When writers first start out, what they’re mainly aware of, writing-wise, is conflict. This is when you sit down and start writing a scene and go, “This is two people fighting about something, how exciting!” Let’s call that Level 0.
Beginning writers have started to be inundated with English classes; they often have a set of rules and guidelines that they have to follow (in order to pass the class). They have learned that the vague mush of conflict can be split into categories: character, setting, plot, grammar/punctuation/clarity, repetitiveness, style, mood, atmosphere.
Intermediate writers are starting to break off from the early categories and rules. (If I’ve ever told you that every writer has to break at least one rule in order to become a good writer, you’re moving into this category. It’s a gradual process.) They have a decent grasp on the basics. They are starting to think about things like tension, depth/opinion/voice, pacing, and condensing repetitive things instead of removing them.
Advanced writers are starting to mess with their readers, and they’re starting to put the pieces back together, so that character = voice = style = plot = mood = everything else. Genre, and screwing with genre, is a big deal here.
And master writers don’t give a damn about anything but screwing with the reader.
The issues that I’ve been running across lately are people moving from beginning writer to intermediate writer–and having no idea that there’s anything between “beginning” and “master.”
Why am I not getting published? Why am I not getting published in the top magazines in my genre? Why is XYZ shitty writer getting published and paid millions of dollars and not me?
That’s the kind of complaint/attitude I’m seeing. It comes from 90% of all writing advice being focused on beginners–because that’s where 90% of all writers are at, and where 90% of all writers drop out. (I have no exact stats on that!)
The writers saying these things are decent at the basics for the most part, and may shine at one or two of them. But they don’t really have a clue that there’s more to learn.
Next time: what pacing is, and why it can do a world of good for an intermediate writer.