Thursday, May 17, 2012

Discovery Writing

There are two types of writers in this world: discovery writers and outliners.  Neither camp can be considered better than the other.  Stephen King is a prolific discovery writer, while J.R.R. Tolkien was one of the world's most loved world-builder and outliner.  I cannot consider myself a full discovery writer, as I use some form of outlining in most cases, although I am closer to being a discovery writer than an outliner.  Discovery writing is the term used to describe writing with very few notes and either an extremely vague outline or a lack thereof.  It is a balanced art.  Discovery writing can make writing simple when the writer lets loose and types away without a huge amount of regard to what exactly is happening.  It can make it difficult when the writer realizes that he needs to get the plot moving before alpha readers doze off or that his pacing is cringe-inducing.  I discovery write almost all of the flash fiction that I write and usually the specific scenes of larger works, with a skeleton outline of what happens in each section, chapter, or leg of the journey.  Brandon Sanderson, an epic fantasy writer, said in a lecture that discovery writers tend to take a lot longer editing, as they tend to go off on tangents quite a bit and want to get each scene to a decent form before continuing to the next.  Unfortunately, that seems to be fairly close to the truth.  Despite this, I will continue with my writing methods until I hear overwhelming support for outlining, which I don't foresee happening.  I'm rather stubborn.  That's not to say that I'll never write a story as more of an outliner than a discovery writer, I am going to use an outline for my novel for one thing, although I don't know quite how dense it'll turn out to be.  Anyway, that's about all that I have to say about discovery writing.  Good luck to anyone reading this that is a writer or aspires to be one, whether they discovery write, outline, or do both.

Patrick Stahl

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