Throw Away Your Handbook

I recently got into a small argument with someone who told another writer --  a young writer, no less -- they weren't actually writing a story, but rather a conglomerate of meaningless words. I immediately pushed back and stood up for this young writer. The basis for this person's smackdown? The definition of a story they pulled right out of a writing handbook.

I'm not going to say from which handbook this definition of what a story supposedly is came from. I will say that my opinion of it is pretty low now.

I went to college once upon a time and got my degree in creative writing, because I wanted to get the fundamentals down. It wasn't so that I could learn there was only one way to craft a story. A writing handbook should do the same. Any book that tells you nothing other than this narrow, strict definition equates a story or a novel should be immediately discarded.

What is a story? (from Mirriam-Webster online)

  1. archaic a :  history 1b :  history 3

  2. an account of incidents or eventsb :  a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in questionc :  anecdote; especially :  an amusing one

  3. a fictional narrative shorter than a novel; specifically :  short storyb :  the intrigue or plot of a narrative or dramatic work

  4. a widely circulated rumor

  5. lie, falsehood

  6. legend, romance

  7. a news article or broadcast

  8. matter, situation

So, basically an accounting of events in a character's life is a story. Period.

What is a novel?

Any story over 50,000 words. Period.

Never let anyone let anyone tell you that something about your writing process is wrong. If it works for you, that's all the matters. As long as your story is over 50,000, it's a novel. Don't let someone tell you it's not.

You will never catch me telling someone they don't know how to write or they don't know what they're writing. It's none of my business. You can, however, always count on me to stand up for you and your process, whatever that is.

AM