How-to Writing Articles and Books vs. Doing What Works

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Anyone that has been in my house sees it littered with books – all sorts of books. At one point when I was forced to downsize my collection, I sent thirteen boxes of books to the Salvation Army. Nonetheless, I still have nine bookcases in my house – all pretty much stuffed with books and they still overflow onto the floor and on various tables. Many, many of these books are about writing. Then there is my collection of papers – copies of dozens and dozens of articles on all things having to do with writing, plotting, character arcs, publishing, etc. And let’s not forget the stacks of writing magazines!

I have sorted through these books, magazines, and articles as best I can over the years. Honestly, if all I ever did was read about writing, how would I have time to write? I do skim quite a lot, and if something catches my fancy, I read it more thoroughly. However, there really is no way to digest all the information I get.

I get especially drawn to “Ten easy tricks to guarantee a bestselling book.” Somehow I always go away from these articles with little to no insights other than to 1) read a lot; 2) write every day; 3) create a platform; 4) and network, i.e., know someone connected in the ‘business.’ If all else fails, then there are hundreds – thousands really, of articles and books on self-publishing … and the beat goes on.

All that advice, what is a writer to think? Lately, I have realized that the one-size-fits-all methods of writing don’t seem to fit me. All the outlining, plotting, character background sketches, and the dozens of other techniques to writing fiction just don’t fit my way of writing.

In my ‘other life’, the one before retirement, I was a pediatric physical therapist. Over my career, I took part in hundreds of workshops, and read all sorts of articles and books on therapeutic techniques – all touting ‘the one thing that works.’ I soon found, ‘eh, not so much.’ So I began doing what worked. My eclectic methods sometimes didn’t work – so I labeled that as ‘evaluation’; but when it did work, I labeled that as true treatment. By sticking to techniques that helped my patients – and only adding things as I found my ‘evaluations’ of new techniques worked, I was pretty successful at helping my little patients.

I have carried that over to my writing. I am a profound gatherer of information on all things related to writing. Some things stick in my mind and work for me, others don’t, and therefore slip into the abyss of my brain. I’m sure some of the little hints and methods I have filtered through my brain have settled into what I do, but perhaps not as cut and dried as the original author intended.

I’m not saying it’s bad to digest all these methods, or not to study the craft or writing and publishing. In all this jumble of facts and suggestions, I try to pick out the best elements from all these sources of what works for me. In the end, I just have to remain true to my mantra of doing what works.

What about you? Do you find it more helpful to write in a prescribed manner, or do you find it best to write using tried and true methods that you found work best? I’d love to hear what you think! Comment below.

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