September 22, 2018

Writing is an Art Form. Treat It Like One.

Human beings are fascinatingly creative creatures, coming up with a number of different art forms, from theater to dance to music to sculpture and two-dimensional art. Let’s focus on that last category for a moment: art on a flat surface. Here, we find all sorts of mediums, genres, and subject. By medium, I mean drawing (which can be made by pen and ink, oil pastels, or pencils), painting (oil, tempera, acrylic, and even spray paint), collage, photographs, and so forth; if we wanted to go further with medium, we might even include what the art is done on—paper, canvas, or even the walls of a building. By genre, I mean the loose and nebulous ways we categorize a “type” of art as: abstract, impressionistic, purely decorative, murals, comics, and so forth. And as for subject, the sky is the limit, from landscapes, still life, and portraits to superheroes (a favorite subject of comic book art), dreamscapes (which many murals depict), and plants (which decorate any number of household items). Two-dimensional art certainly is amazing in its variety, and we all admit it.

That is why, if you were to start critiquing a caricature artist’s drawings for their unrealistic anatomy, you’d sound a bit foolish. If you insisted that a photographer use certain brush strokes in his art, he’d likely wonder if maybe those paint fumes hadn’t gone to your head. If you complained that a landscape painting wasn’t telling an exciting enough story, or that a comic book panel wouldn’t look cute as wallpaper, or that a mural in a children’s library wasn’t provocative enough, you’re likely to get some strange looks (and rightly so). Basically, if you give advice or a critique for one sort of two-dimensional art and act as if it applies to all two-dimensional art, you’re going to sound like a raving lunatic at best and an arrogant snob at worst.

And it’s the same thing with writing advice!

September 4, 2018

Outlining for the Pantser, Plantser, and Panzer

Writerly types will often ask, "Are you a planner or a pantser?" Planners outline and plot out their stories before writing, with a clear end goal. Pantsers, on the other hand, fly by the seat of their pants (hence the name) and write without a plan. Some people consider themselves "plantsers", planning some things while also doing whatever they feel like. Full confession: I first heard "pantser" as "panzer", like the tank, and thought, "Heck yeah! I ride over the writing process and destroy everything in my path! I'm a panzer". I'm not sure that still isn't an accurate description.