Swooper or Basher? – Quote (77)

This is a VERY interesting quote, because it runs counter to popular creative writing wisdom. In conventional wisdom, there are no bashers; we are told we cannot bash and we must, as writers, always swoop.

I, personally, would be inclined to think of it as a scale, with a range between swoop and bash. Like a Kinsey Scale, rate it 5 at either extreme and 0 for those who do both equally. I’m a 3, maybe a 4, on the basher side. When I edit, I rarely do more than fix phraseology and grammar, and I only rarely cut and rework. If anything, I add elements for clarity and to underline connections between earlier story elements and later events.

I feel awkward when I try to swoop. I feel like I’m not writing my story, that I’m only making a big mess that will be a headache to unmess.

I would rather put a story aside than swoop ahead, and I often do, letting them sit for days or weeks or even months before the right continuation occurs to me.

I’m a basher, and if the ‘common sense’ of the creative writing community mostly doesn’t think I should exist, it’s a great comfort to know a writer of Vonnegut’s caliber recognized that writers like me do exist.

Mark Anthony Books


“Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one.  When they’re done, they’re done.” — Kurt Vonnegut

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8 thoughts on “Swooper or Basher? – Quote (77)

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  1. This reminds me of the pantser – plotter theory. If I had to say where I sit (using the system you explained) on both I’d say I’m a about a 3 the towards Plotter, and a 2 towards Swooper.

    I reckon the trouble in these paradigms would come (as it does in most anything) from being too far towards either extreme. If I bashed and never swooped, my word count would suffer, and I’d be forever going back to change things as ideas developed. If I swooped and never bashed, it would end up as 200,000 words of complete turd. Same with plotting and pantsing; if I always flew by the seat of my pants I’d never get to a satisfying climax, and pacing would plod (GRRM?). If I did the opposite I’d never have any spark of life in my work, no surprises for me or my readers…

    Moderation, in all things but whiskey. *coughs*

    1. I’ve run across the concept, but for some reason I’ve never seen it as “pantser-plotter” before. I’m a total pantser, which might be why my plots tend to be pretty straightforward. Or maybe it’s because there’s only so much room for a twisted plot in short stories… nah, it’s my pantsing. I’d call myself a 4 as a panstser. I’m aiming to scale back to around a 3. I enjoy writing by the seat of my pants and it suits me, I think… but a teensy bit more planning where I’d like things to go would probably be a good thing for my stories.

      1. Haha you could go the path of the “fine damnit, I’ll put on some pants if it makes you happy”-er: you pants the first draft, then do a heap of planning for how to re-write it. I kind of have to pants a bit at the beginning, because there’s just not enough world building done yet.

        Anywho, good luck mate!

  2. I’m almost a pure basher. For fiction, it is painstaking being that way. However, My studies were all in poetry. Line by line. Word by word. You cannot “swoop” a poem. My novel series is about 150K words, all “bashed.”

    1. Poetry is definitely not my thing… but now you’ve got me wondering if somewhere there isn’t a poetry swooper, and how exactly that could work. I have to admit it’s not easy to imagine.

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