One-Size-Fits-All

Have you ever searched for that one piece of writing advice that will magically make writing easier and your stories better? Have you ever thought that you found it, only to discover that it doesn’t work for your best friend? Or has your friend given you a piece of “magic” writing advice that doesn’t work for you? That is the road of writing advice. Writing advice isn’t one-size-fits-all because the creative process is varied and subjective. Heck, writing advice isn’t even one-size-fits-a-single-career. The writer you are today may not be the writer you were yesterday or the writer you’ll be tomorrow, and the process that worked for you then may not work for you now.

Just six years ago I was living a lifestyle that would not support writing every day. I had more responsibilities and a demanding job with a schedule that had less flexibility. Now I’m self-employed, which means I have more control of my schedule, and it’s easier for me to plan time to write every day, even on busy days.

Just six years ago I wrote in binge spurts, up to 4,000 words in a day. But I only wrote 158 days out of 365. This year I’ve only had a handful of days where I passed 1,000 words.

Just six years ago I wrote short stories, rather than novels. Those binge sessions of writing frequently corresponded to writing a first draft of a short story. A first draft of a chapter usually isn’t longer than 2,000 words for me, which means binge sessions are shorter.

It’s clear the writer I was six years ago is not the same writer I am now, which means the writing advice and processes I followed then may not be effective for me any more. Redefining myself as a writer from 2011 to 2017 has taken some work. Some of it is organic, like discovering that I could write daily with a little motivation and consistency. Some of it is decisive, like focusing on novels rather than short stories. And the rest of it has required experimenting because I’ve had to hunt for new processes and advice that works for this new writer that I’ve become.

Which is where all that disparate, subjective, one-size-will-never-fit-all writing advice comes in. Writing advice isn’t and shouldn’t be thought of as a one-size-fits-all magic solution. Writing advice is an opportunity to try something new and see if it works for you (or if it works for you now). Trial and error is the queen among writers—that’s actually what the drafting and revision process is about. So consuming as much writing advice as you can, trying what sounds interesting, and throwing away what doesn’t work is the way writing advice works best. The only writing advice that is truly one-size-fits-all is to try everything, and then in five years, try it again. Writing is about reinvention and no one is reinvented as often as a writer.

2 replies
  1. Tanya Simone Simpson
    Tanya Simone Simpson says:

    I loved reading this because my process has been evolving so much since I started writing novellas. It’s been a whole new journey of discipline and discovery.

    I spent a lot of time reading writing advice and found that while some of it was incredibly useful, a lot of it was very much “Do exactly this thing or your writing will be terrible forever” which doesn’t sit well with me because there are as many ways to write as there are writers.

    I really enjoy reading about other people’s processes and discoveries 🙂

    Reply
    • Alli
      Alli says:

      The variety of writing processes is one of the most fascinating things about writing. There is no one right way to be a writer. I love that diversity inherent just in the process.

      Reply

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