Just Write Your Story | Daniel M. Clark

Just Write Your Story

In About Writingby Daniel M. ClarkLeave a CommentAdvertising present (What's this?)

Reddit is amazing. Like Wikipedia, it's a black hole from which I have trouble escaping sometimes, but the sheer volume of content can keep one busy for a lifetime. Since graduating from SNHU, I've spent time in a few writerly subreddits:

/r/books, /r/comedywriting, /r/fantasywriters, /r/KeepWriting, /r/PubTips, /r/scifiwriting, /r/Screenwriting, /r/worldbuilding, /r/write, /r/writers, /r/writing, and /r/WritingPrompts

Whew. Seems like a lot now that I type it all out—but I know there are dozens more that I haven't discovered yet.

These subs, especially those that lean toward advice-giving, tend to have a few things in common.

Is it Okay?

Some new writers look for validation. Is it okay to write a character of a different gender? Is it okay to write a character from a different culture? Is it okay to acknowledge world events like a war or pandemic? Is it okay to…?

Just write your story.

The answer to every question like this is yes. You can write whatever characters you like, from a variety of cultures, in a wide range of circumstances. If the question boils down to “is it okay,” the answer is always yes.

Research what you do not have first-hand experience with. Revision is the time and place to fix errors or sensitivity issues. Until then, just get the story down on paper.

Insignificant Details

Some planning is required. Those intending to write a novel should know the approximate word count expected by agents and editors—and those word counts differ by genre. Some planning is not required. Ideal word count per chapter? Which font to use? Which writing tool to use?

Just write your story.

There is no “best” tool to use. Many authors use Microsoft Word. Others use something like Scrivener. Still others write longhand, and I know that someone, somewhere, still uses a typewriter. The tool doesn't matter. The number of words in a chapter doesn't matter: I just finished Station Eleven, and there are chapters less than a full page long (chapter 35 is just 147 words long, for example).

And as for fonts? Write in Comic Sans if it makes you productive. It literally, not figuratively, does not matter because you'll convert that font to Times New Roman, with the click of a button, before sending the manuscript to an agent or editor.

Is it Possible?

This one comes up fairly frequently, and it usually takes the form of “Is it possible to accomplish a thing I'd like to accomplish within the [artificial] constraints [that I'm giving myself]?”

Just write your story.

Yes, it's possible to create a sympathetic character in just one chapter. Yes, it's possible to tell a story spanning 3,000 years in just one book. Yes, it's possible to sell short stories, collect them in an anthology, and then sell that. Yes, it's possible to get published without an MFA (or any degree at all).

Take a look at Amazon sometime. Everything is possible.

And a Word about Advice

I've read On Writing. I've read Strunk & White. I've read Story and Save the Cat. I've read more than a few how-to books (both in and out of my college writing courses), and they are all… fine. That's all they are. Just fine.

There is no silver bullet that makes writing easier. Shortcuts don't exist, no book will tell you The One True Way to be a successful author, and nothing—nothing—will write your story for you.

If you set out to write a book without adverbs just because Elmore Leonard told you to, if you “kill your darlings” just because it's the current prevailing common “wisdom,” you're doing it wrong. There are few rules when the story is good enough and no rules at all for a first draft. Don't listen to anyone who says otherwise, whether it's Stephen King or some rando on Reddit.

Just write your story.

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