Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Discovery Writers and A Memory of Light

So often a writer is asked if they are a plotter or a pantser. But what about someone in-between?

Apparently there is a name for this in the industry and it is ‘discovery writer’. This is a writer who plots a basic outline, but then isn’t afraid to follow the characters and the story wherever it might lead.

I came across the concept when I attended a Brandon Sanderson book-signing. As those of us who are Wheel of Time fans know, Brandon is responsible for finishing the saga following Robert Jordan’s untimely demise, and Brandon spoke to us a little bit about Robert Jordan, and used the term ‘discovery writer’ to describe him.

The story goes that when Robert Jordan first pitched The Wheel of Time to his publisher, he had a planned trilogy. His publisher said he loved the idea, but knew Robert Jordan tended to let his stories get away from him, and suggested a six-book deal, thinking that would be enough to get him the whole series even if it blew out. 

And as we sit here awaiting the fourteenth and final book in the series, we all laugh.

Evidently Robert Jordan was a discovery writer to the extreme, taking what was originally only a planned three book series and turning it into the epic saga we all know and love. The ideas must have flowed thick and fast as he wrote, and kept flowing for a good long time.

I don’t think a writer needs to turn a three book series into a fourteen book series to be a discovery writer, though. All it requires is a balance between plotting and pantsing, a need to outline the basic bones of the story, and then the desire and the willingness to follow where the characters lead.

I admit to being rather enamoured of the concept, because it seemed a fairly accurate description of my own writing process. I always outline my books these days, but the finished product may only bear a passing resemblance to that original outline at the most basic level.

So with Robert Jordan’s ‘discovery writer’ tendencies in mind, do you think Rand will die in A Memory of Light

Here’s what I think:
  • Maybe Rand was originally intended to die, but somewhere along the way that plan (if it ever existed) changed;
  • Sure, we know Rand has to bleed all over the rocks of Shayol Ghul, but that doesn’t mean death. Hey, a paper cut bleeds like hell;
  • Rand thinks he’s going to die – therefore it’s too obvious for him to do so;
  • You’d have to be one son of a b*tch to keep your readers waiting twenty years only to kill off the hero.
OK, you might say some of that is more wishful thinking than hard evidence, but that’s my line, and I’m sticking to it. Earlier in the series I was far more convinced Rand would die, but after The Towers of Midnight, I started to think he had a real chance. 

So what do you think? Is Rand going to live happily ever after, or do you think he’s going to get the sword?

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.

Don't forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!


Kirkus MacGowan said...

Hey! Good post. :) I never heard the term before, but I believe I do the same. I've written two books now, and both barely resemble that outline!

The main reason I'm commenting is because of the Rand statement. I actually have an idea how he might "die" and yet live. I can't remember the exact reason I thought of this, but I argue about it with a reader friend of mine, also an avid Robert Jordan fan, just about every chance I get.

I don't want to state it here for fear of ruining the amazing story for future readers, but I'll be sure to DM you on Twitter when I find out whether I'm right!

Sandy Stuckless said...

I may be stating something you already know, but if you're a big fan of Sanderson, I suggest the podcast he does with Dan Wells, Howard Taylor and Mary Robinette Kowal called Writing Excuses. It's an amazing resource for aspiring writers (listening to it as I'm typing this) and goes into detail about the differences between discovery writing and outlining.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

If you've thought of a way he can die and yet live, then I'm all on your bandwagon!

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I knew about it, but I've never listened to it. All I can plead is a lack of time when I can listen to podcasts. With a 2yo, there's not much quiet time in my house.

Sandy Stuckless said...

I hear you. I have a 10yo and a 7yo. When they're not getting on each other's nerves, they're pestering me. I usually listen at work while I'm doing my 'day job'. :-)

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Oh I am so jealous. I wish I could do that!

Amberr Meadows said...

I have a hunch he will end up living happily ever after, but 20 years is a long time for suspense, wouldn't you think?

Margaret Alexander said...

Oh, interesting! I never thought of it, but I couldn't really picture myself as a plotter or a pantser, so discovery writer totally fits my style. Love the name too ;)

Total Pageviews

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...