Writing Advice: Gardeners vs. Architects

by Matt on July 31, 2012

Ho-ly. Crap.

I have been gone for fifteen days, and I am VERY SORRY. I left for Idaho the day I was supposed to put up this post, and then yesterday I was getting back from Idaho. I could have posted this morning, but I had to go to marching band practice. Anyway, I’m sorry for that, and there shouldn’t be anything like this happening again, at least far as I can see. My summer’s pretty much over anyway.

Remember, I do write these posts about five weeks in advance, but I’ve been pretty terrible about that lately, so this is what I wrote about two weeks ago.

* * * 

Hello, everyone! I am back with more writing advice, because, while I’m waiting for August 1 to roll around so I can begin writing SEED OF SHADOW again, I’m also planning out the rest of the book. In this, I’ve been inspired to share advice with you. 

The main reason I was stumped after I hit 110k words in SEED is because I don’t have an actual written outline for the book. Least, not one that details everything that happens. I do have a lot of things up in my mind that I managed to get down on paper in a week, but that was because it was building up for a while. 
Have you ever heard of the term “discovery writer” or “outliner”? There’s a more “artistic” variant on these which is “gardeners” (discovery writers) and “architects” (outliner). Basically what each of are, are different forms of writing. 
“Gardeners” or “discovery writers” are the types of writers who write different pieces of their novels, a couple hundred words at a time, then shelve it, then write different pieces of the novel, a couple hundred words at a time, then go back to each piece and expand on them, watching them grow into scenes and chapters. And that’s how they write their novels. 
The problem with Gardeners is that they will finish their book, and go back and re-write it, dozens and dozens of times. Gardeners are people who go into their head and search for ideas and say “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if . . .?” and then they’ll say, “Oh, yes! That WOULD be cool! I HAVE to put that in my book!” and eventually their book will be full of ideas and they’ll have to cut stuff and re-write stuff. Gardeners will find themselves writing Chapter 1 of their book 15 times before they realize they have to move onto Chapter 2. 
To give you an example, George R. R. Martin is a Gardener. Gardeners and Architects are actually terms he himself came up with. 
Architects are the opposite of Gardeners. Architects spend years not writing, but PLOTTING their books before they go into it, else they’ll start a book, get a few pages in, and hit a brick wall and won’t know where to go next. Brandon Sanderson is an Architect. 
I like to think I’m somewhere in between. I do re-write my books several times. I do find myself writing the words “Chapter 1” multiple times. But I also do plan out detailed backgrounds for each of my stories, even if they’re only 50,000 words long. And I also do hit a brick wall when I get to a certain point, but when I do that, I go and write different scenes of the book. 
But not this time. I want this draft to be as clean as possible. So I’m stopping until August 1 to start writing the last 65,000 words. In the meantime, I’ll be planning out the spaces between now and then. Hopefully I can finish this book by the end of summer vacation. That would be cool. 
So, tell me guys. What are you? A Gardener or an Architect?


“I’ve written a few million words so far, and you want me to summarize in six? Well, here goes. Cultures clash, worlds change; cope. I know; only five. But I hate to be wordy.”

—Robert Jordan

Catwoman: “You don’t owe this people anymore. You’ve given them everything.” 
Batman: “….Not everything….Not yet….”


Catherine Stine July 31, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Hahaha, I guess I was a gardener, but now I'm more of an architect. Nice post! There is value in writing those key scenes in small, powerhouse bursts though.
Catherine Stine’s Idea City

Jeff Hargett August 3, 2012 at 12:06 am

I'm sort of a structured gardener, I suppose. I plan, but follow the muse wherever she leads.

Matt Hayes August 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I like to think I'm somewhere in between, 'cause I get stumped quite often if I don't plan.


Matt Hayes August 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I'm quite the same, except I like to know what happens in each chapter.


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