My first and foremost rule for aspiring authors, new writers, or seasoned authors (so basically everyone) is that if you hear a term you don’t know from someone online (looking at you, people on Twitter giving advice to others in subjects you’ve never studied or, hell, taken the time to look up and for some reason have formed an opinion about a topic), is to GOOGLE the term!
There’s a a lot of talk about what certain things are. You’ll hear terms like “character driven” or “plot driven” novels, “plotter/planner” or “pantser” or the newer coined term, “plantser.” You’ll hear people talk about the different ways they get information when writing. You’ll hear conversations about people who “talk” to their characters, who talk to their characters, and others who have no contact with them. There are people who set out to write a book, and it follows that plan precisely. Then you have the instances where you have a clear path in your mind, and when you write your characters, the story suddenly takes wild turns.
I’m going to address what all of these terms are (and more!) as well as provide links to sources that perhaps go more in depth. Everything I talk about are things I learned while pursuing my MFA in creative writing (and my MA in publishing), from conversations with others with MFAs, other authors, people in industry, and articles (trusted) that I ever looked up at one point or another to strengthen my understanding of a concept.
New/baby authors, or even authors who have writing experience but not any in literary terms or other conversations surrounding writing, I urge you: When you read that post, Twitter thread, or blog post on what a term is or advice on how to write something unfamiliar and outside your comfort zone (maybe with another culture, ethnicity, or mental illness you don’t have, have never experienced, or have no contacts in the field about) always do you due diligence and look up professional articles to (hopefully) backup what you’ve learned from a stranger on the internet. Is it an annoying extra step? Maybe. But it’s one that is totally necessary.
Example: I see a lot of miscommunication about what a character driven novel is. (The next post will be addressing this more in depth with backup sources!) For now, I just want to point out that those saying a character driven novel is so because their characters talk to them, and they are pantsers (they do no plot and don’t know where the story is going) is totally and completely false. This important to get right because if you query and agent saying, “I have a strong character driven novel where they told me the plot, and it’s a wild ride you’ll love!” or what have you, the agent will snort, delete your query, and pass on your book. This is so crucial to get right because it affects how industry professionals see you. And it absolutely influences if they decide to work with you or not.
It takes Google, what? 00.2 seconds typically to come up with millions of sources. You type in “character vs plot driven novels” and you will, within the span of a second, have more information to either back up what you’ve read online somewhere, or you’ll find more credible sources and be able to confidently query that agent next time about you character or plot driven novel, and why it is so! (This particular difference is important to know, because many agents will come out and say on a website, tweet, or MSWL that they are seeking specific character or plot driven novels.)
The lesson? The internet is awesome. You can learn so much–quickly–about a subject you’ve never come across before. Everyone has access. The downside? Everyone has access. So what you’re reading on that Twitter thread, Facebook post, or blog or a person you don’t really know can 100% be totally inaccurate. So do your homework! Is this person qualified to be talking about this subject? If they aren’t or you aren’t sure, have they included articles or any sources where they learned what they’re talking about? If so, give them a click! And then still do that quick Google search to make sure what you’re seeing everywhere is the same information.
If you have any questions, want to know about specific things, or need anything you’ve heard cleared up, send me a DM on Twitter!