Newbie Writer: Live and Learn

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Advice to Newbies ~ Live and Learn

Herewith, the beginning of my response to a Newbie Writer’s concerns. (See the 9/1 post to read her second email. Names are changed to protect the innocent.)

The opening paragraphs to her second email were so long and so jammed with unspoken questions that I’ve broken my response into several parts for ease of understanding.

Response to Paragraph I, Part A

I will try to answer your questions. Please remember that everything is my opinion. For example, for years I tried, seriously tried, to follow what everyone in the major markets said about story development and character revelations and more. As I worked through that advice, trying to apply it and failing because it clogged up all creativity, I gradually found what worked for me and what did not. You will discover this as well. It’s a matter of practice.


The writer that I mentioned in my previous email, Dean Wesley Smith has written over 100 novels for traditional and indie markets.

He says now that he is happiest in indie and that his current series, Cold Poker Gang, up to 11 books, would have been rejected by traditional publishers because it doesn’t “match” to what the rest of the writing world is doing—but the series is selling and making him great money. I guess that shows that the writing world understands about the reading world.

Here is his take on Traditional Publishing vs. Indie Publishing.

DWSmith uses something that he calls “Writing Into the Dark”, an inexpensive book that you may want to check out. It reinforced what I believe about my own creativity and writing style. You define yourself as a pantster—you may find yourself in this method already.

One thing to remember is that every story is different, and I alter my writing process every time I sit down to write—sometimes twice during the course of one book. For example, I may launch totally into the dark, plot and follow that plot then abandon it, then plot briefly and pants a lot, then end with plotting. The next book may be completely pantsting. The next may be heavily plotted then abandoned—even as I keep the plot in mind. For whatever method you choose, the ONLY thing that matters is that your ideas AND words are flowing. If they aren’t, switch it up.


I find that Save the Cat and the Snowflake method and much more so very artificial. I find the “literary” (as in “what is taught about literature” in colleges/universities and high schools [having taught in both], such as Freytag’s Pyramid (simple story structure) and complex story structure (exposition / conflict / complications / crisis / reversals / climax / resolution / denouement) as artificial.

You read, don’t you? You watch films, don’t you? You have been around storytelling since you were a small child, haven’t you? Well, this means that successful story-telling is already part of you. You know the story you want to tell. Better to let it flow out in the way that you ant to (especially during your first version of the story—which I call the rough and other people call the first draft) than to impose artificial constraints on your story.

Next Up

Yep, I am holding off on the rest of my response to her email because this one is already over 600 words. My answers continue throughout September AND October before she and I have our next pop back and forth of concerns and advice.

If you have immediate questions about plotting and characters, you can always try my two guidebooks Discovering Plot and Discovering Characters