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I have an unusual stance toward craft in that I firmly believe it isn't necessary for every writer to obsess over. In fact, I have seen it do more harm than good as an editor. And to this you're likely wondering, "How could that possibly be true?"
Well, if you've read my previous blog post, you'll know that the art of storytelling is something deeply psychological — which means that by virtue of being a human, you're likely intuitively already aware of the attributes of a GOOD STORY.
However, the same way Luke Skywalker grappled with mastering the Force, we too must learn how to harness this raw and intuitive power we have (and you know what? I have had a lot of coffee this morning, so I'm officially declaring this writerly intuition our very own superpower henceforth!). This is where craft comes in. Instead of looking at it as a rulebook that is to be honored at all costs, look at it as a map with many trails — you're free to cut corners, to weave through the forest, or to follow your GPS. Every avenue will get you to where you're going, but which is the most impactful? Which feels like it fits the narrative the best and offers the most satisfying story?
You'll know when you've got it right because your superpowers will tell you so! But if you've leapt off the map's well-trodden trail and are lost in the forest right now, referencing the map's many different paths can be helpful. When you're in need of a little direction, I highly recommend the following craft books:
The above references will facilitate the harnessing of your superpowers, writers. I recommend beginning your studies with Story Genius, which offers a great analysis of the human psychology behind a well-written story. Then, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is a great follow-up. This will give you a rudimentary understanding of plot in easy-to-chew, bite-sized pieces, that will prepare you for John Truby's, The Anatomy of Story, which is for the big league.
Wash all of this information down with Wired for Story, which is also by Lisa Cron. This will remind you of the most valuable and important part of all of this: DON'T GET LOST IN PLOT. TRUST YOURSELF, DAMN IT. Just because you may not know the technicalities of your superpower doesn't mean it isn't there — so, give yourself time, study if it helps, but never forget that you're already an expert on all of this.
Don't believe me? Have you ever watched a movie that sucked-ass and raged about it? We all have, right? Well, I don't know about you, but I started doing this in High School — and I didn't know anything about screenwriting, film, or any component of story whatsoever. But my intuition still applauded well-told stories and shrugged at mediocre ones. Thus concludes my thesis of, "Being an expert on craft does NOT mean you'll write a good book. Being a novice on craft does NOT mean you'll write a bad story."
In fact, a cautionary tale for you all: As an editor, I've found that the more obsessed with craft you are, the more formulaic and predictable your writing becomes. *GASP*
So, explore your superpower's ins and outs, but don't get obsessive and lose faith in your own internal compass, okay?
I hope you enjoy these roadmaps! Is there one you think I've missed? Let me know!
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