creative writing

Do You Use Templates When Creating Fiction?

I recently listened to a podcast where an author claimed that if a writer did not use the hero’s journey template, they will never be a successful author. This is ridiculous and I totally disagree.

When writing fiction, a writer can either follow an established story template or not. By a template, I mean the basic structure of the story is already outlined by the industry. The writer just needs to fill in the details.

There are other templates, such as for romance stories. With the hero’s journey template, it can be found in genres such as thrillers, suspense, science fiction, and others. In it, the protagonist (hero) is called to adventure and refuses the call until someone tells them to stop whining and go. The hero goes on the adventure, is challenged by people and obstacles, confronts an ordeal, wins the reward, and confronts a final challenge before arriving home.

It is true that in some genres a writer must follow a template like this because the reader expects it. The category defines the story line. And that is okay. Sometimes a reader just wants sameness like a warm blanket on a cold night. I like these stories, too. Sometimes. However, many authors do not follow these templates and have popular, successful books that sell.

My favorite books did not follow a template like the hero’s journey. These novels went free-form without definition. The writer expanded their story to what it should be and not confined by barriers in a template.

Following a template makes for faster and easier writing. Just fill in the blanks and readers will come. But in the end is the writer satisfied with what they wrote or did they wish they had more freedom in their story?

Previous blogs on this:
Writing by Templates
Yes, there are stories to tell

2021 Creative Writing Goals

I’m setting writing goals this year. Something I haven’t done before. Usually, I fumble along until I surprise myself with some accomplishment. Now I have my first book published and I formed a limited liability company (LLC) for my writing. So, I thought I should be more organized.

My first goal is to put more time into my writing. This means freeing up time from other projects such as grant writing. I’ll still write grants, but for fewer nonprofits.

I will also not send short stories to magazines. This is time consuming and competition has increased over the past year, although I may try again later. It is a great confidence builder to be published by someone besides myself.

With more time, my second goal is to publish more books. I’m in the final editing stages of my second book and I am editing a third book. I have a fourth book written, but it may need a lot of editing.

I plan to publish these books through my LLC, which needs to be better organized. Right now, my LLC is little more than a legal name. I need to create a more defined business structure. Maybe have meetings with myself.

My fourth goal is to leverage my LLC and put more effort into my so far futile attempt at marketing. This is the biggest unknown to me. For example, I’m supposed to have a marketing plan, but what do I put in the plan?

There is plenty of guidance and suggestions to help self-publishers market their book. However, I found that the details are unique to each book and author. I’ll probably do a blog post on marketing in the near future.

Now that I’ve written my goals, I just need to remember them.

My Editing Process

I wish there was a process. So far, it’s been a haphazard thing with me. I’ve recently settled on one process which seems to be working (for now).

For my novel, I focus on one chapter at a time. If it is a long chapter, I divide it in half. My focus consists of reading each word slowly to myself. If I hesitate, I stop and reword what I wrote. Even if what I wrote was great, if I hesitate then a reader will, too. When I’m done, I read what I wrote a little faster.

I continue this until I have read the chapter without hesitating or making significant changes. Focusing on a few pages at a time is the key along with speaking each word carefully.

A writer must take the time and focus on editing. Not dwell on the editing until the words become like salt in your eyes, but become the reader after being the writer. And don’t rush. Value is more important than speed.

Whether a writer likes editing or not, it is unavoidable and mandatory. Other, broader editing will look at the plot. But specific, focused editing will take the most time and be the most valuable.

Writers should do the majority of editing themselves before sending it to a professional editor. By editing first, the writer has a deeper look at what they wrote. They will understand their work from different viewpoints and angles. When an editor proposes changes, the writer is better equipped to decide what changes to accept.

There is no good answer to when a writer finishes editing. Just don’t let it become an obsession. When changes become fewer or the original returns, it might be a good time to say that’s enough.

Using Bad Writing for Pacing

I just read a book about writing and the author argued against adverbs and adjectives, passive words, and that these always caused bad writing and should never be used. It is true these writing imperfections can cause a reader to stop reading. But not always. Besides, what is bad writing?

Adverbs, adjectives, and passive words can be crucial to keeping the writing pace flowing without harm.

The placement of words, the length of sentences, and the thrill at the paragraph’s end makes the reader want to continue. Pacing or tempo is about altering the flow of words to highlight them enough for the reader to continue.

To explain: constant action, movement, drama, and other assaults on the senses are enjoyed by some readers. However, most do not enjoy this writing style. Readers need a break, a slow down of what is happening, and a transition to the next event. The language that some authors claim is bad writing can be important in managing the pace like a pause or a meditative breath.

I do not advocate the extended use of these bad words – they will cause a reader to stop reading. Too much of anything can be too much. However, these bad words continue to exist in the English language because they continue to have use. Besides, only the reader can decide what is bad writing.

P.S. Writing pace is important in grant writing, as well. Someone from a foundation reading a grant request does not want to read facts, data, and the desperation of need all the time.