Architects and Gardeners


Earlier today, I read a post that focused on the two stereotypical types of writers: architects and gardeners.  The architects, as you might guess, like to plan everything ahead of time and have an outline for everything.  The gardeners “plant” an idea and wait to see how it turns out.  I would put myself more in the gardener category, because my normal writing plan consists of me thinking about how I want to begin the story (which is the hardest part) or writing a random part of my story arc and then coming up with a new idea and running with it.  Over and over again.  My characters have evolved greatly in the process, and one of them went from being an exiled guide to a warrior to a princess to a girl on her way to insanity to what she is now–a warrior daughter of a tribal chief who thinks she’s going insane.  I may have skipped over a few things, but I have the whole list written down somewhere.  If my characters and book series were a plant, it would look positively strange, what with all the ideas piled on top of each other and/or growing over other ideas.

I hate outlining stories, unless I’ve already thought of the whole plot (which has only happened once).  As a result, I haven’t outlined my book series.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure what all is going to happen in book one, as I finally started writing on the 12th.  After a year and a half of planning, all I have is a the “official” prologue that I haven’t edited yet and an accordion folder full of story/character ideas & maps.  My problem is, the characters are so developed in my mind after over twelve months of “cultivating” them, that I have no idea how to introduce them to others.  One of my favorite characters (yes, a writer can have favorites) switches sides halfway through the series, but I only know how to write him after he’s become one of the good guys.  I can’t picture him as twisted and evil because in my mind, he’s moved past that point.

This is why I need to become an architect who loves gardening.  I need to create blueprints of my plotlines and choose how my characters interact/meet each other, determining who they are and how to introduce them before worrying about how to actually write them.  Here’s my proposed process for myself:

1) Plan out who the characters are.
2) Determine when the characters meet each other and how they interact.
3) Find where they fit in the plotline, including changes with the moral compass of various characters.
4) Introduce them to the readers in a way that doesn’t seem like I know them way better than anyone else.
5) Incorporate all of this into the story.
6) Get a friend to read it and see if it all makes sense/is paced accordingly.

This is what I want to do for my book, but what about all you other writers and authors?  Strategize a way to tackle your book(s), but do it in a way that allows you to plan out what it will be, your inner architect shining through.  When your ideas grow, however, your “plant” might be a little different than previously anticipated, the natural gardener inside you coming to life.  So what will your story look like?  Will it look like this clean and organized blueprint?

Will it look like an overgrown garden with ideas sprouting everywhere?

Or will it look like a mix of the two?  You’re the author–this is your story.  Plan it out and let it grow wild.



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