured I’d share the full spectrum, and then you guys can take or leave whatever you want!

In no particular order … wisdoms from my writers society meeting:

  • Great writers should aim to write 1,000 words a day
  • Great writers should treat writing like a full time job, and work at least seven hours a day, six days a week
  • It’s more effective to write for a set period of time than write toward a specific word count goal
  • Great writers should “blueprint” their books before they ever set fingers to keyboard
  • Great writers should write first, and research later
  • Great writers should research first, and write second
  • Great writers should write only what they know

Lots of interesting ideas presented … and I’m not sure where I stand on a lot of them. I definitely disagree with the “write first, research later” mantra. What if I’ve decided to write a story about 18th century pirates in the South Pacific? I don’t know anything about 18th century pirates. I don’t know anything about the South Pacific. I don’t even know if thereΒ wereΒ 18th century South Pacific pirates. For all I know, the 18th century South Pacific seas were ruled by a cabal of hyper-intelligent octopoids. I’ll never know unless I research!


Unrelated media of the day:

Speaking of not knowing what the heck you’re talking about …

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Post navigation

27 thoughts on “Wisdoms from my writers society meeting …

  1. LOL. Fow. xD
    And I like how the last 3 things all just contradict one another.
    I personally like to research as I go. I don’t want to get bogged down, but when something pops up that I don’t know–get on Google and look it up! (This is happening a lot with the new Nano book I’m working on, based on all that French stuff I don’t know.)
    And, out of curiosity, how many of these writers you meet with are ‘great writers’? xD It seems they have a lot to say about what ‘great writers’ should do, but as far as I can tell from Twitter, great writers are all nuts, and run the gamut of what they do and don’t do. No rules–just do whatever works for you.

    • Hahaha, well, a lot of the more controversial “wisdoms” came from an older gentlemen who had apparently worked in the publishing business for many years. According to him, he’s worked with Mordecai Richler (spelling? eek) and assorted other famous authors. He struck me as very set in his ways, so I’ve decided to take his wisdoms with a grain of salt πŸ™‚

  2. kingmidget

    The whole blueprint idea and the “research first, write second” idea … turns writing into a job as far as I’m concerned. What appeals to be me about writing is that there are no rules and you can do it the way you want. Yes, maybe success will evade you, but when it comes to the actual task that is writing a story — it’s you and only you. The paper or the screen. The pen or the keyboard. I couldn’t possibly write if I had to come up with a blueprint first. Others do it differently. That’s the beauty of it. It’s an art, not a science.

    • Completely agree! It was a very interesting conversation at the writing meetup, because of the people offering their opinions, half were really set in their ways and insisting that writing had to be done a certain way, and then the other half were more along your lines — each writer is different, they write however works best for them, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. I think people who’ve found the “perfect” way of writing often forget that — time to pull out my mother’s catchphrase — different people are different!

      • kingmidget

        At the writing conference I was at in July, I spent three morning with the same group of eleven other writers and the workshop leader, Peter Orner. We each submitted a ten page sample and then spent time reviewing each sample and commenting. There were a couple of participants whose comments consisted almost entirely of pointing out who the samples didn’t answer every question they had about the characters or the story. Well, first of all, many of the samples were only partial pieces of larger stories. But even if they were the entire story — I kept pointing out that a writer’s job is not to answer every single question, not to explain every single thing, not to provide every possible fact that matters, but instead to tell a story that brings the reader into the world of the story and then let the reader fill in all of those gaps. I realized then just how different we all are — not just in how we may approach writing, but also how we approach what we read.

  3. I reblogged this on Audrey Driscoll’s Blog. For me, the best thing about rules for writers is picking them apart and shooting them down. I’ve done some of this on my own blog. In my experience, the thing you’re writing — once it’s properly come to life — makes its own demands as to research, planning, etc. You, the writer, like one of those old alchemists, become a slave to The Work, and you do whatever it takes to realize it.

    • Thanks for the reblog πŸ™‚ And you’ve hit it exactly on the head — every writer is different, and every writing project has different demands. Trying to apply a “perfect” way of writing to everything you do is just silly. I mean, I’m sure there are novelists out there who have written 50 books and have devised the ultimate novel-writing strategy … but what works for them definitely won’t work for everyone else. That’s why I included the whole spectrum of comments I overheard at the meeting … even in a group of only 20 people, you get such massively conflicting opinions about writing!

  4. Gwen Stephens

    Interesting that some of them contradict each other – and I’m with you, research first! You might find out you don’t indeed want to write about 18th century pirates! I like the one about writing for a specific amount of time, rather than word count goal. What the heck does “blueprint” your book mean?

    • The “blueprint” comment came from a 75 year old man who has apparently been working in the book publishing industry for fifty years. He claims that all great authors “blueprint” their book, which I assume means the same thing as plotting/planning/outlining.

  5. Reblogged this on Charlotte Gerber.

  6. I am not sure if it is a difference between the US and the UK, but I keep seeing the figure of 6 days a week in calls to treat writing like a full-time job and it puzzles me every time. While there are jobs in the UK that have a longer working week, almost all full-time jobs are Monday-to-Friday or Monday-to-Sunday-with-two-days-off.

    Is the average US working week 6 days? Or is the extra day an attempt to validate writing as a proper job by devoting more days than other jobs?

    Either way, the important thing to remember is, if you commit to writing as a full-time job you are entitled to award yourself a comparable benefits package to a full-time job as well; so no more guilt if you do not write for a day due to sickness, or compulsion to stick to your schedule even after you fitted in extra sessions on Sunday or in the evenings.

    • I’ve never gotten the “six days” thing either. I know in Canada it isn’t a thing — unless you’re working overtime — and I’m pretty sure it’s the same in the US. I know in other countries — particularly Asian countries — a six day work week is a very real thing. But then, in countries like South Korea, even the kids go to school on the weekend, so that’s fairly ingrained in their culture.

  7. inkspeare

    Thank you for sharing. I have to say that I don’t agree with any of those. Although serious writers should approach the craft with determination, discipline, and a regular schedule, just as you would treat a business, every book/novel is different, therefore the mechanics vary, and so the writer’s approach and response to it.

    • I agree — every project is different, and trying to apply one strategy to everything you do is just … well, kind of dull. I can’t help but feel that I would lose my interest in writing if I treated it like a day job.

  8. “Great writers should…” x 6 (I’m assuming these aren’t your words. It’s safer that way!)
    Q: Should “Great writers” be taking anyone’s advice at all? By definition a great writer doesn’t need advice!
    As for the research, my NaNo novel at the moment is full of TBD’s and notes to remind me to check facts later on.

    • Hahaha no, they aren’t my words. If they were, I like to think I have the logical thinking skills required not to say one thing and then immediately contradict myself in the next bullet point πŸ™‚

      Excellent point about great writers! Although I like to think that everyone can still benefit from advice, no matter how great they are.

      Ah … that’s smart about your NaNo novel! I leave myself notes sometimes when I write, but I have this pathological hatred of leaving things unresolved, so I generally try to avoid doing that whenever possible, lol.

      • Very true, very true. Everyone can learn from others. I have a bad habit of taking things literally and at face value. Stupid engineering brain. It’s always fighting with creativity!

  9. Nina Kaytel

    I see those things discussed on writer’s forums all the time, but each piece of advice can work or won’t work depending on the writer’s personality. Write because you want to write. That will get you started, at least.

  10. One thing I’ve taken from my writers’ group is that we all do things differently, and I’ve come to think there are NO set rules for how to write. But I have decided a few goal posts before you hit the keys makes life easier and helps with less rewrites.

  11. Hmmm…I would think that there are a large number of great writers than can not write 7 hours a day, six days a week because they are employed at a paying job, are caring for a family, etc. Being a newbie writer, I have never attended a writer’s group. Do you find them helpful? Enjoying your blog, BTW, although I guess great writers don’t use BTW.

    • Hey, great writers can use whatever acronyms they want πŸ™‚ I think the whole “treat writing like your job” thing only works if it actually is your job. Myself, I spend maybe an hour tops a day writing — real life and my actual job sadly get in the way. But oh, to be free to write all day long! That’s the stuff of dreams, my friend.

      Writers’ groups are pretty cool — well, at least the one I’m in is. I really like the critique groups, because it’s really great for getting feedback and criticism on your work from people who actually (sort of) know what they’re talking about πŸ™‚

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: