Writing: Passion or Puzzle?

Most how-to books on writing suggest getting the first draft down as quickly as possible so that the passion shines through. This is good advice, and I would follow it if stories came easy to me, but they never do. I worried about this (for five minutes or so), wondering if my novels would feel dry and unemotional because I approach them as a puzzle, but the only difference between my way of writing and the so-called right way is that I do my thinking as I write rather than as I lbjigsawrewrite.

Is one way better than another? I don’t know, but if we accomplish what we set out to do, both the logical writers and the passionate ones can end up with interesting stories that will evoke emotions in our readers. In my case, during rewrites I get rid of much of the dryness that comes from the puzzle approach. In your case, perhaps, you lose some of that freewheeling passion when you organize what you have written into a more cohesive story.

We all have to find the best way to write. I am not condoning poor grammar, typographical errors, bad plotting, ignorance of story elements, or any of those other rules that new writers rail against. I’m talking about the fun of writing, the passion, the puzzle.

Samuel Johnson remarked, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” I guess that makes most of us blockheads, because we write knowing that except for a select group, there is little money to be made from writing. We need other reasons for spending so much time bleeding words.

For me, it’s the puzzle. As frustrating as it gets, I love figuring out plots, character’s motives, new ways of presenting common thoughts. Beats crossword puzzles any day.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

4 Responses to “Writing: Passion or Puzzle?”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    For me, writing is part passion, part puzzle, and part process. All those factors come together to allow me to write gripping tales (at least I think they’re gripping).

  2. Kathy Says:

    Interesting quote about the Blockhead – lol! I do wonder with so many people writing now – do any of us find another writer’s writing gripping? Or are we all becoming self-absorbed with our own writing the way an infant contemplates its navel? Just some of my thoughts these days…

    I am a passionate writer – my best writing stems from a strong emotion about something, If I’m not feeling it, it’s not showing up on the page. But my writing process has also evolved over the years. I’m much better at getting it right in the first draft. Oh how I wish I was that methodical, outlining, linear-writing writer. But that will give me writer’s block in no time. No each new novel I start I have to remind myself of my process and how it works for me. For some reason, after spending so much time rewriting in a linear fashion during the editing process, I forget and think my first draft should arrive that same way. Ha!

  3. Dellani Oakes Says:

    Excellent article. I am one who writes when inspired, but find myself losing momentum after a bit – unless it’s NaNoWriMo, then I do better. I have another approach which works for me. I write with the passion of the muse, but I try to write my first draft as close to my final draft as possible. I don’t ignore spelling, grammar or conventions. I do concentrate on the story and neaten things up a bit later.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I lose momentum, too, especially when I’ve figured out the puzzle and all that’s left is getting it out in the open. How else to explain my WIPs that have been stagnant for years?

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