I have been working on this first draft of my first book for some time now. And it sometimes is a real pain. Writing your first book is a process of trial and error, no matter from which side you look at it. You can be very knowledgeable or have good instincts on writing and how a good text should look like, but you don’t know what works for you. At least not exactly. There are many aspects to writing that can be done in different ways, be it worldbuilding, character creation and development or today’s subject: structure.
According to the big writing world there are roughly 2 kinds of writers: discovery writers and outliners.
Broadly spoken discovery writers write everything as it comes along. They start with a blank page and they just start writing. It is a process of discovery: what will your characters do next that you did not anticipate; and what cool event can happen next that fits the story.
Outliners on the other hand, well they outline. Or as George RR Martin calls them: Architects. They start from a high concept perspective and end when they’ve outlined the chapter so they only need to fill in the last sentences.
While discovery writing seems like a fun way to shape your book, discovering events and characters as you go, it caused me to get stuck a couple of times over and archiving about 30.000 words because it did not fit the story when I started organising it the first time. So I can safely say that I’m not a discovery writer. But because I want to have that sense of discovery while I’m creating I do not see myself as an outliner too. Where do I fit on this scale?
Tending to the Garden
Luckily author Chris Fox has the exact book which currently covers my need: Plot gardening. The first few chapters that I’ve read immediately changed the way I view my story. It brings a pleasant mix of the outliner and discovery writer archetype that I apparently needed.
Whilst professional authors in many courses or masterclasses may emphasise the word outline, I find the word structure key here. Chris mentions in the book or one of his (accompanying) videos on Youtube that he can work on preparation for a book for 8 months before actually writing it. Yes, eight months.
This small notion got me thinking and completely flipped some of my writing goals for this book. If I can prepare the basic story points that make a good and interesting story accompanied with decent characters I can fill the gaps on the way – Plot gardening.
So now what?
My goal is still to finish the book. Where my primary goal was first to finish it as fast as possible in a reasonable state preparation and structure are more important now.
I want to have a readable version by year’s end. One that can be scrutinised and feedbacked so that I can learn how and on which areas I can improve my craft. And keep writing in between, so I can experience what other aspects of the craft I prefer over others. It’s a learning process, and I hope you’ll be here next time to read about my experience.
Stay safe, stay healthy and keep on creating.