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Not Your Usual Writing Advice

 


Shifting

Sands

 

“The only requirements for an action to be courageous are that you know
it’s the right thing to do and you wish it were easier.”
— Barbara Sher, It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now

Over the years I’ve spoken with a number of NINC members, and read posts on NINClink from others, about changing—or wanting to change—the types of books they write. I am one of those change-it-up writers. The attempts to change what we write usually result in a gamut of emotions—excitement, fear, frustration, elation, despair, joy, insecurity, freedom, lack of confidence, and pride to name a few.

Why is it so difficult? We’re writers, after all.

Which is exactly where much of the problem lies, in our identity as writers. We’re published; we’ve made money from our stories. We think we are supposed to be good at storytelling, even when the type of story changes. We think we are supposed to know how to make it happen.

But when we try something new—a new genre, a new length of book, a book that fits no genre, a book that stretches the limits of genre—it’s not unusual, based on stories I’ve heard directly and indirectly, to find ourselves bewildered and frustrated. How does the writer capture the new type of story on paper?

We stumble along at it, forward three pages and back twenty. We stare at the screen until it turns black. We despair over every plot choice. We admonish and flog ourselves. We’re writers. We’ve done this many times. How can we not know what to do?

Yes, it’s only another version of what we’ve done many times. One choice, one sentence, one guess, another sentence; choice after choice from beginning to end. How should this scene begin? From whose viewpoint should the reader experience it? Should the story take this direction or that direction? After all, we don’t want to waste time following the wrong path.

We’ve made those choices in every story we’ve written. Those choices are harder to make in a new-tous type of story, but the process is the same.

Not knowing the “right” choice doesn’t mean we are not writers, or are not “real” writers. It means we are growing in our craft, learning new things. That learning isn’t coming through “school learning”. It’s not like following a recipe on how to make great pumpkin soup. No, it’s a messier form of learning and practicing, but that’s the way artists in every venue grow: baby steps, choice after choice, fall down and get back up, keep some things and throw a lot away.

Writers and other artists aren’t the only people who experience change in their professions, times of growth, and the related feeling of inadequacy. I’m a writer, and also a CPA, although I seldom practice in that profession now. Most areas of accounting, auditing, and tax law I dealt with became easy or normal in that the needs I met with my services for most clients were similar. Occasionally, unusual cases arose, requiring research, more time than usual, discussions with colleagues. “Have you run into this? My interpretation of the law and similar cases is thus. Does that agree with your interpretation?” Writers aren’t alone in needing to learn new things along their career path.

The e-book revolution has, as we all know, changed the way we do business. Authors need to be aware of how those changes affect their careers, whether they choose to indie publish at this time or not. Isaac Asimov was certainly describing today’s publishing world when he said, “It is change, continuous change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today.”    

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