This is a part of a seven part Q&A with Eric Witchey, interviewed by M.K. Martin. To see the introduction to this craft talk series click here. To read Part 5 click here.
M.K. Martin: Many writers are very resistant to plotting, planning, etc. preferring to fling themselves into the stream of inspiration and hope for the best. How do you maintain the spontaneity and mystery of writing while crafting a well-structured story?
Eric Witchey: I get a kick out of this question. I get asked it, or a variation on it, a lot. The question comes from the illusion that I teach linear and structured development to the exclusion of spontaneous and inspired development. That illusion comes from the teaching environment forcing the presentation of concepts in a sequence.

Eric Witchey signing his novel Bull’s Labyrinth at Writing on the Sound, 2017

I teach “fiction fluency.” I show people techniques they can practice. No two writers come to the classes needing the same techniques. Some arrive in class with perfect pitch for dialog, but they might not “know” what to do when their dialog breaks because they need to “feel” it. I give them techniques they can practice until they have internalized the technique to the point where it comes out spontaneously in their fast, intuitive composition.
That same writer may have trouble with climaxes or endings because their intuitive approach can give them perfect scenes but not an organic development of underlying themes that carries from scene to scene and accumulates into a profound moment for the reader (see Vronsky’s horse). For them, I provide tools for analysis of the intuitive work they did. With those tools, they can practice developing thematic power across many scenes (or books). Eventually, those same techniques become part of their intuitive skill during composition.
Spontaneous composition is thrilling and joyful, for sure. However, puzzling out the best path to impact on the reader can be equally rewarding in the same way putting together a jigsaw puzzle gets more exiting as the picture becomes clear. To me, the mystery of writing isn’t in the writing. It is in the relationship between the reader and the text. That is the magic. Everything else is technique, including spontaneous composition and use of the subconscious to inform story.

About Eric Witchey: Eric Witchey is known for teaching clear, useful skills that allow students to create salable fiction. His classes draw from his experience teaching at two universities, a community college, countless conferences, and in many corporate and private settings. He has sold work in ten genres with over 140 short stories and six novels in national and international markets. His work has been honored by Writers of the Future, New Century Writers, Writers Digest, Short Story America, the Eric Hoffer Award Program, the Irish Aeon Awards, among others.
His articles have appeared in The Writer’s Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and other online and print magazines. Visit Eric Witchey online at

About M.K. Martin: M. K. Martin is a motorcycle-riding, linguistics nerd. A former Army interrogator with a degree in psychology, she uses her unique knowledge and skill set to create smart, gritty stories that give readers a glimpse into the darker corners of the human mind. Find out more at