Tuesday, August 18, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

Writing--art or craft?

Writers argue about this almost as much as pantser versus plotter.

In order to answer the question, you first must answer for yourself what is art (versus craft). I think one of the best explanations I've read recently belongs to Rex Stout, out of the mouth of his genius detective Nero Wolfe. Here's my interpretation of that:

Most detectives work by following leads and asking questions that lead to answers. You can trace backwards--that answer was from that question, and that question was because of that lead.

(Craft, in writing, is following the rules.)

Wolfe arrives at his answers by genius or art. There is no way to trace back from the answer to anything. The answer arrives in his skull fullblown.

(Art, in writing, is when you follow all the rules and the story still doesn't work. It takes a spark of something that can't be reproduced.)

Think about trying to unmake a cake. You can't separate out the eggs, butter, and sugar, you can't work backwards, you can only separate it into crumbs. So though we crafters follow a recipe now to make a cake, nobody before the first cake knew putting eggs, butter, sugar, and flour together and baking it would result in a cake. That was art. (Yes, art is sometimes lots and lots of trial and error until you finally hit something new that works, lol.)

So writing, according to this viewpoint, is mostly craft--and good craft is vital. But the books that breathe, that have an unexpected spark of genius--those are art.

 Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.

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