Just Wing It, Man!
RECENTLY I LEARNED about the term “discovery writer.” Apparently, a discovery writer is a fiction writer who simply sits down at a desk and starts writing a new story without any real direction or plan. That’s me.
I am definitely not a planner when it comes to writing fiction, and I cannot imagine doing anything but simply sitting down and getting to work on a new story. In fact, that is the only thing that I know how to do. But I respect that others who write novels and short fiction prefer to first prepare an outline, or some sort of guide, before they can begin to a new story.
Gillian Flynn is one of my favorite writers. Two years ago, I discovered her three novels, and I read them one after another in a short amount of time. When it comes to suspense and horror, there is perhaps no better contemporary writer than Flynn. When reading her books, you can tell that she puts significant time into mapping out her stories and making sure that each event and character fits cleanly into place.
While I respect Flynn’s level of organization, I think what really shines about her writing is the beauty of her lines and her ability to write from a male point of view. But as a reader of fiction, super tight organization of a story is something that I can take or leave.
In contrast, many of Stephen King’s books have vague endings, leaving the reader to scratch his head, wondering why something just happened the way it did. But those types of writing quirks can often be what makes a book interesting.
Below is a story that I wrote when I was just starting out as a writer. Many years ago, I was a salesman, and I spent my days going into the homes of customers to sell pest fumigations, of all things. When you enter people’s homes on a daily basis, you see all sorts of interesting things and you meet all sorts of interesting people — shut-ins, widows, religious fanatics, sports fanatics, etc. One time, I pulled up to a great white plantation style house with large columns in the front, resembling the White House. A tall white man walked out to greet me in the front yard, with long gray hair, tied in a braid running down his back. He introduced himself as George Washington, and sure enough, when I sold him the job, that was the name on his credit card. That goofy encounter gave me the idea for this tale:
The creativity process is a mysterious thing. The mind needs to be kept loose and uninhibited, if anything daring is to grow in there. If you are an organizer or an outliner, do yourself a favor and give it a rest for a few days. Just sit down at your desk (or stand up at a counter), grab a hold of your laptop, and let your mind run wild.
Don’t worry about plots, subplots, character arcs, or any other noise. Just let your mind be your guide for a few thousand words, and you might find yourself more than content with your final destination.
Follow Fountain Pen for more articles and musings about the fiction writing process…