Some Really Bad Writing Advice

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve read this sentence:

Swimming lesson. Not.The best way to learn writing is to write.

It comes mostly from pantsers who don’t want to learn story structure, who think it’s a straightjacket for producing formulaic pablum and they want no part of it.

When my middle daughter graduated from high school she wanted to write songs. We got her a small keyboard and I offered to give her lessons.

“No, that’s okay. I know what I’m doing.”

She was echoing what I’ve heard dozens of songwriters say: “Learning music theory will destroy my spontaneous creativity.”

Really? So you’re saying that me and Mozart and Dylan and Donald Fagen are drudges? I’m not the genius those three are, but I write better songs because I learned music theory, not in spite of it. Listen to Donald Fagen talk about composing the Steely Dan song Peg:

… more … “Some Really Bad Writing Advice”

Does Your Writing Come From You or Through You?

The HillsideI’ll state right up front that while I believe all art is a divine gift I do not believe in a literal Muse who is responsible for my (or your) art.

But sometimes, it certainly feels like what I create is coming, not from me but through me.

In those moments what arrives in my fingers is closer to the truths I feel than when I’m using my head, obviously and overtly making stuff up.

I once spent a week carefully crafting a complex 7-minute long Arabic trance instrumental. It’s all kinds of fun, and the Little One still loves to listen to it.

Most folks pay little or no attention to it. It has no real depth, no emotional tug.

On the other end of the spectrum is my song The Hillside which, once I realize what these three repeating chords meant, these dead simple chords anyone could play, the song flowed in minutes, all but one word which was supplied by Best Beloved. … more … “Does Your Writing Come From You or Through You?”

Larry Brooks Teaches Us About the Concept of “Concept”

Next book on my reading list is Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering. He understands craft at a level I can only hope to achieve some day.

He’s deconstructing the movie Side Effects in a series of blog posts, extracting the various storytelling elements a bit at a time. (He warns that his posts contain spoilers, so if you’re planning on seeing the movie, do that before you start reading.)

His post on concept clarified this vital bit of craft for me. Read it and learn.