“There are many different kinds of writers, I like to use the analogy of architects and gardeners. There are some writers who are architects, and they plan everything, they blueprint everything, and they know before the drive the first nail into the first board what the house is going to look like and where all the closets are going to be, where the plumbing is going to run, and everything is figured out on the blueprints before they actually begin any work whatsoever. And then there are gardeners who dig a little hole and drop a seed in and water it with their blood and see what comes up, and sort of shape it. They sort of know what seed they’ve planted — whether it’s an oak or an elm, or a horror story or a science fiction story, but they don’t how big it’s going to be, or what shape it’s going to take.”
George R.R. Martin
When writers talk about their passion for writing I’ve heard this question asked nearly every time. Which one are you? Do you plan everything rigorously or go by the seat of your pants?
I’ve known where I lie in this spectrum for a while now, but it wasn’t until this morning that I had a solid confirmation as to what aids me the most as a writer. I remain in the middle but lean quite heavily towards the architect side of things. Let me elaborate with a story.
As I’ve mentioned on this blog I’m in the midst of writing a couple short stories. One of which, “Taming the Wild” has given me an enormous amount of trouble and frustrating nights of me banging my fists on my desk in a fit of rage. I know what I wanted to do with the story but when it came to putting my fingers to the keys and writing it out I had nothing. For anyone that’s been in a similar scenario you’ll know how horrible this can be. When you can picture it so clearly yet the words won’t come to the page.
Well, this morning, like every morning for the past two weeks, I woke at the devil’s hour of 8 am. Other than the demons and beasts of the night fleeing back to their hidey-holes I can’t imagine who is awake at such an hour. While my dog and girlfriend slept I took the peace and quiet and outlined “Taming the Wild” using broad bulleted points. I hit on all the major aspects of each scene and rounded out to the end, stumbling only once or twice.
This gives me the most information on a scene while leaving it open enough for me to deviate – add or subtract – as needed in the spur of the moment. I’ve found that as I write, being able to check off each bulleted line is a huge motivation boost. Looking at that page and seeing in an hour I’ve managed to get through a 1/3 of my outline is an incredible rush. 2,000 word flies by when some nights I struggle to hit 200.
I’ll never be the kind of writer that can take an idea and run with it unless I give it some serious thought. But at the same time a strictly solid outline that spans dozens upon dozens of pages in it’s own right holds no interest for me either. At that point you might as well add in a word here and there and submit that as your book. A slightly imbalanced middle is the best place for me to be and has produced the best results.
While not necessary in order to be a writer, knowing whether you are an Architect or a Gardener can be beneficial to a writer looking to increase his daily word output. I know it’s helped me tremendously. For now it’s back to writing, revising, and outlining.