Some time ago (two and a half years ago, in fact), I spoke about the Art of Foreshadowing and touched on two different approaches to writing: Gardeners and Architects.
- A Gardener is a writer who has a basic idea and ploughs into the narrative, letting the characters and plot change and grow as they write.
- An Architect is writer who has a clear-cut idea of how their story will begin, progress and end, and knows their characters inside out.
Two and a half years ago, I would have told you that I’m most definitely an Architect. I would have also been very, very wrong.
Whilst it’s true that I love to plot and plan out every single chapter**, my experience with The Elder Throne has taught me that this is merely the beginning of my writing approach. My manuscript back then was longlisted for Bath Children’s Award but was quickly rejected   by the publishers I sought out.
And quite rightly, too. In retrospect, it was nowhere near ready for publication.
Today, it now looks very different from 2015’s effort: it has grown. I discovered, during months of editing, re-reading, Beta checking, evolving and editing yet again, that what I’d written two years ago was a very neat, precise plot, but it didn’t have any real jazz to it.
And everyone needs jazz.
So, I had to grow another head. I’ve been watching a lot of American Horror Story lately and Dot and Bette Tattler have become my spirit animal(s) during my recent writing processes.
My first head has the mind of Architect – it plans out my novels precisely and ensure that there are no glaring plotholes to sink me. I have a sketch of all my characters and I know their moral structure, likes, dislikes and breaking points. This head builds my garden: digs up the dirt, plants the seeds in the right beds, and makes sure the patio isn’t going to collapse the first time someone steps on it. It creates potential.
My second head has the mind of a Gardener – it waits for the flowers to bloom and then it gets to work. Weeding, watering, tending, adding fertiliser to the plants that are particularly interesting, pulling up the ones that are my favourites but not necessarily attractive to anyone else. This head creates my garden as it should be, the finished product that everyone, hopefully, can enjoy.
The trouble with having two heads / two different approaches to writing is that sometimes they clash. I’d love to say that it’s always a very easy process. Sometimes it is, and switching from Architect to Gardener is a seamless transition. But sometimes the Architect doesn’t shut up when the Gardener is working, and starts moving things, and I end up with a massive pile of dirt and a dozen dud bulbs.
The latter is what’s currently happening to me, as per my tweet yesterday. My Gardener became a little overzealous with the fertilizer and now my garden is a jungle. (I’m 10k words over my target yet again). I’m currently a little stuck on how to progress, so I’m taking a week’s break to clear my thoughts. Here’s hoping that it works!
What kind of writer are you?
**And I do, by George, I do: I’ve plotted all fifteen of the Seelie Court books and I haven’t even had the first one accepted yet.