Writer’s Instincts

Why is it always those yellow pencils that you see everywhere?

Why is it always those yellow pencils that you see everywhere?

So, this is a post I am writing based on what happened to me when I was penning the latest chapter of Unseen: Right Behind You. I was writing that and I came to a point where I started writing a paragraph, failed, because the sentences just wouldn’t flow, and had to take a break. I started cooking lunch, all the while dwelling on that one part that just would not work. Finally, when I was done with lunch I sat down again, got rid of the paragraph, rewrote it into something else entirely, something completely different from what I had first imagined, and it turned out to lead into the perfect opportunity for me to use flashbacks. I call what happened there writer’s instincts. Enjoy. 🙂

As writers/authors (every author is a writer, not every writer is an author, so I guess I could’ve said every writer) we all have instincts. It’s where the mysterious thing known as inspiration comes from. These instincts, these gut feelings, are what allow us as writers to guide the story rather than follow some formula for writing a good piece. They tell us what to put down on the paper, how we should do it, and what makes it good. But, while sometimes they are very helpful (like in my case), they are also the source of the dreaded writer’s block, and sometimes they’re just plain wrong. So how do we tame these instincts?

Well, some of you might hate me for this, though considering you’re all probably writers, maybe not. Reading. Reading is the answer. But you can’t just read any old junk. You could read the labels off milk cartons for ten years and not get anywhere. No, what is important is that you read high-quality writing. As cliché or repetitive as this might sound, read good literature, both old and new. For me, some of my favorites would be Shakespeare, Baldacci, Henty, Horn, and Ballantyne. There are others of course, but those are just some of my personal favorites. (I haven’t actually read that much Shakespeare. I know right? Shame on me. XP)

What is the point of this reading? Well, we’re talking about instincts here, gut feelings. These cannot be “taught” traditionally by rote. Rather you need to allow your subconscious to subtly pick up on what makes a story good. This will allow your writers instincts to grow and nurture, preparing them for you to write with excellence. It is very important that you don’t read bad literature, however. Because if all you read are trashy adventure novels and sappy love stories, all you’ll be able to write are trashy love stories and sappy adventure novels. Yes, I did swap those around. That’s because unless we’re plagiarizing, we always mix around what we read, and so that’s what would happen.

Ok, so say you take my advice and read good literature, and your writers instincts are nourished and flourishing vibrantly. What then? Here is where you take the leap of faith and trust your instincts. Let your story lead the way while you guide it. Sure, you might have an outline and everything planned out, but don’t lock it to that. Allow your instincts to write for you. If you’ve read enough and read properly, you should find that the only kind of writer’s block you’ll get will be your instincts telling you to take a break, rethink things, and then rewrite what you just wrote down. Your stories will sound a lot more natural, and you will be more pleased with them yourself.

Note that this does not replace technical knowledge. People still will not appreciate your writing if you mis, punctuate- every. sentence: and forget howe two spel. Make sure you have a good grounding in vocabulary and grammar. Guess what the nice thing is. Well, reading helps with that too. Mhm. Reading helps with all kinds of things. Not only does it improve your writer’s instincts, but it will also improve your grammar and spelling and vocabulary too, all without much conscious effort at all. Now head out, and find, nurture, and use those instincts. Good writing to you all! 🙂

Tours yruly

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