There are many roads to Oz, but …


Lately I’ve been reading a lot of advice about writing: what to do and equally importantly what not to do. Unlike the uniformly excellent advice on agents and the writing business some of the writing advice can be extremely variable. (Diana Peterfreund has an excellent series of posts on when good advice goes bad).

My personal perspective on writing advice can be attributed to the wondrous Jennifer Crusie from who I’ve taken the title of the this blogpost. There are many roads to Oz, loosely translated to mean that there is no ONE TRUE PATH TO WRITING GENIUS. Of course this flies in the face of what a lot of people want to believe that there is a super sekrit cult of successful writers who in addition to secret handshakes share the knowledge of how to write and guard it jealously mwhahahha. When you’re a struggling writer (cf moi) writing in the dark with almost no feedback any hint of a writing bible can seem like a shining beacon in the darkness.

But really as Crusie says we are all individuals and what might work for me probably won’t work for you. This is generally why I disavow writing guides (apart from the uniformly expert On Writing by Stephen King) mostly they are written by writers have never heard of telling you that unless you follow the one true way you will never, ever be published. Which is bull.

For example for a long time I got stuck because I had absorbed that you should always have a complete outline before you start writing. For a lot of people, this is the only way they write. For me although I need thinking time, I work out plot quirks by writing. It doesn’t mean that the above advice is bad just that it isn’t write for me. Different courses for different horses.

But… and here’s the crux while ‘There are many roads to Oz’ there are one or two things that will make the path a little easier. The inspiration for this post was an amazing post called Do it Every Day by Lilith Saintcrow who is preaching that as a writer you should, yanno, write every day. Simple? But a quick scroll down the comments shows that a lot of people seem to vehemently disagree with her.

I agree with her wholeheartedly and here’s why. I wrote the first draft of my book in four months. I loved writing it, watching the word count steadily increase. And I disciplined myself to write every day even if it was only for half an hour writing at lunchtime, on the way to work, at home after work, at the weekends. I was so in love with the book at seeing how well it was going that it was easy. Then I finished the book, yay, and I got into the unchartered waters of revision.

At first I hated revising. Unlike writing there was no thrill of the new, no feeling of achievement watching that word counter steadily increase. I found it increasing hard to measure my progress spending all day trying to fix a scene before realising that it would have be scrapped anyway. As a measure most of the scenes in my books have been rewritten four times at least by this point and I still haven’t gotten to the line editing stage. So slowly, so slowly I could barely see it my motivation slid. First to go was writing in the evenings. I would work all weekend I told myself. But after four months of semi monkhood during the first draft there was too much fun to be had so that slide by the wayside. Instead of writing every day I was writing ever third day and finding it increasing hard to get back into the story. To see what I needed to do and how to do it. I no longer had a easy handle on my characters, how they would speak, and what they would do. So I would spend an hour or so just rereading what I had already written in order to get back into the book.

A month ago I gave myself a mental slap and got back down to writing every day. And it was hard. But then a week passed and I started enjoying myself I had a handle on my story. Which each bit of text I scraped away I could see the true form of the story.

Lilith Saintcrow is right you have to write everyday. Even if its as little as 10 minutes everyday. Think of other artforms, like music. If you want to musician you play every day,
you do exercises, you rehearse pieces until it becomes second nature. Why should writing be any different?

The trick is doing it when its hard, when your tired, when your braindead, when the sun is shining, when there is anything you would rather be doing than this. But fight through, write everyday and your book will thank you.

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