Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Writing tools #5

Today, I'd like to discuss Architects versus Gardeners and how to find a balance between them.

I'll start with a simple definition of the two.

An Architect is someone who crafts a plan and then builds their story based on this plan. A ridged Architect sticks to the plan no matter what, and often, their story suffers for it. A flexible Architect bends and alters the plan as new things arise in the writing process. Most often, their story is better off when they are flexible with it. Some people refer to Architects as Outliners, though they do their fair share of pantsing in a particular scene.

A Gardener is someone who plants a world, characters and/or setting and just lets it grow while they write. A careless Gardener allows their characters and story to run ramped regardless of the direction they move in or the size of their garden, and this, more often than not, gives the story a lack-luster conflict or a weak ending. A controlled Gardener looks at the direction their characters are growing in and tries to plan out the structure of their garden to better fit the characters. Almost always, their story has a better resolution and a stronger conflict when they plan for it. Some people refer to Gardeners as Pantsers, though they do their fair share of outlining and building when they start a particular story.

Clearly, I lean closer to the flexible Architects and the controlled Gardeners.

But why? Shouldn't everyone just do what they feel is right?

Yes to a degree, but someone needs to find a balance and always look for ways to improve if one wants to move forward.

Step one to finding balance: don't be stuck in your ways. Look across the aisle and take what works from them to make your side better.

-For Architects, this means don't be a ridged Architect. Look at what a Gardener does with his characters and story then try to make your outline more open to change. Consider starting your story without an outline or a plan. A few chapters or scenes into it take a break and write up your plans. Be open to changing them but try to keep your story moving in the same direction.

-For Gardeners, this means don't be a careless Gardener. Your story needs your full attention, not the other way around. Make plans and even though you don't always follow them, having a general idea of where to go is a good thing. Consider writing an outline before you start your story. A few chapters in, edit your outline based on the direction your characters moved in and keep reworking it like this until you reach the end so that your story feels whole and not schizophrenic.

Step two to finding balance: go to the other side. As a Gardener, write a story, even a short one, as if you were a ridged Architect. For an Architect, write one as if you were a careless Gardener. This will allow you to fully experience the other side and take what works for them back to their side.

Step three to finding balance: revise your story using pieces from the other side. When preparing for your second draft as a Gardener, outline your story and make plans for it. See if it works then go through your revisions with these changes in mind. When starting your second draft as an Architect, throw your outline aside and just rework each scene as it feels right.

Step four to finding balance: alternate structures for scenes or chapters. Scene one, write it as a Gardener. Scene two, write it as an Architect. Scene three, Gardener. Scene four, Architect. And so on. This will allow you to find your balance and improve your writing.

For me? I started out as a careless Gardener, but now, I'm more of a controlled Gardener. I still start with a magic system, the characters then the world. I still think of a really cool action scene that would take place between those characters with the magic and write that scene out. But from there, I write a simple outline by chapter title (a single line describing the event from each chapter) until I reach the end of the story. After that, I use the one page synopsis to write a quick synopsis for the whole story. I revise my chapter outline then write a quick paragraph for each scene of each chapter. (This feels more like Gardening than building) From there, I write, allowing my characters to go in the direction they so choose while keeping the story as a whole in mind. I revise my outline every so often to see where the direction of the story is headed until I reach the end.

Anyway, I hope this helps to improve your writing.

Keep working hard,

Next: One-paragraph chapter outline

1 comment:

  1. Aluenvey from Twitter here. Actually what helped me is to stop thinking of outlines as bullet points. Rather instead I nowadays might have an overall view for what the meta story is about 'the family' or character caste with a vague notion of the end. And then within that rather broad structure, I try to let them be themselves within their own diaries.

    Not sure if that makes sense.^^