Last week, I published a longer piece on the discovery vs outline writing debate. In that article, I mentioned that I “lean towards” discovery writing. That got me thinking: what does “lean towards” mean?
Plenty of writers and bloggers have covered the topic before: does “discovery writing” exist? If so, which is better, discovery writing or the traditionally taught “outline writing”?
This blog is not about those questions. It’s about the discourse that writers, readers, and English academics have been exchanging, how toxic it is, and why such a seemingly inconsequential debate is getting so heated.
For the Uninitiated:
For those of you who aren’t caught up on this fiasco, “discovery” and “outline” writing refer to differing ways of creating a plot. Outline writing is what you most likely learned in K – 12: to write a story, you first create an outline, and then you start slowly connecting those dots as you write. “Pure” outline writing would be outlining a story down to the last paragraph. You can make revisions, of course, but a true outline writer finds it difficult to get started without knowing where they’re headed. Even if the plan doesn’t survive contact, a plan is still necessary. Discovery writing is simply the absence of an outline. Pure discovery writing would be creating characters, picking a premise, and then just seeing what happens.
Some big names are on either side of this debate. Stephen King is adamant about the power of letting characters make their own decisions, and not shoehorning them into a particular plan (Source: “On Writing”). J.K. Rowling, on the other hand, says that outlining and planning is the most vital thing for a good story (Source). Brandon Sanderson — author of the Mistborn series, The Stormlight Archive, and the last parts of The Wheel of Time series — insists that both discovery and outline writing have their pros and cons (Source). … More Discovery vs Outline Writing
This small topic has taken up a surprising amount of my mental energy over the past few months. It all started when I sat in on a history class called “Women in Sickness and in Health,” which focuses on gender perceptions throughout western history. The first day of class covered the topic of a “default sex.”
In humans, science suggests, it is default to be female. Add testosterone to a person and they begin to show male secondary sex characteristics (deeper voices, facial hair, extra muscles, etc.). Add a Y chromosome to an embryo and you get a male. Though the norm is two, females can have any number of X chromosomes (see “trisomy X”) without ever showing any sign of being male. But so long as someone has a Y chromosome, that person is transformed into something different.
As a biology major, I was well familiar with these facts. But I wasn’t aware that some people interpreted these results as being sexist. The history class asked, “Can’t we also say that being male is a lack of having two X chromosomes? Or a lack of estrogen? Why are women the ones who are ‘missing’ something? Missing a penis, missing testosterone, missing a Y chromosome, always ‘missing,’ always ‘lesser.'”
As I mention in the last section, this answer is complicated but mostly “no.” But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about “defaults.” Why does equating “female” with “default” mean that they are inferior? In fact, I’m used to the exact opposite: … More Which sex is the default?
My friends and I play Dungeons and Dragons, and we all normally play characters of our own gender. I barely remember what the situation was, but a situation once arose during a D&D session where my character wanted to do something, and another player said that the NPC wouldn’t allow it because I was a woman and the middle ages were sexist.
I was completely taken aback. We weren’t including plague, infant mortality, or suicide in our campaign — in fact, there wasn’t even any gore, sex, or curse words unless the players specified it. The DM was PG at its finest. We were obviously including medieval elements that made things fun, like swords and tyrant kings, but omitting things that would make it less fun, like weight limits and bestiality. So why would sexism be built in to the world? … More Is sexism in high fantasy “just being realistic?”
It’s been a long time since I’ve written in the style of a timed writing from high school English class, and I’m not entirely sure what compelled me to return to this format. Either way, here I am, writing a rhetorical analysis on the one comment I received in all my months of writing for … More Rhetorical Analysis of a Comment, Written in the Style of High School English Timed Write
Stereotypes, politics, and personal agendas are some of the most damaging things that someone can employ during a meeting between a creative writer and an editor. They hamper the creative process, but many of us don’t even notice when we use them. … More Stereotypes, Politics, and Agendas in Creative Writing
Originally published 8/13/2016. Some updates have been made in the form of strikethroughs. I absolutely love milk. I can tell whole, skim, and 1%/2% apart by taste I’m a “discovery writer”, which means I plan almost nothing no plot before writing My favorite punctuation is the hyphen I have an extra chin muscle I can move … More 35 Weird Things About Me
Thanos does not seem to realize that when you are literally god, there are smarter ways to prevent overpopulation than wiping out half of a planet’s population. Here are just some that I could come up with. … More 19 Smarter Things Thanos Could Have Done (No Spoilers)
If you aren’t homophobic, then you logically shouldn’t care about what the right answer is. The only reason this debate actually exists is to mitigate internal and external homophobia.
Let me explain. … More Does it matter whether sexuality is innate?
Originally published 11/12/2016. Lead image from Aaron Kittredge via Pexels.com. Why We Should Be Thankful for Democracy A bad president, elected by the majority of voting citizens, and political gridlock. These two phrases are enough for some to doubt the ideology that everyone should be allowed to vote or that a leader should be chosen … More Why Democracy?