Architects vs. Gardeners

(or Outlining vs. Discovery Writing)


I have a problem with this duality, especially when it comes to statements to the effect that discovery writing is the only pure form of writing.

To clarify the terms first of all, an outliner plans out the story before they begin writing, whereas a discovery writer just plunges in and sees where the muse takes them (they’re also called architect and gardener). While I’ve experimented with discovery writing, I’m more comfortable with outlining.

The thing is, I don’t really see too much of a distinction. Or possibly there’s just a scale between the two on which most writers fall, since an absolute approach to either would seem difficult.

When discovery writing, I don’t know that I could start out without a rough idea of where I’m ending up. And when outlining I’m generally running through the story over and over, breaking it down and making sure everything fits, and basically discovering the story as I outline.

Even when everything’s outlined it doesn’t mean it can’t change later, just that there’ll (hopefully) be fewer, and lesser, revision than might be the case for a purely discovered story.

I could, of course, be viewing the matter though the lens of my own writing style, but I just don’t see them as the distinct approaches they’re often portrayed as.

Why don’t I enjoy A Song of Ice and Fire?

Not that I dislike it, and I appreciate the skill and scope of the work, but I can’t say I actually enjoy having read it (some sections, yes, but on the whole I don’t really look back on it as being as enjoyable as other stories), and sometimes have to force myself to continue slogging through it.

It might be because I read a few too closely together. I started reading it the year before last, getting the first two books out of the library over a couple of months. Then last Christmas I got the box set of the first four books, and a couple of months later got the paperback editions of book five. So over a few months I read book three, book four, and the first half of book five (the first of the two paperbacks).

This may be the problem, in that reading over 2500 pages of anything might be too much. So I switched to some Lovecraft, then science fiction, and have the second half of book five waiting patiently for me (since my current project is epic fantasy, it’ll be a good idea not to be reading similar while working on it).

On the other hand, I seem to recall similar feelings from the first two books, which left a somewhat sour taste despite the awe. Possibly it’s the harshness of some parts of the story (let’s face it, the chances of anyone getting a happy ending are slim, and if there isn’t already, there should be a poll on how many characters are expected to be alive at the end. I’d be surprised if it’s more than a couple, and they’ll probably be heavily mutilated, physically and psychologically). Similar elements in other stories can sometimes feel the same, but never to this degree.

Ultimately, I’m not sure it matters. I don’t like it. It’s simply a matter of taste. It doesn’t mean I won’t read the rest of the series (rereading might be another matter, though), just that I won’t be looking forward to it as much as, say, the Wheel of Time. But I could feel a greater sense of relief when I do finish it, so there’s that to look forward to.

Ground rules (disclaimers) for this blog

First of all, a few ground rules of what to expect from this blog.

I frequently haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about. Don’t expect much research to go into anything I say (unless specifically stated), and I reserve the right to spout absolute rubbish on this blog (that is what they’re for, isn’t it?).

I don’t really understand how to blog. Some of my posts may well be random trains of thought with little in the way of coherence or structure.

I will probably be talking about my writing a bit. So, yes, it could get a bit self-promotional. If that kind of thing puts you off then you probably don’t want to hang around.

I guess at least a third (generously) of articles not related to writing (and possibly even those related to) will be of absolutely no interest to any given reader. I’ll try and make it clear in the title or first paragraph whether it’s something of interest.

I may not respond to all comments. I’ll try and read all, but I can tend to deliberate a lot when responding to stuff, and if I’m busy it may take me a while, or I may just forget I wanted to respond to something (or, you know, I might just not care).

I have no idea how long this will last before I run out of ideas or impetus for blog postings. I’ll try and post something once a week, and I’m hoping that’ll last more than a month, but this in no way constitutes any kind of a binding contractual oath or promise.

I don’t want to spend too much time writing (and editing, and rewriting, and tweaking, which happens a lot in my writing) so these will not be as well written as I may like them to be, and I apologize in advance for any errors.