Updated: Oct 23, 2020
There are two common approaches among authors when it comes to writing practices: discovery writing and plotting. I will look at both styles from my own opinion, my pro’s and con’s and add aspects I have noticed when using these two styles.
Side note, I find both useful and have had success with both.
What is Discovery Writing?
In short, this is where someone starts with an idea, theme or character and just writes. The story runs its own natural creative course as the author ‘feels’ their way through the stories flow. Have I done this? Yes, absolutely. Do I enjoy this? Yes, absolutely. I have even utilised discovery writing in parts of my plots where I feel it’s boring, if I am stuck on part of a story, or I feel there is a plot hole in my arc.
One example in The Wolf in I, a book I have coming out in 2021, started with an idea of mixing two themes together. I wanted to use the idea of a werewolf whereby I followed the process of addiction in the main character, and it is working awesome. I am so excited to bring that story to life, but that is for another time.
For me, undoubtedly, at some time my very active imagination starts linking plot points, ideas, adding and back filling different hidden ideas and so on, so I personally end up mixing plotting into my discovery writing.
I think this is more related to the freakish amount of re-reads and edits I do to my own work pre-editorial submission, mixed with the amount of mental consumption I under go when running. In short, I get immersed and obsessed with my work.
Recently, when listening to the J.F. Penn podcast (I strongly recommend joining her audience if you are interested in author platforms, writing and tips), Joanna Penn detailed her own reasons and positive experiences discovery writing. I mention her experiences and story to show a very successful author in the thriller genre who has used this style with great international success.
What is plotting?
Pretty straight forward, plotting is where an author writes a plot or plot points and then writes their story. I probably lean more to this direction, however I am a fairly strong hybrid of each style.
When I wrote A Decent Life 1, I actually had a different ending. (Not nearly as good) I felt the ending was cliché and didn’t actually finish the book with the flare, or impact I desired.
So, what can a good author do? Cut one third of your story and go on a soul search of course. And the results speak for themselves.
5-star international reviews, featured author for commercial book stores, professional comparison to cult classic ‘Natural Born Killers, and podcast interviews all within a very short time of launching my platform ... time well spent.
"Professional comparison to cult classic ‘Natural Born Killers.’ "
Before my Decent Life series, I plotted my story titled Untamed Australia, however, I held the plot entirely within my own thoughts.
Side note, this is not a good idea; write your ideas down.
After two years of running and having my thoughts consumed with bushrangers, Australian history, and different actions scenes firing through my mind on repeat I began writing the basic arc on my laptop.
What happened? I wrote 55 000 words within a weekend! Very happy.
"I wrote 55 000 words within a weekend! Very happy."
I recently edited that entire book, keeping the exact same plot and character arcs, but with better writing, my own style of word selection, syntax, grammar, description ... all the finer details I polished to create a much better work of art. This is how I see myself as a hybrid of creative discovery writing and plot driven writing, storytelling.
My pros: Clear direction, can write when not creative and add flare in edit, solid character arcs, greater ability to link or interweave arcs, greater knowledge of where exactly you as an author are up to in your work, authors can easily write multiple books at once.
My cons: editing is time consuming; first drafts can be below par, some authors say they become rigid in following their plot, removes some of the creativity.
I have a few personal tips I would offer. My top tip is to use themes. I love writing to themes.
For example, A Decent Life 1,2, and 3 follow a theme of corruption, chaos and order, a theme I first noticed when watching older generation Australians who built themselves from nothing.
Their children would prosper, their grandchildren would squander their wealth and by the fourth generation they were essentially in the same place their great grandfather started. I know that is a broad generalisation but it is extremely common.
So too I noticed this same theme when I read the Bible (No, I am not religious, this is a whole other story of its own). Many times you see a similar theme: Order, Corruption and Chaos which is the exact theme underpinning my initial trilogy.
Themes in my writing:
The Wolf in I: Addiction, rage and redemption.
Untamed Australia: Father, Son and Social Reproduction.
Altered Creation: Perfection, Pursuits and Power
With this method I always know the theme, the beginning and at least a rough idea of what I think the ending ought to be. I am confident and flexible in how I achieve quality art and am willing to chop, edit and change as the story deserves.
By Aaron Creamer