On a panel at this year’s Creative Ink Festival, three of us talk about planning processes for strong narrative structure.
The first describes himself as a “pantser”. He writes what comes next, and doesn’t worry about outlines. He thinks hard about his story and its turnings; he doesn’t write it all down.
The second is a “move sections around” writer, who, like Truman Capote, believes in the scissors over the pen. She writes great scenes, trusting her inner writer that they’ll fit into the plot and move it forward. Her inner writer doesn’t let her down.
I’m the third writer on the panel. I’ve tried pantsing and moving scenes around. These approaches brought me no success, because I needed to strengthen my understanding of storytelling. I read, digested, applied and analyzed everything available on narrative structure. Now, I outline everything. Story, scenes, character arcs for everybody. I do this partly because I want to go to my drafting desk ready to write, partly because I love outlining like the first Greeks loved Prometheus’s gift of fire, but mostly because the criticism that I used to get from editors was, I can’t tell what this story is about.
As I gaze at the two gifted writers beside me I reflect that each of our approaches to story planning involves a confident understanding of narrative structure, and careful use of available writing and planning time. What a pleasure to know that some aspects of writing come naturally to each of us, and that the rest may be learned.
I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.
From Pulp Literature Press:
If you’re a fan of Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, you may enjoy her pocket-sized writing guide The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.
From Pulp Literature Press