Monday, January 14, 2013

So You Wanna Write a Book

"... begin with the free and unfettered pouring of story from your imagination. ... just let the story flow, without any thought for practical issues. Later on, if there are problems with your story, or imposed practical issues to deal with, use your knowledge of structure to root out those problems or satisfy those practical demands. The value of structural understanding is in story optimisation and problem resolution, not as a creative starting point. Ideally, your ideas will pour out and there will be no problems with the story you have written; in which case who cares what the structure is? Creativity first, always and forever. Structure secondarily, and only as a tool for analysis and repair" (THE STORY BOOK by David Baboulene, p.64) [color and emphasis added]

While I absolutely love this quote, I would say this applies to writers who've written at least one manuscript. I would advise anyone who has NEVER written a story (of any length) to read at least one book or take one class on the craft of writing. And better yet, make that class or book specific to the genre or style you're interested in pursuing.

What do you think?

Were you aware of structure and/or rules of the genre before you started writing?


  1. Margo ~

    I agree with you. Having written all my life, and quite well (or so I believed) I took a class last semester with a BRILLIANT professor who challenged me in ways I didn't think possible.

    Although I am *finally* graduated from college, I absolutely WILL take her Memoir class when it is offered again as that is the genre I am writing.

    One thing she DID say was, "Write for yourself, first and foremost. Don't self edit the first round. Hide your "mommy goggles" (what would my mother think if she read this?!). After you have completed your book, THEN go back and edit. Ask yourself, "Will this hurt more people more than it helps tell the story? If the answer is "Yes," take it out."

    I loved that advice.

    1. Sweet! I'm glad you really enjoyed your writing class. Memoir is a tough genre.

  2. I agreed with most of it until I got to "Ideally, your ideas will pour out and there will be no problems with the story you have written; in which case who cares what the structure is?"

    Just my perspective mind, but I'm not sure you should even put that idea in your head. That's just a setup for trouble when the crits start coming back. Better to assume it will be FULL of problems, and addressing them in edits/re-drafts is when the actual writing begins. If you have a mindset of knowing it's flawed, the feedback won't be as discouraging.

    Keep in mind that I'm someone who doesn't have issues with the drafting, but has gotten stuck in revision hell more times than he can count. Do let those words pour out in the draft, and try not to take a lot of time worrying over details. But also understand that first drafts are almost always meant to be shattered with a hammer, the shards picked over for only the good parts. And you wouldn't hit anything extremely valuable with a hammer, right? :-)

  3. I think the outpouring of story is essential for the first draft. Nothing halts the flow like revising and editing as you go along - although I know some people really do like to write that way. Too much pickiness early on or worrying about 'rules' from having read too many 'how to write books' (dare I say that???) get in the way of the story. I agree that letting it flow is the best way, as long as we remember it will seriously need looking at again! It's a great quote and, as with everything else, we have to take inspiration from it but not take it as carved in stone! Interesting post, thank you!

  4. I was aware of most of those things because I took several creative writing courses in college. But I didn't know nearly enough and have learned to be a better writer through trial and error.

  5. I "knew" the structure instinctively from reading, but my writing was driven by ideas rather than any kind of key writing rules when I first started. Now, I like to think I mix the two. :)

  6. I used to be strictly outpouring of creativity. Then I started doing critiques and whatnot and now? I have pesky critic that sits on my shoulder and will not shut up. I usually find if I grab it and stuff it under the mattress in the spare bedroom and shut the door I can pour out cups full of creativity.

  7. I'm always my own worse enemy when writing a first draft. My internal editor just won't shut up.

  8. I was not aware of any structure or rules when I started writing, but after I took a few classes at Gotham Writer's Workshop, I was astounded! Then I started attending conferences and now I'm better off for it.