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How to Write

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

Garden writers.

Scaffold builders.

Unstructured writers.

Discovery writers.





There are as many words for how we write as there are people who write. The words are trying to express two ends of a spectrum.

Spectrum side one: Architects.

Architectural Writing style

There are people who will meticulously plan a book before they write it taking almost as long in the planning as the generation. An idea will take root, and churn around in their head. They will flesh it out a little there, seeing if it has enough content to go with, then they might write a page outline of the idea.

From there they will build chapter outlines to match those writing beats. From each chapter outline they will create character arcs which graph out the way a character will develop in each chapter and what they hope each section accomplishes. They might generate a worldbuilder outline which shows each chapter which portions of the world they will want to showcase in that section. I’ve seen excel sheets, Gantt charts, flow charts, word files, note takers, and specialty software for all of this.

These people would be on the side we call architectural writers, or scaffold builders. They don’t write much when they begin. Once they have all of the outlines set up, they will generally not change it much. The book is “written,” at a medium to large scale. They will then go in and fill out each paragraph and write it in “facts,” sticking to the program they set out for themselves.

Spectrum, side two: Gardeners and discovery writers.

Discovery writers
Ironically, a very structured garden.

There are people who have an idea, and they sit down and start to write.

That’s it. They just go.

Side one and side two both have advantages and disadvantages. Nobody belongs 100 % to either side and neither side is right. There is only what is right for you. I will further stand by the statement that both sides have some right pieces for everyone, and I have never met any writer who is 100 % one, or 100 % the other. The only way you can learn which pieces fit your writing style is to try them all.

Before we go further let me share some of my personal writing experience over the last 20 years. When I started writing, I was close to what people call a garden writer or a discovery writer. I would have an idea, I would think about it for a while, I might write one or two single spaced pages of things I want to have happen. Then… I would just go write. I had no planning, no arcs, no structures, no to do lists beyond the basic story beats and big-ticket items on those first two pages of notes.

Over the first few novels I wrote, I found that I needed to do a lot of rewriting, because there were large plot holes or major changes I wanted to make in earlier portions of the book. In a few cases I threw the book out entirely and started over from scratch.

As years moved on, I put more framework in place to help me not have that happen. I became a LITTLE architectural in my writing habits. I had a plot arc, and then certain story beats that my characters needed throughout, but a bit of latitude on how they achieved it or how exactly things played out. I found that knowing I could trust my own notes about how things needed to go in a section, enabled me to focus on generating good content at the chapter level. Then I started to make notes about how the chapter beats should go, and I was able to focus more on the paragraph level.

To say it a different way, I am not smart enough to hold an entire book in my head at once, and then write the portion I am working on with confidence of doing it justice while making all the moving pieces match. I needed the structural backbone to literally prop me up in my writing.

One of the things that I suspect, though I cannot prove, is that a person can be taught how to be an architectural writer. There is a repeatability to it that I could not easily describe for garden writers or seat of the pants writers. It doesn’t diminish the writing skill, it doesn’t make writing less of an art form but it does enable us as architectural writers to generate pieces in the best way possible.

Over the next sessions here we will go through the processes, tools that are available, and the steps to becoming an architectural writer, followed by some tips for what can be incorporated from garden writing, and vice versa.

I’m looking forward to exploring the steps to writing with you. Here we go. Next up. Step 1… The idea.

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