History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Synthesizing Writing Advice into Your Writing

Question marks in different colored bubblesThere’s a lot of writing advice out there in the world, and while there’s plenty that is just reiterating what’s been said dozens of of times before, you may also come across new-to-you pieces of advice.

This has been happening to me a lot lately, as I’ve been reading writing craft books specific to structuring and planning novels. And while I’ve been using the same structure/system for my novels for years, there’s enough stuff that resonated with me in these craft books that I want to use them as well.

So because the advice resonates with me (and that’s an important factor–only grabbing the bits that resonate with you), I now find myself in a place where I need to synthesize these new pieces into my old system. For me, that looks like sitting down with my old system and then going through each book (which I’ve highlighted and flagged within an inch of its life) to see where the things that struck me as useful can be merged into my larger structure/system.

Some of the pieces will slot in nicely, as they’re just using different vocabulary or suggesting an alternative way to think about something I already do. But other pieces might wind up seeming like they go to a different puzzle than the one I’m working on. So those might need to be set aside for the time being, and revisited once I’ve got the basic structure/system pieces all put together. And I’ll need to do this one book at a time, rather than trying to juggle four different books and turning them into something useable.

This is where my old academic writing days are going to come in handy, I think. I can approach each of the books as though it’s one of my research sources, and the highlighted and flagged bits are the salient points I want to use for my paper. In fact, if it seems like trying to synthesize everything into a single document might be too much at first, I can break out the index cards like I used to almost 30 years ago to take notes on my sources and then sort them into a rough sketch of what I wanted my paper to talk about. (There’s probably software that would let me take my notes on virtual note cards and then rearrange them as needed, but the analog version will work just fine and not require finding and learning software.

Once I’ve gone through all the books and pulled together a revised structure/system, I’ll put it into use by trying it out for my next novel organization and planning! It may not be until I’ve actually put it into practice that I’ll identify problems, but the structure/system I’ve been using for years also has known problems that I’ve taught myself to work around. So if this one shakes out that way, I’ll find a solution there, too!

Overall, though, it’ll be great to get all of these new ideas I’ve been filling my brain with synthesized into something I can and definitely will use!

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