This weekend Nancy and I taught four classes at the Family History Expo in Sacramento, California. All of them dealt with creating family history books Most members of the audience were not experienced writers. They were undertaking the writing of a book for the first time. We were dealing with practical topics like planning and organizing or the elements of storytelling. We provided specific step-by-step suggestions to guide the participants on the path to successfully creating a family history book. They were enthusiastic and appreciative.
Any time we finish sessions like these, I always feel I should stop people as they are leaving and admonish them that what we have said is only a series of suggestions. There are no rules about how you have to do any of the things we talked about. Any writer must ultimately find her own way of creating a book.
So when I came across Darcy Pattison’s post on Women on Writing Is There a Writing Process? this morning, I found it particularly interesting. Pattison’s short answer was, “No.” She cited an article published on line by The Society for Science and the Public which reported “The scientific method is a myth… There isn’t one method of ‘doing science.” Hurrah!” said Pattison. “Science is finally on our side, because there isn't a strict ‘writing process’ either.” Her advice to writers: “Find habits of writing that tie you into your creativity and work to make those habits yours.”
I wanted to track do each person I spoke to over the weekend and say, “What she said!”
We did spend some time over the weekend talking about the importance of seeking feedback about your writing from friends, writing groups, editors, etc. But we didn’t say it nearly as well as Richard Gilbert in a post on his blog Narrative titled The Creator’s Dilemma. Said Gilbert:
I used to consider the use of test audiences as Exhibit A that movies are an inferior art form—talk about lowest common denominator! plus there’s no such thing as art by committee!—then it occurred to me that I and most writers do the equivalent. All our friends’ reactions, our workshopping at conferences, our submissions to editors and agents, and our use of prose doctors of various kinds amounts to exactly the same thing, a big fat test audience.
Another great piece of advice to writers. The better you understand what your readers see in your writing the more you can improve your manuscript before publication.