Monday, August 16, 2010

Which comes first?

I'm sure you've all heard this puzzling question: Which came first? The chicken or the egg? If you're silly (and stubborn) like I am, then you know that this innocent question can devour mountains of time as you try to sway your audience to your point of view.

As I struggle with my next writing step, I can't help but think about a similar question. Which comes first? A great story or the craft of knowing how to write well?

I believe I have a good story. Although what aspiring writer would say otherwise? I have been typing away, plunking down words for my story and I'm making progress. Slow progress in my opinion but progress nonetheless. Out of nowhere I think of this brilliant sub-plot that will add conflict, intense action, romance and it will help me avoid the "saggy middle" syndrome. Which if I'm honest, is where I was headed.

However, using my wonderful new plot requires that I go back and rewrite almost all of what I have already written. I am one of those people that loves to see the word count on the bottom of my screen climb higher and higher. Starting my story over and completely depleting my word count is very hard for me to commit to. And yet I know I need to make the changes so that my story is as good as it can possibly be.

Which brings me to my next question. Would knowing how to tackle this rewrite make it any easier? I've heard that you're not supposed to do rewrites until you're finished with a first draft. Do I "waste" my time writing a story that I'm ultimately going to change or do I stop now and fix it? I'm sure I can find these answers in the handful of writing books that I recently purchased but I seem to be three chapters in on each one of them and getting nowhere fast.

So here I sit. Staring at my computer screen and completely unsure of where to go next. Do I read all of my books first so I know how to proceed? Do I keep writing and edit later? Do I start over? Do I give up entirely and do laundry?

I'm sure there are many out there that say a good story is the most important element for a writer but at the moment, I'm wishing I had years of experience and know-how.

Which do you believe is the most important: the craft or a good story? Which is easier to overcome?


  1. If it were me I would go do laundry. But thank goodness it's not.
    I don't know anything about writting, but in the name of efficiency, I would say start over with your new, great idea.
    To answer your question, I think a good story is more important (unless you actually want to be a writer, then maybe the craft is more important). Good luck!

  2. A good story is much more important, that's what makes a person want to hear more. Just like in a movie, for it to do well it needs a good story, otherwise it can fall flat no matter who the famous actors are and how well they may be able to act.
    You can do it!

  3. Most writers I know outline on index cards the entire story before they begin writing (especially books) because of the time it takes to write each draft. It's not unusual for writers to have as many as 200+ index cards filled and actually do editing of their book by those before writing one page of a draft. In addition they will write maybe a five to ten page bio on each character before starting as well.

    I would of course advise you to finish your 1st draft the way you planned it originally. I know a lot of starting writers that never finish because they always think of something better halfway through. The sad fact is writing can be never ending because you can always come up with something new and better. If you start over after every idea you get no one would ever finish.

    When I write I usually don't map out the story on index though but I never start a rewrite until I finish my 1st draft (no matter how horrible the 1st draft may be). I do have a lot of fun in my 1st drafts but changing the direction of the story though. Basically I try and write the opposite of the reaction I would have written. So if I have one character pronounce that he is love with another character, I may have originally had them become a couple. But in the first draft I will write the opposite for fun and have the other character say "I hate you" and storm off. By writing the opposite it makes my 1st drafts become a great brainstorming exercise and I get some really great plot, character, and dialog ideas.

    Anyways...for whatever that is worth.

  4. far as your question I believe all components are important, but the most important element to a great book/movie are the characters. As long as the characters are engaging your audience will follow them through a plot and can get past craft issues. Characters trump everything.


I'd love to hear your thoughts too!