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The Motive Center
September 11th, 2004
05:44 pm


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Many Styles, One Result
One topic already coming up a bit in the messages is that of style--style of creation, style of learning, etc.

Fundamental principle #1: "There are nine-and-sixty ways of composing tribal lays/and every single one of them is right!" --Rudyard Kipling
Fundamental principle #2: if it works, it works. Don't let ANYONE tell you otherwise.

Some researchers refer to "Mozartian" and "Beethovenian" approaches to creating. I'll note them here.

Mozartian writers or creators generate finished first drafts. Mozart supposedly sat down and just wrote out whole symphonies without pausing or editing. Shakespeare "never blotted a line."

Beethoven, on the other hand, revised and revised and revised and revised...as Dorothy Parker lamented: "I can't write five words but that I change seven."

Both work fine--it's just that some people can do it one way and others can't. Most people probably fall between. My wife Toni L. P. Kelner keeps a whole mystery plot in her head and can tinker with it mentally (say if I suggest she needs an event somewhere), but needs to rewrite and edit her prose to make the tone just right. Whichever you are, don't worry--it's the result that counts.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2004 03:44 pm (UTC)

Do whatever works

I'm with you 100% on this one. I've always avoided those places that tell you how you should write. I'm starting to fiddle around with the synopsis for my novel and I've been researching ways of doing it. Some websites say things like, 'it's essential to complete your synopsis before starting to write your novel.' My response is to click the back button because that's not how I write.

As you say, it's the end result that counts. You can follow somebody's writing rules and still produce a pile of crap, and you can do your own thing and write a masterpiece.
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2004 05:07 pm (UTC)
One of the things I heard several times at Worldcon from the audience was "do you outline or write organically?" There was a desperate tone to this same question each time I heard it. You could tell that the aspiring author knew if they could just latch onto the "one true way" then everything else would fall into place. Ha!

What was also interesting was one of the "high concept" panels in which all of the participants said how they had to do X or Y to before they could even start writing. You could feel the terror mount in the room as X and Y were very lofty approaches to producing prose. I recall thinking something along the lines of "But, if I spent all my time worrying about whether my characters were supposed to be speaking in iambic pentameter or whether I've got symbolism throughout, I'd never get anything written." And then, like a gulp of fresh air, one of the panelists wrinkled his nose and said that he never wrote that way. I swear, all of the other panelists shifted away from him.

Whatever works, works.

Thanks for the new terminology. Love Mozartian and Beethovian as approaches. Both men produced wonderful, unique music and each did it the way that worked for him.
Date:September 11th, 2004 07:14 pm (UTC)

Oh please!

I write mysteries, and here are just a few of the things I've said at panels that have flatly contradicted other writers:

1) I don't write every day. Shoot, when mine and Steve's girls were smaller, I was lucky if I bathed every day.

2) I don't outline, unless required to be an editor. Even then, it's usually a synopsis, and once the synopsis is approved, I stick it in a drawer and don't look at it again until I'm done. Ideas that look fabulous in an outline are lame as can be in a manuscript.

3) I don't write chronologically. This was a big break-through for me, and gets you away from that, "I don't know what comes next," problem. You probably know something that will happen later, or just a scene that will be fun to write. So who cares which was written first, as long as you edit and smooth out any rough edges.

4) Lord knows I don't write out detailed character descriptions. If a factoid doesn't come out in a book or story, I don't really care. If all you need is somebody to give a bit of exposition, the fact that the hotel clerk's father ran out on her mother when she was two, making her lose all her hair in frustration, isn't worth my time to figure out. And it may be that if the clerk shows up again, I'll need her to have a full head of hair. Why lock myself in if I don't have to?

So Loup Noir--and Steve--are SO right. Whatever works, works.

Toni L.P. Kelner
(wife of Steve)
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2004 08:32 pm (UTC)
I'm not a writer, but an artist of sorts, and it seems to me that it's really the creative process as a whole more than it is just writing that is covered by the "whatever works works" maxim. There's really no wrong way to make art, something which teachers will argue at you all day long if you let them. I've had teachers tell me never to use straight black as it doesnt' occur in nature, or never to use a color straight out of a tube; always mix it with something. While it's useful to hear what pros do to get themselves started, you are all right when you say that there's no one way to create. Loupnoir is dead on when recounting those audience reactions; "what's the SECRET of creating?" Eh, whatever makes you happy, be it visual art, writing, singing. Name a few famous creators and likely as not, they'll have utterly different approaches to their art. I think it's still worth hearing how others approach their work in, for no other reason, that it gives one a different avenue if the ones known aren't working.

And Toni, you're the first writer I've heard peshaw the "writing every day" thing. Your work speaks for itself. Good for you!!

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