Wednesday Writes - Discovery vs Plotting vs Edit-As-You-Go by Earl Chessher

Author Earl Chessher

Author Earl Chessher

Variations abound when it comes to how we approach writing. Seriously, however, they can be boiled down to three essential ways we pursue storytelling; discovery, plotting or edit-as-you-go. Why do we do this? Why can there not be one simple, effective, perfect way to tell a story? Well, it’s because we are all wired differently. Some of us can change, while others cannot. Some want to change, but cannot. And the rest of us play hopscotch between them all. You know these, but just to take one more look, one more time.

The plotter is a logically-minded individual who has a pretty decent handle on what she wants her story to be, how she wants it to turn out. Even so, our writer will have everything factored in, from characters and their biographies, to chapters, story elements and an outline that is usually adhered to like glue. The person who likes to edit-as-you-go can be a plotter, or a discovery writer (some say pantser, as to write from the seat of your pants —no safety net) but will take an exorbitant amount of time polishing and perfecting each sentence as they go along. Keep in mind, though, you CAN polish the shine right off. And, you can lose your sense of direction because you are so busy polishing and perfecting, you derail your storyline.

I used to be one or both; plotter and/or edit-as-you-go. I never finished anything more than a long short story using either of these approaches. And though I love short stories I also wanted to be a novelist. I had an epiphany at some point in my more than 50 years of writing and realized that, for me, there is a simplicity in the story first, edit last approach. I might create a bare bones outline at some point, but essentially I have a story idea and ponder what the ending should be. Once I get a feel for that ending, I write toward it, doing my best to not stop and polish along the way. I want to finish the story, see where it takes me (discovery), then clean up, polish and edit. I also get beta readers and hire a professional editor to help the process of FINISHED story.

Discovery writing has become, for me, like reading a book I cannot put down. It takes me places I never thought possible and lets me explore beyond the walls of hardcore planning while getting past the impulse to edit-as-I-go.

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