3 Theses, 3rd Thursday: On Writing

Sometimes I have discussions that lead to articles here on my blog. For example, the difficulties of teaching notetaking began life during a discussion in the off-topic channel of the Obsidian.md community discord. My write-up on why I like “writing to formula” was born out of a discussion with other members of my writing group.

Sometimes, these discussions lead me to articulate thoughts that don’t justify being fleshed out into a whole, like, thing, though. Which leads me to what I hope will be my new monthly feature:

3 Theses, 3rd Thursday

I don’t generally like to give writing advice — I like to leave that sort of thing to the giants, like Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal and, you know, people with a bunch of credentials to their name. But occasionally I get asked an opinion question about writing, or the philosophy of writing comes up in conversation, and I can be convinced to opine on the subject.

Are science fiction and fantasy essentially the same thing?

I think this depends on what you define as “the thing.” Space Opera and hard science fiction and military science fiction and Napoleonic wars in space are all fundamentally different genres in and of themselves. Urban fantasy is different from epic fantasy is different from grimdark. I’ll grant you that they’re all speculative fiction, but the same? That seems like a deliberately obtuse position. Genres have conventions, and science fiction and fantasy generally have different conventions even though there can be overlap and blurriness.

Is “plotting vs. pantsing” even real? 

I feel like there are people who impose a story structure first, people who structure their story last, people who structure their story iteratively, and people who don’t structure their story at all. Although some people structure their stories instinctively, and others do it explicitly, most of the people who don’t structure their story at all don’t get published.

Which is better: dry, minimalist prose or lush, lyrical prose?

I prefer whichever style suits the pov character / narrator best. I prefer prose that has strong voice, whether that’s something lyrical like Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart or something super minimalistic and to-the-point like Glen Cook‘s Black Company — although one of my favorite things about the Black Company books is how different they are depending who is the Annalist at the time.

Have an opinion on the subject? Let me know in the comments — I’m curious to know where y’all stand on these “Perpetual Arguments.


Eleanor teaches Ancient Civilizations and spends the bits of time left over writing stories that bring history -- and magic -- to life. She enjoys rock climbing, bullet journaling, & gardening focused on plants you can actually eat.

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