When asked about outlines in an interview, George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, said “I think there are two types of writers: the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house… The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it…And I'm much more a gardener than an architect.”
Some authors come down very heavily on one side or the other of this issue. Some say that when you start writing, you must have an end in mind. Others say that having a strict plan is sure to produce stilted, artificial work. But most end up in the middle here with Martin. They personally lean one side or the other, but ultimately recognize that they can be shades of both, and that what’s important is what works for the individual author. To use Martin’s terms here, if you’re an architect and planning out every intricacy of the story is what works for you, go for it! And if you’re a gardener and you let your ideas take root and grow on their own, great!
Personally, I tend to be a gardener. As my mentor and friend, author Paul McComas, puts it, I “write to find out.” I feel that this method helps me produce organic fiction, where the characters develop and deepen into three dimensions and the plot is natural and surprising (even to me!) This is how I wrote Haunted. I had an idea that I wanted to write about three college friends who were interested in researching the paranormal. I had Tara, bright but troubled, Paul, a smart ass with paranormal abilities, and Steven, my viewpoint character who had a crush on Tara. I gave them something to do -- a haunted house to investigate and a question about the neurological basis of paranormal experience to research – and then let them go and wrote what happened. Everything sprung from those seeds; I just let the vines grow where they wanted.
When I started writing Crisis, a sequel to Haunted, I realized that I had to do things a little differently, because I did have an end in mind, and a vague idea of how I wanted to get there. It was an interesting experience, because it was really the first time I had been on the architect side of the dichotomy. I didn’t plan it all out in detail – to continue the metaphor, I didn’t know what color the walls were going to be, what the counters would be made of. There was leeway there for my garden to grow. But I had a structure for it to follow, like a trellis.
If you’re not sure whether you’re a gardener or an architect, try them out! Try writing a short story where you plan everything out. Then try writing one where you start with the seed of an idea and see where it takes you!
Tara Martin – exceptionally accomplished neurobiology major with a troubled past. Steven Trent – confident political science major with an irresistible attraction to Tara. Paul Stratton – history major who is able to hear spirits. Together, they make up the Society for Paranormal Researchers at their prestigious New England University. When they’re not in class or writing papers, the three friends are chasing their passion….ghosts.
When the group learns of a local retired couple trying to sell a house they claim is haunted, they decide to investigate. As the clues unfold, a familiar spirit interrupts their investigation and Tara finds her life in danger. Can her friends save her before it’s too late?
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Genre – YA paranormal, NA paranormal
Rating – PG-13
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