Saturday, July 06, 2013

Pitfalls -- Formula

Hi, folks,  this month I'm going to dig into pitfalls that writers fall into from time to time. I will spend the month of June uncovering hidden hazards in writing. Please check out my earlier series on Pitfalls too. So here goes.

One pitfall many writers fall into is formula. There are stacks of writing books out and writers gobble these up. Faves include Robert McKee's Story, Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, the Elements of-- series. Yes, these stacks are good books and offer great advice. But here's the deal, the most important part of writing isn't in the books. The most important part of writing is who you are and what you want.(Mythic!)

A novel to me is akin to sailing a ship around a world on a sea no one has never been charted. I'm a voracious reader and I know that many writers stay close to the shore, don't take risks, and end up producing hopelessly mediocre work. And what really kills me is they can do  more. I will see evidence of more but they don't do it. Consider this, formula may be holding you back. Don't get me wrong, formula is not a bad thing, but it's like acetaminophen, too much of it will poison you.

So how do you know if you have fallen into this pit? You are surely in the pit in you are trying to mimic another author. Listen to my kindergarten teacher Ms. Crabtree: be yourself. You are in the pit if you read stacks of writing books, but you sort hate the work you are producing. Stop that right now. You are in the pit if you avoid the place you want to go in your story because it goes against the rules. Break the "rules", dang it! You are in the pit if you have abandoned a project you love because folks have told you it is too out there. I say, go there. You may sink the ship, or you may discover a new world. 

I hope that you zoom forward this week with your projects.  Thanks for dropping by. I will be back next week with more of this series. Seize the day.

Here is the doodle for the week: Owl.



Your quote for the week.
I am the master of my fate:I am the captain of my soul.  William Ernest Henly


17 comments:

Mirka Breen said...

The few folks who have followed my blog, or know me from elsewhere, will attest to how contemptuous I am of slavish following of formulas. Our originality is the most important thing we have to offer.
That said, if the goal is to get published, period, then the formulaic has a far better shot at walking though this door. This has always been the case, as a sift through bookstores' shelves, as well as the best sellers list, will attest.

Candilynn Fite said...

I've tried to follow formulas, but lucky for me, they never work. Somewhere along the way, I veer off, outside the lines. Yeah, I'm not so much of a formula kind of gal. ;)

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Mirka, I so agree about the power of formula. I'm not sure why originality is not rewarded more. I wonder if that will change as publishing is changing.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Candylynn, I get that veering off thing. I like to take risks and formula seems to scream -- safe to me.

Patsy said...

We can find plenty of advice on ways to do things but should remember they're not the way - just one way.

Tara Tyler said...

greatest advice! be yourself!
and my process is routine, but the stories tell themselves, and go in many different directions! it's fun & fantastic!

MollyMom103 said...

Hi, Tara, I do enjoy the fun and fantastic of creating a story.

Vijaya said...

Where have I heard of Crabtree before? In one of your stories? It's a great name ... and she a wish teacher.

MollyMom103 said...

Mrs. Crabtree was my kindergarten teacher.

Mrs. Crabtree shows up in CRYING FOR THE MOON. I'm not sure if you will remember that one.

MollyMom103 said...

Mrs. Crabtree also shows up in Eliza Kimberly and the Shooting Stars, my most recent PB manuscript.

Vijaya said...

Ah, yes, I remember Crying for the Moon :)

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Everything in moderation, right?!

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Ruth, for sure and when it comes to formula I think different amounts are appropriate for each writer.

Lynda R Young said...

a refreshing post. I'm a true advocate of breaking the rules.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi Lynda, I'm not so much a rule breaker, but I honestly believe that everything must be questioned.

Hart Johnson said...

I think it may be good that I don't really care for the writing books. I tend to just write what I want and try to instill a little structure AFTER. I just think for me it works out better that way. Though some of what I write is mystery and there is some formula that HAS to be there--cozy mysteries have some serious rules and readers rebel if you don't mostly follow them.

MollyMom103 said...

Hi HJ, Kudos on mystrey writing! I like that you are seeking a successful mix. I think some writers really absorb writing through reading. Some must take classes. Others read books. Some grow in critique groups. Some do a mix of all. Some are create structure and then write. Others are write then add structure. You find success when you start figuring out your path.