Linda Maye Adams

The culture of the beginner


Just about everything that you find on writing pretty much everywhere has a very specific focus: Beginning writer.  Sure, there are a few resources that go beyond beginner, but they’re harder to find.  You have work at it.

And those writers usually get blasted by the beginners because it’s not something easy to learn.  I picked David Gerrold’s Worlds of Wonder from the library and was amazed.  It felt like he was talking to me and not explaining things to a beginner. 

Reviews from writers chastised the book for not doing step-by-step instructions.

Sigh.

I don’t think writing fiction is something where you can get step-by-step instructions.  The creativity part doesn’t work the same way for everyone.  I remember reading The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing where the writer tried step-by-step instructions.  I read them, went “What the heck is a ‘unit of action,’ and was done.  Of course, it was outlining, and that never worked for me anyway.  But I’m sure there was someone who read it and thought it was just for them.

That’s the nature of the creative process.  It has its own ebbs and flows.

I dropped off writing message boards largely because of the culture of the beginner.  Once I got better, I started noticing that people didn’t always like that I knew a little more than they did.  This is from a post by Kristen Lamb on her experiences with that:

The more successful I became, the more skilled I grew, the more resentment I encountered. But still I persisted because I couldn’t give up on my “friends.” I tried harder, gave more….and was a mess.

One of the things I ran into was that I wanted to learn from people more experienced then me, so I thought everyone was like that.  A lot of people want someone to hold their hand and tell them what steps to follow so magic happens.

Writing is the only place where an individual who is clearly an expert by the number of books they’ve written and the years they are writing are informed by this culture they are clueless and don’t know what they’re talking about.  Meanwhile, the beginner who is working on a first novel passes around a list of tips that are really wrong (the kind that would get him rejected) is touted as an expert and lauded by his peers.

Just something to think about.

1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on richardbunning and commented:
    Writing fiction is an art, just as is painting portraits or writing poetry. It’s about more than the form others use, its about the individuality that resides in you- about ones unique gift.
    Courses, blogs and most opinionated comment are about doing what fashion demands to be the best- that copying is for the robots, both human and machine. That is not where I am and certainly not where I want to go. I can’t and won’t compete against robots of any sort, by emulating Rowling or King ever better. If that means that the critics ignore me, or trash my work, so be it.
    Of course, those that are loud noises in the writing chatter come to be resented. They are already better, more successful robots. They have already filled the space on shelves, in culture, on the box and in the magazines. They have already produced enough of follow the dots TYPE 2010s FICTION. The world doesn’t need any more Harry Potter; well actually it does, but from JKR not from me,

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