The Problem with Writing Books and Instructors

WHY DO WRITING INSTRUCTORS HAVE TO BASH SOMETHING DIFFERENT?

What off-puts me about many writing books and writing instructors is that they spend the first chapter or session bashing all the “archaic” and “outdated” and “meaningless” elements of story that have come before. It appears they must tear everyone else down so they can then tell us what they have received while on the Mountain of Sinai, why their technique is the only way to go.

“I have the sure-fire method.”

“We have the one effective way.”

“I have the list of all the elements that need to be in a story and no one else does. In fact, methods and terminology of others are so theoretical that they are meaningless.”

These writers and instructors come across as having some strange God Syndrome (or at least a Moses Complex). It doesn’t have to be that way. It also tells me that they may need to read outside their current preferences.

THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO WRITE A STORY

Every story brings new challenges and there is no one right or wrong way to write a story. As a result, there is no singular pedagogy. As we emphasize at Killer Nashville, it’s all about what works, the genre, the medium, the length, the desired tone, the audience, the risks. These are all variables that a good writer takes into consideration.

I don’t use all the tools of my trade for everything I write. I use my tools as a checklist. This is the working habit of all professional writers I know.

And the way I write is not the way that you write, but something about your style or your preferred way to work might be applicable to my toolbox, while other things you suggest may not, BUT I might find them useful later when I write myself into a particular hole. I need all the tools I can get; even the ones from Aristotle or Rudolf Arnheim that you might think are archaic.

The best practitioners know this. If you, Mr. or Mrs. Writing Instructor, feel you have the one true way, get over yourself. Aristotle still rocks. Cavemen drawings still rule: chase the mammoth, lose a few friends to the mammoth, slay the mammoth. We can all learn something from everybody.

LIGHTEN UP, SHARE SOMETHING FUN AND USEFUL, AND WRITE

You don’t have to bash all that has come before. You need to learn from it. Listen. Then apply.

That’s what books about writing should be. That’s what teachers should teach.

We’ve got to build on all that has come before.