E.B. White was not a pantser

From “The Elements of Style”:

“A basic structural design underlies every kind of writing. Writers will in part follow this design, in part deviate from it, according to their skills, their needs, and the unexpected events that accompany the act of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur. This calls for a scheme of procedure. In some cases, the best design is no design, as with a love letter, which is simply an outpouring, or with a casual essay, which is a ramble. But in most cases, planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing. The first principle of composition, therefore, is to foresee or determine the shape of what is to come and pursue that shape.”

That’s all fine and good except when your idea is so nebulous that pinning it down to begin any kind of structure is an exercise in futility, or frustration, or both. I recently decided to try Scrivener. I had been hearing so much about it, even wrote about it on this blog and had the creator of it write back, and one year for NaNoWriMo, the prize for finishing was a trial version which I never got because they were only doing Mac versions at the time. Well now there’s a PC version (yay) and it’s allowing me to write in snippets, and hopefully at some point I’ll be able to put it all together and find that “plan” that White is talking about. I definitely do like a plan. But sometimes I have to do a lot of writing before I can determine the shape of the thing and put a plan in place.

[Image from Wikimedia Commons, “Syna Marburg”]

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5 thoughts on “E.B. White was not a pantser

  1. injaynesworld says:

    I’ll have to check it out. I got used to plotting out detailed outlines with I was writing for television because an story outline had to be approved before you were allowed to go to first draft. But I haven’t written anything that lengthy in a long time.

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