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Monday, February 25, 2013

Valuing Differences in Writing Styles

I attended LTUE recently. It was great seeing so many friends and making new ones.

I've spent a lot of time over the last year dealing with doubt. Do I really have what it takes to be an author? Does my writing suck lemons? Is this really what I want? This was on top of chronic health problems, kitchen remodeling, job loss, and all sorts of other angst. It was not an easy year. A lot of things have changed, most of them in my head.

I was on a panel titled World Building 101. It was intimidating to be up there. Fellow panelists included James A Owen, Bob Defendi, Dan Willis, Larry Correia, and Howard Tayler. I've known all of them, except for James, for years. But I was feeling decidedly defensive, being the only woman on the panel and the least known author in the group. It didn't help it was 9 am on a Saturday and the room was packed anyway.

Howard was moderating. He'd come around to all of us the night before and told us to bring our "A game". We were going to demonstrate world building. We spent the first fifteen minutes creating two different worlds. Fun brainstorming with some great ideas. Then it turned to a discussion of how we authors build worlds for our stories.

I was starting to believe I did it wrong. All of the others start with an idea, a concept, which they build their world around. Once they have that fleshed out a bit, they drop in characters and a plot. I start with a character and a bit of plot that interests me. I build the world around whatever happens. It's a much more organic process than what they were describing.

Keep in mind these men are intimidating, big names. I've never had a creative writing class in my life. The only writing class I ever had in college was technical writing which doesn't really lend itself to fiction.

Dan Willis spoke up after I hesitantly described my process. To paraphrase, "We all write differently. Don't sweat it. Do what works for you. There is no wrong way to create a story."

There are pitfalls in writing fiction that have to do with plot holes, passive voice, switching point-of-view, and other things, but those skills can be learned. Telling stories? Creating characters and worlds? Everyone is going to do it differently. The results are a rich smorgasbord of voices and stories and ideas. Don't doubt your method, unless it isn't working for you.

Believe in your voice and your story. No one else can tell it the way you will.

And if you're ever on a panel with Howard Tayler? He can't stand the term pantsing to describe writing by the seat of your pants or making it up as you go. Just a friendly warning.