I was fortunate to be able to attend the Novelist Retreat that Yvonne Lehman puts on
at Ridgecrest near Ashville, NC. It was a time of getting to meet other authors and offer workshops for writers to learn more of the craft of writing.
One of the most important lessons to learn is that there is no one way to write. You have to learn, by experience, what works best for you,.
This was evidenced by the writers selected to be our faculty. In this corner (read in the voice of the WWE announcer) was Steven James. Steven is an organic writer, which means he writes without an outline. He lets the story guide him. Sometimes into a corner, without a way out. But, he says, that is often when we have to be our most creative. (His book, Story Trumps Structure is a great resource and teacher of this method.)
And in this corner. . . Torry Martin and Diann Mills showed how structure gives you a start and format for your book or story. A simple way to look at this is the three-act structure with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
So, who’s right?
Writing is a process, and you have to find what works best for you. Some of us freeze when we look at a blank page. Others will stay up all night as black words fill the white space and we tingle anticipating what comes next.
The important thing is to write.
I found a new writing hero in Sophy Burnham’s For Writer’s Only. But I wonder if she would even think of herself as a writer. Burnham writes about Count Leo Tolstoy cutting up his previous days writings and rearranging his descriptions and scenes. (Thank God for the computer and cut-and-paste.) He would place the scraps of paper in stacks on his table. Then his wife would recopy what he had, after she’d taken care of the housework and their thirteen (13!) kids.
My hero. Sophia.
Burnham writes, “it is said she recopied each page of War and Peace at least five times.” (p. 65) With an ink pen!
Is that love or punishment?
But it illustrates what a writer needs, some say this is even more important than talent. That is persistence. Don’t give up.
It’s a lesson we are all still learning.