Usually– well, almost usually– I have my Writer Unboxed posts done in advance of the day before I’m scheduled to post. This month, though, I’m kind of glad that the time got away from me, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to craft my post in response to Larry Brooks’ excellent article from Tuesday, The Big Lie About Writing Compelling Fiction.
If for some reason you weren’t spending your 4th of July hanging out here on WU and haven’t had a chance to catch up since, I highly recommend reading the article and also the excellent discussion that went on in the comments.
I found Larry’s article fascinating, and agreed with so much of what he had to say. In part because I could talk about my process in the way that Larry describes: “I just sit down and write, each and every day, following my gut, listening to my characters, and eventually the magic happens.” Heck, I have described my process that way– and the thing is, on some levels, it’s true.
I’ve read books on writing craft, our own Donald Maass’s among them. I think many of them are terrific. I read them, highlight them, scribble notes like, YES in the margins . . . and then utterly fail when I try to straight up implement the principles in my own work.
Have you read Save the Cat? Another terrific, terrific resource about story structure, albeit from a film-writing perspective rather than a novel-oriented one. Still, I read it and was amazed by how much wisdom Blake Snyder had to impart. I tried my hardest to apply his ‘beat sheet’ structure of plot points to the novel I was working on at the time, because I honestly thought it was a brilliant way of making both the internal and external journey of your main character as compelling as it can possibly be. It was an utter disaster. I probably re-wrote and re-outlined and laboriously re-wrote that novel half a dozen times, struggling to make the Blake Snyder Save the Cat system work for me. Eventually I just scrapped the whole thing. Maybe I’ll get back to it . . . someday. In the meantime, I’ve written 15 other novels, not one of which I outlined according to Save the Cat’s advice.