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What is Your Writing Style: Gardener or Architect? 

Whats your writing style?

“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. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”  -George R.R. Martin

It’s relieving to hear an accomplished writer admit that he doesn’t always know how his story is going to end. I totally relate to this style of writing, I’m not a writer who has their entire book mapped out from start to finish. My outlines are filled with black holes and character motivations which are still a mystery to me. Sometimes I don’t even know the direction the book will take, so I don’t write until I do…which means I don’t always write every day.

As a writer, that feels wrong to admit. There are quotes upon quotes that define a writer as “a person who writes everyday” and labels those who don’t as amateurs. I’ve always been uncomfortable with that school of thought because it makes me feel like I’m doing this whole writing thing wrong.

I believe that there are several ways to be a writer, just like there are several ways to do any other job. Everyone has their own process and that is what makes each work unique.

I am definitely more of a gardener too. I like planting seeds and watching them grow into something wonderful and unexpected, instead of forcing words to come before they are ready, just so I can say I wrote today.

Usually, when I’m writing a scene or a chapter, something always happens that is unexpected or unplanned. It might be a new character, or an unexpected attitude or reaction from a character that I thought was pretty solid. Since I wasn’t prepared for this new direction, after I’m finished writing, I spend a lot of time thinking about it. I mull over how this new development fits into the plot and scheme about where it could go.

Sometimes, I stew about it for days, writing and rewriting possible scenes in my head but not on paper. I think this counts as writing too, although I never have heard another author talk about this being their process.

So, what is your writing style, gardener or architect? And does your process involve writing everyday?

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Instagram: @sarapetersen

Twitter @saraleepetersen

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