Discovery vs Outline Writing

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