Writer collections are pockets of “every book fits this mold”. It’s fairly common to see these pop-up as text references and infographics. While these writer collections might be helpful at first glance, they also have a hidden danger. In a recent Youtube broadcast, my favorite author (Brandon Sanderson) said that there is a difference between writers who are cook’s and chefs.
- A cook writer is concerned about following a recipe of success.
- A chef writer is concerned about why the ingredients are in the recipe.
The big difference between these two approaches is that the chef writer requires more background into why components work together. A chef writer is going to know the equivalent of ‘if it grows together it goes together’ in the writing approach. By instinct they will know that mystery novels require a different type of intricate plot than a fantasy novel. That means that the story might be more focused on discovering motive (mystery) versus developing motivation (fantasy). So if a chef writer stumbles upon a writer collection that says each book needs a ‘man loves woman’ romantic involvement, they know how a murder motive (jealousy) is going to play out. They also know that a romantic involvement may provide the hero with a ‘save the damsel’ quest (fantasy). However, a cook writer will read the romantic involvement and make a typical “hero falls for beautiful woman, they live happily ever after”. None of these approaches are wrong, but the chef writer is using the advice to build further tension in their books. The cook writer is trying to use the advice as a means to be successful.
Therein lies the biggest difference between these two types of writers. One is trying to build fantastic books, the other is trying to be successful at any cost. As you can imagine, you can’t become successful without fantastic books, so the cook writer is going to have a harder time.
Realizing the craft of writing is understanding how each component works. That is when to ignore a writer collection. If it doesn’t help you understand why a writing component works with other things, it may not be as useful.