Every so often, I find myself quoting the author W. Somerset Maugham, who once said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

I thought of that Saturday while attending a “Writing Children’s Books” Workshop at Georgia Writers Museum. The workshop featured four successful children’s book authors, speaking about different aspects of writing, illustrating, and publishing. Their presentations included their own personal stories – how they got started, what inspired them, and best practices based on their experiences.

Something I found especially interesting – and that made me think of that Somerset Maugham quote – was how contradictory their stories and experiences were, in spite of everything they had in common. Although their goal was to publish children’s books, each of them had taken different paths to publication. And in some cases, those paths ran in completely opposite directions. So in addition to all the writing and publishing ideas and advice I got from the workshop, I gleaned two other major takeaways from it.

One was the reinforcement of something I’ve always known as a writer, which is that there’s no one-and-only right way to do it. (Or three, as Maugham pointed out.) I’ve seen many writers struggle – and have often been there myself – with whether a story is better told in first person or third, whether different sections need to be expanded, tightened up, or left out entirely, and whether different feedback and suggestions are worthwhile and should be listened to and acted on, or should be disregarded and dumped.

The other big takeaway is one that’s important for all of us, not just writers. It’s the understanding that just because one person is right, it doesn’t make the other person wrong – even if their beliefs and experiences are the complete opposite of each other. And even if they both want the same thing, but disagree on how to get it.

I think that’s been forgotten by many people today. Too many have the firm conviction that they are right, and anyone who doesn’t agree with them is not only wrong, but stupid. Or misinformed. Or evil.

I think there are three rules for correcting this. We all simply need to remember that:

  1. Something that’s right for you may not be right for someone else.
  2. You can both be correct, even if your plans and priorities contradict theirs.
  3. We can all learn a lot more by listening to others than by attacking them.

I hope W. Somerset Maugham would agree.

August 22, 2022
©Betty Liedtke, 2022

I welcome your comments, but please be aware that all comments will be moderated and approved before appearing on this blog. This is to protect all of us from unwanted spam.