I am a huge fan girl of Larry Brooks over at Storyfix.com. (You should be too. Go check it out and then nominate him for your favorite writing blog.) He’s a huge proponent of story architecture, which–next to Debra Dixon’s GMC–has been the single most illuminating craft concept I’ve ever read.
Because he advocates something that falls in to the Planning, Not Pantsing school of writing, he has inevitably stepped on the toes of some rabid pantsers. Someone apparently even decided to call him a prick. I guess that person is of the same ilk as the students I have who get upset that I actually expect them to work in a college class. The whole thing has me thinking again, as I often do, about why people get so…riled up about this idea.
It seems, very often, (though not always) that these rabid pantsers are new writers. I say that because I don’t think most people, when they decided “hey I want to write a book” usually sit down and plot it out, figuring out all the aspects of craft ahead of time. Most people, when they decide they want to write a book, are spurred on by passion. And taking time to learn craft and all the nuts and bolts of the trade, would (they assume) diminish that passion. So instead, they jump right in and go. And in the process they inevitably manage to break a lot of rules, violate a lot of genre or publishing standards, and they think that that’s okay. They’re going to be different. They’re special. They are creative and that glorious creative spirit is somehow going to make them shine from the slush pile such that some lucky editor is going to offere them a 6 figure contract immediately.
I think it’s a very hard thing for the new writer to be forced to wake up from this dream. It’s very personal for them because they feel like they’re being told that they (rather than their manuscript) are not good enough. And I think too that some people are attracted to the idea that writing is this independent, different, don’t have to go by the rules profession. So when someone wiser or more experienced breaks it to them that, sorry, there are rules, it’s like having the rose colored glasses ripped off and obliterated. The natural response is vehement denial. And it’s not until they pass that initial response (and it may take a great deal of exposure, and in some cases they may never accept it) that they are in a position to see the profession for what it is and start learning the rules and the anatomy of what makes a marketable book.
There are, certainly, some writers who manage to remain pantsers all through their professional careers. I think these are the ones who intuitively understand the concepts outlined in story archicture. They naturally think with that kind of structure, so they can get away with not planning ahead or outlining in any formal way. I would have to say that I think those people (the professionals) are in the minority.
In any event, we all know which side of the fence I fall on.
Tomorrow is supposed to be my self imposed marathon to try to get the trials down. When I planned to do that, it was because I didn’t know what the trials WERE and I’d hoped that simply sitting down and pantsing them would jog some plot loose. Since I did actually manage to outline them all, I’m not sure that I’m going to hold myself to pushing through them specifically or if I’m just going to have a marathon to write as much as I can, period. The point is word count. We’ll see.
I must go churn out a minimum 250 for NPI before I get going today.