This week I won’t be able to do a “Writing Mistakes” post on Monday (fingers crossed for Wednesday), so this will have to fill in.
I was doing my daily Goodreads (link to profile) browsing when I came across a very interesting conversation between writers. It was based off a quote from the great George R.R. Martin:
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners.
The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up.
The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.”
This set me to thinking about the way I write, and it made me realize: I’m an odd combination of both.
When it comes to telling a story, I really can sit down and just let the story take me wherever it wants to go. That’s how I wrote the first half of my novel In the Days when I started it all those long years ago. I knew where it was going, but I had no idea how I would get there, what would take me there, or who I would meet along the way. All I knew was that I had this character, Deucalion, who had to somehow make it to the end of the book.
Or did he? Could I kill him off a-la-Senor Martin? Would he HAVE to survive? Truth be told, I had no idea what would happen, but the story just flowed when I sat down to write.
Of course, as I wrote, I found that more and more things needed to be planned and laid out. I added interesting plot twists, intriguing actions in the background that had to be justified, and explanations for what happened in the story. I could have come up with them on the spot, but I think I would have missed a few had I not written them down.
This is where the architect-style writing comes in handy. Being able to lay out a clear structure or framework for the story helped me to keep track of all of the important details, and I could add or remove as I went.
“I knew how Grak would end when I made my outline and I knew major points along the way. However, as is the way of nature, strange things started popping up that are quite crucial to the development of the character, but which were never part of the outline. They just sort of came to me suddenly when I started on the chapter.”
He sounds a lot like me, creating a rough outline of where things go, but letting the story sort of tell itself as it progresses.
Is there a right or wrong way to write?
In an article posted on Fantasy Faction, there was an interesting point about how the two types of writers tend to stick to different styles of writing.
For police procedurals, thrillers, mystery novels, and pretty much any story where detail is of paramount importance, architects tend to rule supreme.
For fantasy, stories of epic adventures, and stories where little details may not be as important, that is the gardener’s realm.
So which are you?