Writers generally fall into categories. Plotter or pantster (person who doesn’t plan a story and just lets their fingers and brain fly). Marketers who have a plan for release, promotion, and sales and those who just write for the love of writing and if readers buy it they don’t care. Those who study craft methods and those who choose to write off of instinct. Just to name a few ways.
There are reasons for striving to be a better writer by learning some story development techniques. Quicker writing because you learn your own voice and flow of writing. Happier readers because there’s organization and the story can be entertaining. And lastly, if you’re looking for a publisher or agent then being able to write with some standards and general organization principals can make your story stand out or at least make sense.
Yes, Jensen, I think that, too, and thanks for the distraction, but I’m not talking about you. I’m trying to say…
Knowing what GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) and what a 3 Act Structure is (Intro of Conflict, Escalating Action with Increasing Stakes, Crisis and Falling Action or Resolution) or what the “Hero’s Journey‘ is, just to name a few, doesn’t make a great story. Sure, it can help an author to have mechanics down and possibly a place to start but…
The writer still has to use intuition, competence, and their gift to come up with a killer idea and conflict that’s realistic, relatable and grips the reader.
When a writer only relies on techniques and craft knowledge then a story can and often does come off stilted, stiff, and dry. It takes more than knowing what good writing consists of to make it good writing.
So how does a writer prevent that from happening?
I see three different ways.
- Have a plan. You don’t have to be a true plotter to have an idea of where a story is starting and where it’s going. Then set that aside and write the story and see where it goes. If it starts going off the plan and you like it cause it’s fresh and original and has life, then KEEP GOING! But if you’re struggling, go back and look at those ideas, what did you miss–did you miss a conflict? Did you not set up the motivation and the character doesn’t have anything to lose?
- Let someone else read it and then accept what they say with grace and poise. I know, easier said than done. That’s for sure. But if more than one person, or even one person you truly trust says that a story isn’t working and they struggling to connect with the characters, plot, setting, etc, then maybe you overworked the story with revision or excessive planning or maybe characters aren’t developed enough. Maybe all those techniques over came the story.
- Learn the techniques, but guess what? Forget them. Yep, just use your gut and write the story as it comes to you. There is something to be said for following your gut as a writer and allowing the characters to lead you, instead of you leading them. If that’s not your style, no problem. Just keep it in mind that it’s okay to go off track once in a while. Sometimes those side journeys can be the best ways to know our characters and story.
So there you have it. Don’t let your story become stale and only based on techniques and only “sound writing principles” (dun, dun, dun) because there is a place and reason for balance between knowledge and innate skill.
Good luck to all writers!
Have a great Monday and week!