Planned Out In Your Coconut? Put Your Ass In The Chair.

I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it, I just hope you haven’t said it: “I haven’t written anything yet, but I have the whole book planned out IN MY MIND.” I’m sorry, but cue me rolling my eyes into the back of my head, sticking out my tongue, and playing possum (bad manners depending on the company you keep). I’ve heard this said on blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, hell, in person… and it makes me a little sick to my stomach every time. Or maybe what makes me sick is the way it’s said, like having something “planned out” (in your  head, of all things, not even in an outline!) is some giant step toward literary gold. Well, I guess maybe in a way it could be. I’m sure Harry Potter was once but a tiny seed of thought in J.K. Rowling’s brain… except probably not. Worlds like that don’t just come from thinking about them. Neither do characters. They come from planning, yes, but there’s no way in hell you can plan and revise the plan and plan some more without writing stuff down; and you certainly can’t plan an entire book, let alone an entire series in your puny little brain. Sorry, but your brain is just too puny. My brain is puny too.

Chuck’s below article delves into this very topic. Well, sort of. He talks about what it means to actually put words to paper and how that’s supposed to actually happen. It’s a great read, and if you’re the guy who’s got a ten book series planned out in your melon, it’s one you should give a look-see.



Writer and writing teacher J. Robert Lennon wrote a post recently, “The Ass-In-Chair Canard,” which takes aim at that oft-uttered snidbit of writing advice, a piece of advice seemingly universal across all those writers who dare to give advice on the subject of writing:

Put your ass in the chair and write.

Regarding that piece of advice, Lennon says at the fore of the post:

It goes without saying this is an incredibly vapid cliché, and one that should never be repeated, if only for fear of boring one’s listeners to death. “How to write: write.” Uh huh. But its implications run deeper than that: the phrase is in fact an insult to almost everyone who has ever struggled with the creative process, and as a teaching tool is liable to do more harm than good. It embraces several dangerous lies: that writer’s block is the result, first and foremost, of laziness; that writing (indeed, any creative pursuit) is like any other form of labor; and that how hard you work on something is directly correlated with how good it is.

He is both very right and terribly wrong all at the same time.

How is that possible? Is he like the Schroedinger’s Cat of writing teachers? Trapped in the infinite uncertainty of his classroom, caught between both being totally right and terribly wrongall in the flux of the same quantum moment? Sadly, it’s less exciting than all that.

Read the rest of Chuck’s article…


2 thoughts on “Planned Out In Your Coconut? Put Your Ass In The Chair.

  1. I may get the entire concept mapped out in my head, but the only thing I’ve ever been able to completely plan out – I mean COMPLETELY, dialogue and all – is a scene. Upon writing that scene, the next scene may begin to play out for me, but if I never started writing it, it would always remain just that; a scene and a concept.

  2. Reblogged this on alaskab and commented:
    Yes. Words, words, words. Writing is sitting at a laptop or electronic device (and/or laptop if the preferred is available) and bleeding. Holding a pen is waging a war against yourself.

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