Discovery or outline writing?

Tonight I sat in on a conference call with Ken Scholes, author of the Psalms of Isaac series. I’ve read the first two books, and quite enjoyed them, and so wanted to hear a little bit from Ken.

He functions differently as a writer, it seems, than a lot of writers I’ve talked with. Many of them are outline writers and do extensive world building before they start writing. Ken, on the other hand, is more of an exploratory, discovery writer. He doesn’t do much, if any pre-writing. He just sits down and begins to write the book.

Which is interesting, because I would have sworn he was an outline writer. Some writers I read and think, “This writer does not outline.” Or, “This one outlines.” It seems like I can just feel it from how the story progresses. To me, it seems that the stories of outline writers are more direct. They progress towards the “surprising yet inevitable” conclusion, whereas the discovery writers seem to meander toward a surprising conclusion.

I’d be willing to bet that Jay Lake is a discovery writer. The ending to his book, Green, was really awesome, but totally not something I saw coming. I’d also bet that Felix Gilman and Daniel Abraham are discovery writers. I’ve only read one book from each of these guys, so maybe I’m wrong.

Not that it matters. Whatever kind of process works for a writer is what the writer should do. But I do think that it affects the story and how the story unfolds.

Are you a discover writer or an outline writer?

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Discipline and the basics

My 11-year-old son’s basketball team lost tonight. First game in the playoffs. To a comp team one year younger than them. It was a very physical game, and pretty brutal. Lots of kids on the floor, several of them crying and holding onto various body parts. The refs asked our coach to take out our star player because he was out of control.

Now, I am no coach, and no expert in basketball, but I could see clearly why the other team won: greater discipline, and better mastery of the fundamentals of passing and rebounding. Seems like the enemy team passed 4-5 times per possession, looking for an open shot. Then, if they missed, they would get 2-3 rebonds.

On the other hand, our team acted like a pack of wild men, just throwing shots up that didn’t have a prayer. Not taking time to set up shots. Not passing. All kinds of offensive fouls. Just crazy.

Really, when it comes down to it, the other team was better prepared and better trained. No doubt about it. The fundamentals made all the difference.

My 6-year-old daughter is learning to read. I’ve noticed that she struggles a little with some letters and recognizing their sounds. No wonder she is struggling to read–she hasn’t mastered the basics.

The same will happen in any person’s efforts, in any endeavor. We must master the fundamentals before we can excel. We must know the basics, and they must be second nature to us. In basketball, I must know when to take a shot, and when to pass. I must know where to position myself for a rebound. In reading, I must know what a G says.

What are the fundamentals of writing? What are the things that must be second nature to us?

Good place for ideas and names: your genealogy

Just browsing through some genealogy today as I listen to the video I recorded last night for John Brown and Larry Correia. I have a lot of ancestors from Switzerland. One has the name of Baltazar Yoder. Born in 1524. Here are some other fun names:

  • Hans Abersold, born 1564
  • Ulrich Frankhauser, born 1540
  • Magdalena Rufenacht Moser, born 1535
  • Ludwig Schlappach, born 1540
  • Claus (Nicklaus) Reinhard, born 1555
  • Sir Knight Henry of Greene, born 1352

That last one seems suspect. There’s a point on the family line where the last names don’t match, and where they go from England to Switzerland. So, someday I’ll have to research that one. It could be right, but I’m skeptical because I’ve found other things where a father had a birth date after his son.

But it could be interesting. Maybe ideas for stories, there. How did someone end up traveling from England to Switzerland in the 1600s? Why would you do that?

I do know of some crazy stuff on my maternal grandmother’s side that could easily be written into some amazing stories. I had some ancestors who went to India to get their husband and father, only to find that he’d died from the plague while they were traveling, and then one of the sons who got off the boat to find him had to go home to England via the land since they wouldn’t let him back on the boat.

Family history seems like a place rich for ideas.

Target marketing

I hear a lot of talk about target marketing. Seems that authors are also target marketers.

David Farland talks a lot about targeting your book to your audience, and that if you do, you’ll be more successful. Well, tonight at Life, the Universe, and Everything, John Brown made this point, again–as one of 10 lessons learned from the book.

He talked about The Hunger Games, and how a few authors didn’t like the book. Well, said he, that’s fine. They just weren’t in the target audience, and the fact that there is a sizable target audience that liked the book is pretty much okay, because no writer will ever write anything that will please everyone. Just not going to happen.

So, there you have it.

I video recorded the presentation (and two others). I’ll post the video once I have it all edited and fancied up.