Being that the title of this site seems to favor one side of this debated topic, I figured that it was as good a place to start as any. In this corner we have The Discovery Writers. In that corner we have The Outliners! The opponents are writhing, anxious to destroy the other with their carpal tunnel laden hands. Their arms are toned from months of typing and red pen marking. They are prepared, and the victor will be deemed the champion. Ding, ding, ding.
Honestly, it doesn’t’ take a wrestling match, debate, or even a healthy exchange of prose to decide the winner. There’s only one correct way of writing a really great book. Both.
Cop-out? No. Whether or not you claim to be a discovery writer or if you solely outline, everyone does both.
Let me share an example. My first novel wasn’t expected. I began writing and the words flowed like they were (forgive the cliche) writing themselves. I remember hearing the term “discovery writer” and knew – without a doubt – that it described my writing technique. However, as I continued writing my discovered words, I began thinking ahead. I found myself writing future scenes in my mind, and I was suddenly anxious to get there. The words I had been writing shifted to take me to the destined scene. Without realizing it, I was outlining. Maybe I didn’t get out a piece of paper and carefully layout beginning, middle, and end or go to my over-sized whiteboard and draw circles with lines connecting critical elements, but I was planning my story.
Okay, so what about the self-proclaimed outliner? Can they discovery write? Of course they can and do more often than they may notice. I believe there is always a scene or circumstance that will surprise the writer. Whether large or small, there will be something that the author adds or changes that they hadn’t originally intended to. The story evolves. Sometimes, the author knows that their idea isn’t fully formed and is openly searching for the shift. Then, it comes to them. Isn’t that discovery?
The idea that there is only one way of doing things is ridiculous. Just because I discovered my first book doesn’t mean that I will never attempt or even favor outlining. I think each project needs to be treated like a child. They are individuals and unique. You can try parenting them all the same, but you will regret it later.
Did I miss something? Leave a comment.