A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Anti-Plot Writers Rant

The other day I was walking and listening to the birds sing. It’s Indian summer, you know. Then I got to thinking: What makes this business go ‘round?

I’m always thinking business because I’m a business man. But I’d just once like to think about plain old-fashioned writing, the kind I fell in love with when I was a kid. What happened to that?The hero wore a white hat and always won in the end. The cattle got to market; the detective solved the case; the runner, against all odds, won in the race. Simple. End resolved. What is all this stuff about the anti-hero winning? That jerk-off never won anything and all of a sudden he or she is the hero. What’s happening?

Well, it’s like this, dear writers. There are only so many plots. Let’s talk about this for a moment. Do you believe in destiny? Do you think that there are those who should do one thing or another and this is somehow programmed into their genes (spelled genes, as opposed to jeans)? There are many who think that anyone can write, and many entities out there that sell an awful lot of how-to books to writers desparate to believe they, too, are born with the gift. Writing ability doesn't come from a book.

I’m of the belief that, yes, anyone can write, but then there are those, who, through no visible effort, seem to be able to write circles around everyone else. Let’s, for the fun of it, call it a natural ability, shall we? These blessed few seem to get anything they write published and the rest of you, those not blessed with the writer gene, are extremely jealous. So someone devised a thing called plot. Now, supposedly, there are only so many plots that have ever been discovered and even this is in disagreement (scholars seem to disagree a lot). I’ve heard this expressed by at least five schools on creative writing. If writing well is a not, after all, a learned ability, then how do we make loads of money teaching lunk-heads to write?

But if writing is a natural ability, then that means that only certain people will be writers, right? Isn’t that pure discrimination? Well, I guess. If you can purify discrimination. But there are those who have the ability, and that’s that. Can you accept that fact? You and I know it, don’t we? I, at least, know this because I deal in such things. I know this is going to get me in trouble with those writers who love to plot their books, but I’m going to say it anyway...

“Natural-born writers don’t need a plot to write.”

There, damn it, I’ve said it. Plot-writers suck. Plot is a crutch for people who don’t have a natural ability. Plot can be taught, but natural ability cannot.

End of Plot Rant


  • At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Did anyone mention that you're an asshole?

  • At 10:06 AM, Blogger Tsavo Leone said…

    I'm curious about something, based on what you've just said here.

    If writing is a 'natural ability' as you claim, then why do your publishing brethren insist on getting their bosses to pay good money to so many truly awful authors?

    A professional coach can spot genuine talent and/or natural ability in athletes in their chosen sport... so how come Nicole Richie has a deal (I'd use Katie Price/Jordan or Jodie Marsh as examples if you were English)? Does she have some innate natural ability which only the professionals can see (sense?).

    Oh, sorry, was I forgetting that it's a business, and a great many publishers consider profit margins over content? In which case, surely your rant holds no water...

  • At 10:12 AM, Blogger s.w. vaughn said…

    A fascinating theory -- and one I'd lean toward agreement in since I write character-driven thrillers (oh yes, there is such an animal).

    Glad to see some of you publishing folks prefer depth to action, or at least a combination of the two. And I nearly mis-read the title of your post...for a moment I thought it said "Anti-Writers Plot Rant."

    Thanks for an informative blog.


  • At 8:41 AM, Blogger AnimeJune said…

    I agree with SammyK's post, although I must say I've never even considered it before I read this.

    Writers with talent write what they want to write about an idea that inspires them, and a plot forms itself naturally. They plant the seed and just go with it, and eventually a tree grows out of that seed without anyone's help.

    I guess if I want to continue with this silly metaphor, the wannabe plot-writers are those who plant an already grown sapling in the dirt and say they grew a tree.


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