It is Friday, and so it is time for a quote from a famous writer.
There are people on both sides of the outlining approach to writing. George R.R. Martin describes it this way:
I’ve always said there are – to oversimplify it – two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail… the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up. I think all writers are partly architects and partly gardeners, but they tend to one side or another.
In another interview he clarifies which way he tends toward:
I hate outlines. I have a broad sense of where the story is going; I know the end, I know the end of the principal characters, and I know the major turning points and events from the books, the climaxes for each book, but I don’t necessarily know each twist and turn along the way. That’s something I discover in the course of writing and that’s what makes writing enjoyable. I think if I outlined comprehensively and stuck to the outline the actual writing would be boring.
Ultimately, there is no right way for this. Figure out what works for you. There are great and successful writers from both camps. However, I think Martin hits it on the head, that there is no one way without the other, but merely tendencies toward one or the other.
There are many who might think themselves purists, or fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants writers, or organic writers, or whatever. These writers tend to demonize outlining, and often planning, period. I used to side a lot more with that camp.
Writing this way is fun and exploratory, I suppose. It also churned out a really rambling and crappy first draft. I started developing more plot points that I was writing toward, because I realized things needed more focus, and the writing got better. Lately I have been studying plot and structure and the things that are known to be present in good fiction. The things that make good plot points, and ways to make my writing tighter.
I don’t know if I will ever be an all out outliner. I think I would tend to agree with Martin that to do this entirely would take the fun out of the writing. However, especially as a writer in progress, I think really thinking through and *gasp* planning out those plot points and major events, and maybe even some ways of getting there can be really beneficial. No matter what, you will probably discover many things, regardless of the plan. But good plots have structure.
Don’t just jump in and hope for the best, though. Most great works happen with a lot of planning, a lot of hard work, and, yes, discoveries along the way. But most likely you won’t have one without the other.