Welcome back folks. I know I slowed down, but there are real reasons… one is the infamous carpal tunnel which is a real pain (literally). The other is that I was (and still am) busy writing. Re-Writing/Polishing my novel and… drum roll… plotting for the follow-up. During these past weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about two books that I read (as have many more…). The more I thought, the more I remain undecided, and perhaps that is exactly the essence of this post. The books in question?
Two worthy opponents, and if you read them both, you’d know that they represent two pretty much opposite approaches to writing. Or, do they?…
If you want a one liner to describe the above statement consider the title “Pantsers (King) Vs. Plotters (Brooks)”.
Mr. Brooks, in his book hypothesizes that every (Good) novel is built. Built using a well-defined architecture, using clearly defined competencies. He dedicates the book to walk one through these. As King wrote his book earlier, Brooks makes a few references to his book as how you should not go about writing.
Mr. King on the other hand, in his unique way, shows us how he created some of the best literary creations and makes a point of focusing on the actual writing process. Where Larry Brooks sees building blocks, Stephen King sees a table and a quiet room. Where Brooks talks about competencies, Kind provides the analogy in the title of this post.
So, Literature is like archaeology, is it, Mr. King?
Let me tell you about my writing coach Christina Ranallo. In these past weeks, I spent a lot of time doing the re-write of my first novel. I wrote the novel after plotting it from A to Z (Yes, I’m a plotter). When I typed those wonderful words at the end of the manuscript “The End”, I knew it was merely the end of the first draft and the next step would be to go back to square one and “clean it up”. Remove this, add that, “fix some stuff”, plug holes and so much more.
But what was more important than anything really was, to make sure that what comes out is my story.
Larry Brooks talks a lot about plot and I totally agree. Any good novel you ever read contains a plot that can be clearly outlined. He goes on to say that regardless how you wrote, whether you plotted before writing word one, or just wrote at the seat of your pants, if you ended up with a good story, it would have a clearly outlined plot. He’s right there as well.
Stephen King says that one should write his heart out, slowly uncovering a story that already exists. Like an archaeologist. One layer after the other.
It was working with Christina from the inception of the concept of the novel, through plotting it (as Mr. Brooks preaches) and all the way to uncovering the story (as per Mr. King’s school), that brought me to the realization that there is no clear winner to this debate. Mr. Brooks is right. You need a plot. Mr. King is right. You have to uncover your story.
So many of us write a lot of words. We fill out pages with beautifully compiled text. But are we really writing a story? A novel?
Where both are great experts, and I say that with all due sincerity, Christina says something simple – You can’t sell an unwritten manuscript. Whether you plot your heart out or seal yourself off for eight months, you have to FINISH your work. Once you finish your book, make sure you uncovered your story. Make sure it includes the major components every good novel has.
I sure hope I did all I could. Just a few more steps. It IS a learning experience and once I get the first one through them all, the next ones should be better and faster.
Did you read these books? Do you have a winner? Care to share your thoughts?