Writing can be a little bit of an abstract concept. When we think of a writer sitting down at the typewriter, smoking a cigarette, crumpled pages strewn across the floor, a rush of madness and imaginative spark, a wild inspiration…. we are thinking of FREEWRITING. But writing is a whole lot more than that. What about the aftermath of freewriting? It usually isn’t sending it right to our agent or publisher. No. It’s cleaning up the words that spilled over the edges of the pages, the scenes that don’t fit, and adding new layers of nuance with every chisel we make.
There is a reason that books like Save the Cat are popular. No matter how much a free spirit you are, there is a bit of a formula to writing (just like in math). And you can adapt any formula to suit your needs. For example, my WIP is NOT a fantasy novel, but I used the “master outline,” available on the website, Better Novel Project, to help me map out my beats. While her website deconstructs fantasy novels, I felt comfortable adapting the outline to my book. I used my writer’s brain to take what I needed and throw out the rest.
Many of us know that there is a collective unconscious, and that humans crave both newness and familiarity. There is a reason why so many are obsessed with pot-boiler detective novels. Because while each mystery they contain might be new, they all hit similar beats. It’s like a hug to the reader.
I know that there is much debate about pantsing vs plotting. Personally, I am a plotter. But here is the real secret: Even a panster will eventually have to sit down and take all of their notes and jumbled scenes and make sense out of them. I just like to do that in a much earlier draft. No shame either way! Writing is writing is writing. We might show our work a little differently, but we all arrive at the “right” answer for our piece.