Some writers excel at spontaneously writing any ideas that pop into their minds. On the other hand, some approach writing in a much more methodical way, planning every step of the process. The first type of writer mentioned is the “gardener”, while the second one is the “architect”. Which is better, the gardener vs architect, and which suits you better?
The gardener is aptly called so because of the way they allow their stories to progress. After having a “seedling” of an idea, they “water” and tend to this idea, letting it grow on its own. This type of writer relies a lot on their emotions to write, allowing them to do the work. As a result, they generally end up with pretty exciting and fresh content.
A popular gardener, and the one who introduced the concept of gardeners and architects, is George R.R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Fire and Ice series. As a gardener, George knows the highlights of his series beforehand, and he can easily have a cool idea pop after another. Outlining can even prove to be detrimental to gardeners, much like George, who gets disinterested when working on an outline — he says that he has effectively written the story when outlining, and it makes him lose interest on the book.
Gardeners also have downsides. As they let new ideas come in fresh from their imagination, it’s also easy to go off-tangent from the original concept, where they can throw away a lot of work done. The nature of a gardener’s writing also calls for a lot of editing and reviewing after the first draft to polish out the ideas.
These downsides are easily offset by the free approach which allows gardeners to discover the story (“discoverers”) then write it by the seat of their pants (“pantsers”). The gardener also has a more flexible time in writing, which can allow more organic ideas to pop out (as long they stay relevant to the original concept).
The architect is the opposite of a gardener. This type of writer has a much more planned approach for writing. Rather than writing as words come to you, an architect plans ahead and thinks what and how he is going to write something.
J.K. Rowling, the author of the world-renowned Harry Potter book series, is a great example of an architect. Architects tend to explore aspects of their story before writing anything down. They develop the concept of a character first, usually in character sheets that may detail their likes, dislikes, and sometimes even their entire backstory. They often establish the settings and the plot in an outline, taking their sweet time in going through how they want it to go.
Since architects spend a lot of time in this phase of the writing process, they can greatly benefit from using writing tools, such as LivingWriter. Story Elements allows them to go into the nitty-gritty details of a character, setting, or phenomenon, and even allow you to store images as a visual stimulus while writing. Architects can spend hours on the Outlines and Chapters, where they can plan plot points and other important details, and they can go as intricate as plan each scene in a chapter.
The predefined structure of the story allows for less chances of getting a writer’s block, but that structure can also be its own downfall. A story known before it’s written could feel very rigid, especially if the architect spent more time thinking about what to write instead of actually writing. The emotional impact of certain scenes and plotlines might also fall short, because the reactions are already known beforehand.
Architects, however, can boast a higher productivity rate than gardeners. With an outline and a myriad of notes to refer to, architects don’t have to rely on a “lightbulb” moment and just follow what they planned beforehand. Architects also don’t have to extensively edit their drafts outside of technicalities, because the plot is already well-defined even before the first word was written.
What’s the Best Type?
Both styles have their own pros and cons. The gardener can produce exciting and emotionally charged stories. However, they might also leave out plenty of important bits and focus too much attention on a single part of their story. On the other hand, the architect makes excellently structured stories with a very solid delivery. Even so, the story may not resonate much with the readers in terms of excitement or emotions.
At this point, you might have realized that you exhibit characteristics of both types. The truth is, architects and gardeners are the two extremes of a spectrum, and it’s perfectly fine, if not the norm, to sit in the middle. You can plan the basic plot and specific events that you want to happen, yet spontaneously ignore certain parts of it once you’ve decided that a newer idea is the better approach.
Brandon Sanderson is one notable author who personally claims that he is a mix of a gardener and an architect. Like Sanderson, you might want to know where you want to start and end, but you should also allow some flexibility when you are already working on the draft. As new ideas flow in the midst of your writing process, allow your original ideas to be rebuilt. By considering your outline to be a living entity that evolves as time goes by, you can integrate the best bits of a gardener and an architect.
Certainly, the best type is the type where you feel the most productive with. If you feel anxious not knowing where the story would go, then it might be good to try making an outline before jumping right into the action. If you feel restricted by the confines of an outline, then you can just take a go at it and write right away.
The important thing is that you feel comfortable with your way of writing. Experiment working with outlines and letting your ideas run wild during the writing phase. Over time, you’ll get a feel of what approach allows you to write the stories that you want to be told. You don’t have to pit the gardener vs architect, but pick out traits that you believe is beneficial for your writing process.
At the end of the day, what matters most is that you write however you feel most comfortable. Outside of situations in which you have no other choice, it’s definitively wise to stick to the style that lets you feel more freedom when writing.
On this note, take some time to reflect on what style suits you the best, and when you find the answer, polish your technique, and let it shine. Whether you find yourself to be more of a gardener or an architect, we’re sure that LivingWriter can definitely help you in many ways than one.