Linda Maye Adams

Writing Process is not the Same Thing as Writing Craft


When I was trying to figure out what was wrong with my writing, I took a lot of writing workshops. There are several places you can go and find a ton of courses on every imaginable writing subject.

I tried screening them where I could. You know, checking to see if the writer had more than one book out, and later, if the writer was an outliner or a pantser, a person who doesn’t outline.

There was one workshop that had three levels:

  1. The cheapest: you got the printed material.
  2. Participate online with other writers taking it.
  3. Critique from the author offering the course.  This was pretty expensive.

The writer only had two books out, so she wasn’t that experienced, though her course was getting raves from other writers. Even opinions from other writers is not always a good recommendation, because sometimes they think “Published” makes the person an automatic expert.  A person with only a few books out is still new at craft.

I was curious enough to pay for the first option, and it was “Meh.” Very superficial. It also did what all of these other courses did:

Taught writing process as craft.

They’re not the same thing.

Craft is like learning what a story is (which is not easy to do), or characterization, or pacing.

Process is how you get there, or your approach to building the story. It’s how much you know about the story, or don’t know about the story. It’s the order you build it, and how you build it, like writing thin and filling it in or writing too much and cutting it.

But a lot of writers mistake process for craft.

That’s where pantsing a book or outlining one comes in. How often have you seen a blog post or a craft book say that pantsers don’t have plot because they don’t outline?

One of the things that struck me was a writing coach who was selling a outlining process.  He pounded his fist and said quite loudly over and over that pantsers books were always a mess and they never worked.  Evidently, it never occurred to him that it might be a problem with the writer not getting what a story is.

This is one the reasons it’s really important to find other pantsers because the outliner writers will always blame the process.

8 Comments

  1. I had to look up what a pantser was, and it’s me! I never could outline anything. Even in college when I needed to turn one in for a paper, I’d write the rough draft first then turn in the outline created from the draft. It was the only way I could create an online.

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    • I’m lucky I missed that requirement in school!

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  2. I hear that panster is a great source to use. I will check that out. I’m glad that you experienced other writing avenues.

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    • Just keep your filters on when it comes to pantsers. If it’s coming from a writer who defaults to outliners, they probably aren’t going to understand what you do very well. They’re always going to frame it from their understanding outlining, which means they won’t see how it works.

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  3. livrancourt

    You’re making an interesting distinction, one I hadn’t really considered. You’re right, though. There’s a difference between how you approach story construction and what you do with the words on the page. They’re related, but if an instructor starts by telling you your process is wrong, then you’re in the wrong class.

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    • The problem is that there are a whole lot of wrong classes. It’s commonly how a lot of them teach. I went to two of the sites that are popular for their classes, and every one of them taught process as craft. I finally found an instructor who taught craft, and his comments were that there were many different ways to write, and you can get there anyway way you want, but here are the craft elements publishers look for.

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      • livrancourt

        That sounds like the smartest way to approach it.

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