On my stream of tweets that I follow, there's a bunch that are tips, quotes or advice about writing. I'd also recently been interviewed (I'll be sure to let you know when that interview is posted to the web) and I'd been asked advice on writing and/or the writing scene.
Know what I've found? Not surprisingly, there's a lot of conflicting advice. For example, when I had the good fortune to meet Isaac Asimov (see here & here) I walked away from his lecture with this wisdom: Think of a great ending first and then write until that ending is reached. Sound advice from a master of the craft. And yet, here's another tip from author Rose Tremain: In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.*
Well, gee, which is it?
I can see the case for both. It's important to know where you're headed in a story... but you need to be able to take detours. Characters are very often tricky in that they've reserved a whole ball of wax that can be fashioned into the very light of the tale. Sometimes it's planned guesswork.
I also recently (on Twitter) read that I should give myself a ritual...for the discipline of creating a mindset...yada yada yada. I don't disagree with it, I can see the potential. But upon following this advice I found it did nothing for me.
We should create lush and rich descriptions of the landscape and the interior of a room, for it paints the mood and infects the reader with the very environment of the novel. No, sorry, that does nothing but bore the reader into putting the book down. Adamantly. On both views. Depends on who you ask.
Obviously, then, it comes down to whatever works for each particular author.
* Thanks to Jon Winokur @AdviceToWriters for tweeting that!