Writerly Wednesday

  • A couple weeks ago, Lydia Sharp turned an old nursery rhyme into a fantastic analogy about writing styles. Are you a Butcher, a Baker, or a Candlestick Maker?

    I’m a Candlestick Maker, for sure, but it took years of being a Baker, and then months of trying to be a Butcher, before I finally realized and accepted that. It took several more weeks before I could actually embrace it.

    On that note… Honestly I think NaNoWriMo is great, but because it’s a celebration of/for Butchers, I often find myself working extra hard in November, even if I’m not participating, as I try to resist the backward slide of wanting to be a type of writer that I’m not.

  • SF/F writer Diana Wynne Jones discusses “Two kinds of writing?” (originally published in 1990, which means things may have changed… or not):

    For children, if I want to send a decrepit starship full of witches to a quasi-monastery in another adjacent universe, no one turns a hair. But adults are handicapped by terminal assumptions about what goes with which genre. If they think I am writing fantasy, then my belligerent witches must go on a Quest armed only with swords and spells and either on foot or horseback; and if what I am doing is to be science fiction, no one aboard my starship is allowed magic, but only scientific principles not altogether yet proven, such as an ability to travel faster than light.

    I hate that. I hate being confined by expectations, by labels. Genres are helpful for libraries and book stores. I suppose they are helpful for some readers, too. But they are not helpful for writers. Or at least, not when they act like horizontal bars (cages) instead of vertical guides (railings).
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10 Comments

  1. I love Lydia’s analogy. It’s so perfectly fitting and descriptive for all three writing/writer types. I’m right there with you in Candlestick Maker territory, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think I embraced the concept most whole-heartedly with my new novel. It was nothing but a pure joy to work on every step of the way, and I found that having that balance between guidelines and letting the story lead made all the difference. It let me just soak up every minute of the journey.

    Thanks, as always, for the great links!

  2. Definitely of the Candlestick Maker persona. Even NaNo can’t force me into total Butcher mode. I still made half an outline to get myself started.

  3. I’m also a candlestick maker. That is a great analogy! I do a bit of plotting and pansting. I always need to know where I’m going and plan out key scenes in advance… but the rest is pretty flexible.

    Great links!

  4. I started out a Butcher, thought I needed to be a Baker and found peace as a Candlestick Maker. :)

    The second essay was a bit long for me, I must admit, but I understand the frustrations with genre writing. It’s a very interesting point the author makes about children’s expectations being different to adults and, honestly, this is one of the reasons I want to continue to write for children. You really have so many options. Still, yes, you are right, this doesn’t have to be. Genre is for publishers and shelves.

  5. Shari-
    “I found that having that balance between guidelines and letting the story lead made all the difference.”

    Yup, the b-word is key!

    Scott-
    I think people who have a game plan, even a loose or incomplete one, are usually the most productive in NaNo. :)

    T.S.-
    Me too. I start with a big picture outline (key turning points, emotional starting/ending points, and some basic plot) and then I let each scene/chapter flesh itself out as I go.

    Sarah-
    Hehe, I still think you’ve got Butcher tendencies. You don’t like Baking!

    As for genres… I hope that some of the “crossover” books can bring that flexibility to adult fiction. (Ex: TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, which is a blend of scifi and romance, but is shelved as literary.)

  6. Les

    Mmm I have an awesome article I stole from the plane magazine on the way to Japan that I’m going to crib and republish in the next few posts… you will loooove it ;)

  7. NaNo sounds like it would be such a thrilling experience. i actually wrote enough on nov 1st to be in the the game but i really would rather write a page a day each day of the year than to cram like that.
    so i guess i am a baker? either way, love you blog! ahh.. the life of a writer.

  8. Juliann

    Thanks for the link to the Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker blog. I’m a Butcher, but appreciate your Candlestick Maker tendencies. I’ve noticed both you and Sarah offer great constructive criticism in our writing group:

    Candlestick Maker – You’re an artist and a laborer, and you know how to provide a light for others in a dark place.

    I’m looking forward to reading your work in our group someday.

  9. Jon

    Put me down for aspiring candlestick maker, haha.

  10. Les-
    Ooo, can’t wait!

    Artemis-
    Cool beans. Butchers, Bakers, Candlestick Makers — we’re all awesome. ;)

    Juliann-
    Aww, thank you. Sarah and I can be loud/obnoxious, but we are ALWAYS trying to be helpful! I’ll see you Monday!

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