Preparation! It’s the key to success in any venture. Writing is no different. There are multiple methods and styles of writing that exist. However, most writer’s have been commonly segmented into two different styles made famous by the great George R.R. Martin. According to Martin, these styles are the Gardener and the Architect (or pantsers and plotters).
Gardeners & Architects
The Gardener plants the seeds of a story, plotting very loosely if at all. Then the story evolves as they write it. Architects have to construct a blueprint to their tales. They are strong outliners who know every major aspect of their story before sitting down to craft it. George R.R. Martin considers himself a Gardener (which is crazy considering all the complex plots and storylines involved in his novels). J.R.R. Tolkien is considered to have been an Architect. Gardeners seem to be extremely strong with character stories, while Architects seem to always have strong plots.
The truth is, no writer is completely 100% one or the other but do identify more strongly with one of the two camps. For me, I’m more of an Architect. I can’t discovery write a story, much less a novel without a path forward. I need organization. I need to have a goal and direction. However, that’s not to say that I don’t exhibit traits of a gardener. I like having a strong plot foundation in which to discover who my characters are. For the most part, I kind of discovery write my characters, especially the supporting cast. I’ve found that even when I garden my way into a different plot point, I’ll try and map out the eventual conclusion. Overall, I’m about 70% Architect, 30% Gardener. Neither method is wrong. It’s all about which method or combination of methods will fit you and your personality best.
My Preparation Method
As an architect, I need to outline my direction so that I know where characters are going and what adventures they will pursue. I had not yet discovered this trait when I started my first manuscript. For my first manuscript, I know I had to have dozens of sketches and notes written down on notebook paper. I’ve collected these over the course of several years (cause we never act on our first inclination to be creative right?) It’s a mess. There are plot points and descriptions that are outdated collected with newer fresher ideas. As I forged through that first manuscript, I realized just what I was doing in a roundabout way. I was outlining by scenes and sequences.
I’ve always been a fan of movies. Who isn’t right? But I really started to appreciate them as a form of art in my latter years of High School. Movies are composed of scenes. A collection of scenes are known as sequences. When you think about it, books are the same. Movies have a finite amount of time to craft a narrative. A book does not have such restrictions.
Thinking of a book in terms of a literary movie with scenes has helped ease the process of writing. So being the architect styled writer that I am, I outline the plot by scenes and allow the characters to drive the story from that point. I don’t believe you should ever outline a novel to the plot that a book can’t breath. Maybe a meticulous outline is more your style. That’s fine. Don’t be afraid to adapt any process to fit your writing style.
Breaking everything down into scenes also makes the process so much more manageable. Compartmentalizing your story lightens the load and eases the burden. You’re not worried about the ending of the act or the novel itself. All you need to see is getting to the end of that scene. Scenes build into sequences. Sequences build into Acts. The chapters start flying by and before you know it, you’re halfway there.
So for the NaNoWriMo Challenge, I’ve drafted an excel spreadsheet of all the currently planned scenes for this novel. In total, I believe I came to 45 total scenes. Of course that will change once I start writing. It always changes once you start writing. This spreadsheet is segmented by a brief name for the scene and the Point of View character of the scene. I’ve included what type of scene it is (scene or sequel) and the three basic elements that will drive the scene (Goal/Conflict/Disaster or Reaction/Dilemma/Decision).
That may sound complex. However, there are writers who plan and outline far more than those elements. For me, that’s all I need right now. This after all will be a rough draft. The characters are going to change. The story is going to change. Once the characters are written and inserted into this world that is being created, they will dictate the narrative. Yeah, I know it sounds wild right. But that is part of the fun. You create these characters, or even worlds in the part of science fiction and fantasy writers, but then the story takes a life of its own.
So my preparation has consisted of developing a strategy or outline for how the story is to unfold. I’ve done this through scene plotting and outlining the novel by scene. But scenes alone cannot make a story. A story has to have a beginning, middle, and end right? So how did I come up with the plot for this novel? Hmmm…sounds like I’ll need to share that with you in the next post.
I’m embarking on this challenge for NaNoWriMo 2016 this November. I hope you tag along with me for the ride as I provide updates on my writing process and the challenges I encounter. You can subscribe via email to receive updates or you can simply continue to return to this site. Feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear from you! You can read previous updates at the link below.