The Gift of Storytelling …the elusive X factor

Is it better to plot a book before you start writing or let it evolve as you go?  The answer is as simple as a writer chooses to make it. Both methods are useful and each has its place. Do I plot…..well sort of.  And if that sounds like a half arse answer…it actually is.

Once and once only I wrote a detailed  outline for a book. By the time I got to the end of that outline I’d killed that poor effort….a little like the fish that died of drowning. It was too much of a good thing.

When a writer gets too hung up on plotting it can kill spontaneous creativity.  And creative spark is the heart of storytelling. If writers get too engrossed in craft and technique they can forget they are story tellers.
Writers need craft skills,plot to create memorable well rounded stories. Structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary are necessary tools.  But no craft skills can supplant the elusive hard to pin down x-factor that readers and publishers seek.

This x-factor?  The gift of storytelling. How often are writers told to write the book from their heart?
When my first book was published I went its Auckland launch. All the other authors had University Degrees and letters after their names. I a mere country farmer’s wife more used to wrangling cows, kids and mud than the glitz and glamour of a book launch.

Feeling a tad inferior I said as much to a well known literary commentator. He looked at me with piercing grey eyes set under beetling brows and said, “Maybe so, my dear. But you have the edge….you are a storyteller.”
And that is something I’ve never forgotten .
Every writer needs to remember….no amount of craft or plotting can replace the spontaneity of storytelling.   

I am interested to hear other people’s views on this subject.

Published on Tuesday, September 20th, 2011, under craft plotting Story telling X-factor

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