Sometimes it feels like I’ve been in a street fight for the last 30 months.
Pantsers vs. Planners. Jets vs. Sharks. Right vs. left. Good vs. Evil.
You would not believe — I’ve only shared a sliver of it — the vitriolic venom sent my way when I’ve suggested that there exists an underlying, matrix-like set of structural principles and aesthetic sensibilities that, like the Gods looking down from Olympus through their enchanted reading glasses, determine the fate (readability, publishability) of our stories.
I’ve been misunderstood. And indeed, I’ve been guitly of misunderstanding. And… I’ve been overwhelmingly reinforced by a small army of writers who get it.
My position has… softened. I’ve realized that the “fight” isn’t what I thought it was. That there is significant gray imbued in all of this discussion about the writing process.
But there is no gray at all in the truth about what makes a story tick, and the precision of that truth. We don’t get to define, or reinvent, the word “tick” in this context. Not if you intend to throw your story out there with the intention of finding an audience.
I think I stumbled up on it. I wrote it in my post of two days ago. One sentence. Not planned, but totally pantsed in the throes of writing that post. Here it is again, slightly paraphrased for even further clarity. It bears repeating.
It warrants posting on your computer, maybe tattooing onto your body if you’re still confused:
Write your story however you need to write it, process-wise. But don’t turn a blind eye to what’s true about the story itself, however you get there. About what the story demands from you before it will work.
Which means that, at the end of the day, planners and pantsers are two names for the very same pursuit. Same game, different paths and styles. But there is only one finish line.
So I’ll stop the divisive ratta-ratta if you will.
Like many Epiphanies, the problem is simplied when clarified. And the polarization vanishes like smoke blown away in a relieved sigh of recognition.
I still have strong opinions about the creative process.
You can build a castle with a blueprint and a forklift, or you can built it one handful of sand at a time. The latter may be more romantic, it may be the only way you can wrap your head around it, but that doesn’t change the above Epiphany.
I still beleive that the more one understands those principles and criteria, the more the writer will be prone to plan, or at least realize the “search for story” in real-time, rather than continue to just write with blind trust that there is some muse sitting on that Olympus cloud that will show you the path. Or at least how your story will end.
Either way, though, the truth is clear. Only the path remains shrouded in an intoxicating mist.
If you’d like to learn more about the principles and criteria mentioned in this post, CLICK HERE. My little Epiphany changes nothing that I’ve written in that text. Or dive into the roughly 300 other posts on this website that scrutinize and contextualize them.