April 06, 2020, 10:41:41 PM

Poll

Are you an explorer or an architect?

I'm an explorer only.
3 (11.1%)
I'm an explorer most of the time.
10 (37%)
I'm equal parts explorer and architect.
8 (29.6%)
I'm an architect most of the time.
5 (18.5%)
I'm an architect only.
1 (3.7%)

Total Members Voted: 27

Author Topic: Are you an explorer or an architect?  (Read 3359 times)

Offline Raptori

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Are you an explorer or an architect?
« on: June 15, 2015, 09:48:56 PM »
From various discussions, I've got a clear impression that most of the writers on here are explorers rather than architects - this poll is to see whether that's really the case or whether I'm imagining things! I've found a couple of older polls on the same subject - here and here - so it'll be interesting to see how they compare.

I think most people these days accept that it's a spectrum rather than two opposites, so I've added 5 options to the poll rather than just two - brief explanations below.

Note: I hate the term "pantser", and it bugs me that "discovery writer" doesn't match "planner" or "plotter", so for the sake of my sanity I'll use the terms "explorer" and "architect". Feel free to use whatever terms you want, since they all mean the same thing!



I'm an explorer only.
This means you do almost no planning whatsoever - you come up with the characters and/or an initial situation and then just write until you're done.

I'm an explorer most of the time.
This means you plan some parts before writing, but leave most of it to improvisation - for example you might have rough targets for the beginning, middle and end of the story, but you don't bother working out how you'll get there.

I'm equal parts explorer and architect.
This means you use both or either at different times, and don't have a preference either way - for example you might switch based on your mood, or what you feel works for a specific story, or anything really.

I'm an architect most of the time.
This means you plan most of the story before writing, but leave bits of it to improvisation - you come up with a fairly detailed plan, but you'll sometimes improvise sections or characters without going back to the drawing board.

I'm an architect only.
This means you rarely (if ever) improvise the plot after the planning stage - your improvisation comes early on while you create a detailed plan, and if you hit a snag or have new ideas you stop writing and return to the planning stage to iron out the issues before continuing.



We're option 5 - architects only. We plan out everything beforehand, working down from single sentence summary all the way to scene-by-scene breakdown (beat sheet). With this approach, we can adjust the flow of the whole story and shift events around before we've even spent any time writing them, which feels a lot more flexible, and probably saves a lot of time in the long run. It's the same approach we've always taken for art/design projects (we're both graphic designers) - plan, then make adjustments to the plan, then add colour, detail, and artistic flair once you're sure everything will look just right.

So, which approach do you take?  :D
« Last Edit: June 15, 2015, 09:51:52 PM by Raptori »
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Offline Yora

Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2015, 10:29:44 PM »
My approach is generally to start with the final scene. Deciding on the kind of situation in which the protagonist will be at the end of the story. Then I create the starting point of the story and start working my way forward to get to that previously defined destination. It has some element of improvisation and making up details as I go, but it's not "see what happens". I already know the purpose the plot before I begin with a draft.
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Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2015, 12:20:30 AM »
Explorer? That's a new term. I've heard Gardener or Architect. George R.R Martin lays claim to being a Gardener rather than an Architect. I've always described myself as a 'pantser' writing by the seat of the pants. Stephen King writes that way too, he claims that outliners (basically Architects) are frustrated college lecturers.
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Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2015, 01:24:28 AM »
I debated between being equal parts explorer and architect and being an architect most of the time. In most of my stories, I've been primarily an architect, but I've also written one that was almost entirely by the seat of my pants. It varies for me depending on the story.

I generally feel comfortable with a plan that leaves room for changes as I go along.

Offline JMack

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Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2015, 02:03:58 AM »
So far, the full extent of my completed writing is the short stories I've written since joining this Forum: 9 contest stories and 4 Birthday stories. All are less than 2,500 words.

I've tried now to really plan these short pieces out, and I csn never get there. but what seems to happen is that i get glimpse of a story: an opening sentence, an image. The ones I end up writing are those where the image turns into a plot concept almost fully pictured immediately. from that point, i start writing and the story may or may not turn out as imagined.

this is working for me, for the most part. But it helps that I have the monthly story prompt, and i just down see how this could work for me in a much longer piece. For, I'd like to use something like a beat sheet to take the place of my "plot concept." i suspect it'll then turn into discovery.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2015, 02:30:31 AM »
I have to plan, or I get nowhere. If I just start writing, I end up in chapter three (or five, or sometimes seven but rarely further than that) with my character(s) going in circles, and then I give up and write the new shiny idea. To actually get all the way through, I have to have a plan, so that when I go, "But where are they going?" I have an answer.

The planning gets even more intense come revision-time! I revise the plot skeleton and get it perfect long before I start going chapter-by-chapter.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2015, 10:39:08 AM »
My approach is generally to start with the final scene. Deciding on the kind of situation in which the protagonist will be at the end of the story. Then I create the starting point of the story and start working my way forward to get to that previously defined destination. It has some element of improvisation and making up details as I go, but it's not "see what happens". I already know the purpose the plot before I begin with a draft.
Sounds like a classic example of being an explorer most of the time!  :)

Explorer? That's a new term. I've heard Gardener or Architect. George R.R Martin lays claim to being a Gardener rather than an Architect. I've always described myself as a 'pantser' writing by the seat of the pants. Stephen King writes that way too, he claims that outliners (basically Architects) are frustrated college lecturers.
I remembered there was something like it, but couldn't think of it so just came up with something that felt right. I think explorer describes it a bit better than gardener though!  :P

Yeah there are always people from one end of the spectrum who look down on people from the other end, personally I've always lost respect for anyone who does that. It's not a competition, and as long as you find an approach that works for you then what's the point taking sides?

I debated between being equal parts explorer and architect and being an architect most of the time. In most of my stories, I've been primarily an architect, but I've also written one that was almost entirely by the seat of my pants. It varies for me depending on the story.

I generally feel comfortable with a plan that leaves room for changes as I go along.
Yeah I think that even with the most detailed plan there has to be room for changes, the difference is really how you make them - a lot of people seem to note the change down and carry on writing, whereas we'd go back and adjust the outline itself.  :)

So far, the full extent of my completed writing is the short stories I've written since joining this Forum: 9 contest stories and 4 Birthday stories. All are less than 2,500 words.

I've tried now to really plan these short pieces out, and I csn never get there. but what seems to happen is that i get glimpse of a story: an opening sentence, an image. The ones I end up writing are those where the image turns into a plot concept almost fully pictured immediately. from that point, i start writing and the story may or may not turn out as imagined.

this is working for me, for the most part. But it helps that I have the monthly story prompt, and i just down see how this could work for me in a much longer piece. For, I'd like to use something like a beat sheet to take the place of my "plot concept." i suspect it'll then turn into discovery.
Have you taken a look into the Snowflake method? It's a pretty well structured set of instructions which are fairly close to what we do, if you really want to try something different then maybe you could give it a go. I've seen some people say that they found it difficult since it's not how they naturally work, but that with a bit of perseverance they've found it really helps them.

I have to plan, or I get nowhere. If I just start writing, I end up in chapter three (or five, or sometimes seven but rarely further than that) with my character(s) going in circles, and then I give up and write the new shiny idea. To actually get all the way through, I have to have a plan, so that when I go, "But where are they going?" I have an answer.

The planning gets even more intense come revision-time! I revise the plot skeleton and get it perfect long before I start going chapter-by-chapter.
Yah from what I've read it's useful for any type of writer to do a lot of structural work after the first draft is complete, which makes sense I guess!
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Offline SugoiMe

Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2015, 11:56:23 AM »
Right, smack dab in the middle, thank you.  I always plan out where my characters are going using the calendar system of my other world so I know where the characters will be and for how long.  As for the details of what actually happens, I leave that to the exploration of my mind and pen.  I'm also known to write some, plan some, write some, plan some.  Or maybe I'll even start with the planning and move on from there.  It's a real mix.
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2015, 02:38:26 PM »
It's not a competition, and as long as you find an approach that works for you then what's the point taking sides?

And it's sentiment like this, which is exactly why I'm winning.


In all seriousness, I'd say I lean more toward explorer, but I'm no purist. I know big picture stuff from the start - usually major events, and the character I'm starting with - but I let all the rest fall into place as I go. On the project I'm currently editing, I knew only one thing at the start, and that was what I wanted the main character to be as the story progressed. By the time I finished, he was the least interesting character in the lot, and the most obnoxious (somewhat intentionally). Of course, it spiraled into hulking mess of 13 PoV's and 350k words, so I could probably use some more structure. The rewrites and editing would certainly be easier, but I don't think it would have been as enjoyable to write.

Offline CameronJohnston

Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2015, 03:26:44 PM »
I'm a join the dots kind of writer - I usually have a beginning and an end, then add in a variable number of places I want to hit along the way, whither it be cool places or action scenes or plot points, and then I write my way along the route.  Usually it deviates somewhat (for the better, as characters evolve and grow) and some dots might have to be discarded as the plot evolves, but I'm always writing towards those points and figuring out those characters would get there so it doesn't tend to sprint off in random direction. I find if I over-plot (for me) it becomes such a joyless constricting chore.

I suppose my rough outline might go a bit like this:

-Prince is a bit of an entitled arse.
-Prince's kingdom seized by evil lord, prince barely escapes.
-Prince harried by forces of evil lord.
...
-Falls in with band of hard-as-nails mercenaries
...
-Escapades and battles/boy grows into man (not an arse)
....
-Works to make allies/saves powerful people.
...
-Prince hatches darling plot to regain kingdom.
...
-Prince Marshalls his forces and strikes down the evil lord
...
Profit?

It leaves lots of room for veering off in interesting directions/sub plots while still walking forwards along the chosen route, discovering what the character would do to further his aims.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2015, 04:24:50 PM by CameronJohnston »

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Offline D_Bates

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Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2015, 04:10:06 PM »
I work very similar to CameronJohnston.

I often tackle preparation by knowing who the main characters are: personalities, quirks, and where they'll end up.
I always know the end scene I'm working towards.
I know the general layout of the settings and what real world culture I'm going to research to pull inspiration from when shaping them.
I normally have an idea of a number of major turning point events that will shape the characters' growth, even if I don't fully know how they will develop until I start writing them.
But most of all I know the themes I want to explore--which tends to be something I don't see mentioned all that often.

Then it becomes a case of tapping words onto the screen in an effort to join it all together, which often involves a lot of sitting back and pondering how I'm going to mould the events in such a way that they're tackling the primary themes from different angles. That's the part I find to be the exploration side of the process, and what I hope will also one day be the same for the reader.
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Offline jastius

Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2015, 01:37:13 AM »
I like Cameron Johnson's description of 'fill in the dots' .. but for me its more of 'fill in the blanks'.
I start with my little notebook or my note app and get down that phrase or words that spark the idea. Maybe a scene. Then it sits there perculating a bit. Growing its story yeast.  During that time I add maybe two or three other bits. get a bit of an outline, before and after going.  Then one day I start writing. And there is a story there waiting!  :)

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2015, 01:58:44 AM »
Mine can also be a bit of a fill-in-the-dots approach. I often know a few key events, and then I figure out how to connect them (whether through outlining or just writing the story and seeing where it goes). My process is quite organic. I do whatever works for the particular story I'm writing.

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2015, 07:22:51 PM »
personally, i'm far more of an architect but i reserve the right to radically change anything on the fly if some sweeter idea strikes me.  the hardest part of that is going back to my outline and reintegrating the changes i've swapped in during my "exploring".

that way, it feels like i have a path of boxes where i have carte blanche to do what i will -- as long as it's within the box -- knowing that i can resize each box anytime i want.  um.  if that makes any sense at all...

for example, i'll first break my general idea into semi-coherent scenes/thoughts that follow the standard 8-point story arc.  that helps me get a basic path and structure in place.

then, i'll enumerate those scenes and build an outline/flow from it.  basically, it turns into a giant (my current one is about 5000 words) document that's part outline, part think sheet.  most of if comes from needing structure while scoping out d&d campaigns.  you don't want to bake in unchangeable elements (because, you know, players...), but you still want a loose framework to guide things so they don't get too far off the rails.

here's an example of my scene plotting template:

Quote
Scene Three
[One-liner description of the scene]
[Specific step in the 8-Part Story Arc]

Requirements
Perspective: [Who's POV?]
Dialog: [Which characters are going to talk and interact?]
Conflict: [What is the primary conflict of the scene?]
Foreshadowing: [What makes the reader go hmmm?]
Button: [Figure out the "No!  Don't leave this part!  It's about to get really good!" moment.]

Acts
Setup:
[Handful of setup questions like: Who is this new character that just got introduced?  Why is he meeting the protagonist?  What kind of social person is he?  How does he know some specific information?
Conflict:
[Questions to get deeper into the conflict.  Why are they arguing?  Why did he walk up and hit him?]
Resolution:
[Statement about how this scene advances the story.]

Notes
[Basically a place to write down any bits of dialog I think is neat, clues for the reader I want to incorporate, or any general guidance I want to give myself on how the characters should change during the scene.  Really, anything that makes me go "Ooooh!  Don't forget this!"]

and i'll use a slightly modified variation of that for shorter stories.

however, like i mentioned in the other thread, i feel like i keep getting 1/3 the way through the actual novel prose itself and get bored of the story.  that's usually when i go "oooh!  shiny!" and find some other creative thing to spend my time on.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2015, 07:25:06 PM by m3mnoch »

Offline AzWingsFan

Re: Are you an explorer or an architect?
« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2015, 10:57:20 AM »
Explorer? That's a new term. I've heard Gardener or Architect. George R.R Martin lays claim to being a Gardener rather than an Architect. I've always described myself as a 'pantser' writing by the seat of the pants. Stephen King writes that way too, he claims that outliners (basically Architects) are frustrated college lecturers.

I agree with that claim
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