“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”
― George R.R. Martin
I used to try to be the architect. I thought, ‘With all this planning and knowing, surely it will be better thought out, better organized and in the end, a better story.’ Ya know what happened? I realized it wasn’t truly who I am.
I had written out all these outlines, all these interesting colorful characters, their names, their personal stories, backgrounds, drew out the scenes, the sounds, the fragrances in the air, the certain feel to the place, how I felt being there, what’s to happen in order to get here and there, blah, blah, blah. Ya know what that did to me? It robbed me of living in the moment of each individual character and scene. It robbed me of living the story.
Life, no matter how much you want it to be, is not going to be planned out. Or it might be planned but it will turn out differently. Sure, you dream of the house in the country, the white picket fence, the 2.5 children, the adoring helpful husband that will always be by your side. You plan out the wrap-around porch, the porch swing, the hanging plants, right down to the kind of grass you want in your front yard. The truth is, not all those plans are gonna pan out.
I think a novel should be the same way. It should be lived moment by moment. At least for me. I want to be in the moment and I want to breathe in that aroma that fills the air when one of my characters is baking gingerbread or chocolate chip cookies. I want to get choked up when someone beloved dies suddenly and unexpectedly. I want to be surprised. Yes, surprised by whatever may occur in a story, even as I’m writing it. I want to laugh. I want to be heartbroken. I want to be terrified and petrified when the hairy scary monster demon thingy is trying to eat my face off. I want to be angry when one of my favorite characters gets killed off. I want to feel the love and crush one character secretly holds for another. I want to be swept up in the rapture that is complete ecstasy.
I gave up trying to plan every detail of my life. After I got the two main ones, those are my mashed p’taters. The rest is gravy. I gave up trying to plan every detail of my book, too. I think I’d rather live in the moment and be surprised, myself, how it all comes together in the end, if it ever does end. Ya know how those sequels go. Yup, I’m a gardener.
What are you? A planner or a pantser? An architect or a gardener? 😉