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
Long ago, our ancestors used the stars of the night sky to voyage across the vast oceans. But when the stars disappeared, our islands were separated. The peoples of each island have drifted in different directions, each culture developing different technologies, each society using the power of the Sperk plant to grant them different abilities. Once the people of our island, Cambia, united under one queen, our sights turned beyond our shores. We learned how to follow the orcas in their travels across the depths of the vast ocean, and began exploring the innumerable islands of our world. We traded technologies with our strange but friendly neighbors. We shared the secrets of voyaging with everyone we met, hoping to create a better world. But then, we stumbled across the island of Mara, which was eternally locked in an arms race…until they met us. When we told the March of the vast world beyond their small island, their hungry eyes looked past the horizon. Using weapons capable of destroying entire civilizations, the March attacked us and began using our secrets of voyaging in their conquest of the seas. We send these voyagers to you to share our discoveries and establish an alliance for the coming war. We are the people of Cambia, and we come in peace. … More Old “Alloland” Draft — “The Hundred Foot Drop of Klima” #1
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?
Now we’re getting into the candy section! Denmark is flooded with American candies like Skittles and Twix, and with German sweets like Kinder eggs and Haribo gummies, but several Danish sweets are very common — and working hard to earn them a place in the top three happiest countries on the planet. How well are those sweets working?
Pretty darn well. … More Danish Food Review #2 – Sweets
I hate anyone who tries to tell other writers how to write, who pretends to know the exact elements that a story “must” have. Anyone who thinks that there is a clear formula or clear method of creating a story is diluted.
Creativity Inc. was recommended to me by a good friend years ago, but I only got around to reading it this holiday season because of my New Year’s resolution to read and watch things that people recommended to me (as opposed to putting it off for weeks, months, or years). And hey, the title was about unleashing creativity, not work-shopping a story. How bad could it be?
It was phenomenal. … More Creativity Inc. by Amy Wallace with Ed Catmull (2014)
It’s engaging, hilarious, and goddammit it’s smart. My only regret is that it’s going to take so long to come out on DVD. … More Ralph Breaks the Internet by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston (2018)
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
What I find interesting about my history with Harry Potter is that every time I read the series, it seemed to change. I had different opinions, enjoyed different parts, and noticed different things about it. Perhaps that will always happen with every book I reread, perhaps it will stop happening when I stop growing, or perhaps it’s a quirk of the series itself.
But what did I think of it this time, reading it just before my junior year of college? … More The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (1997)
Originally published 2/27/2016. Lead image via Wikipedia. 5 STARS You may have heard the phrase “Brave New World” before. It’s from Shakespeare. And a character in Brave New World doesn’t just happen to say it; he actually quotes Shakespeare all the time. This was, once again, a book I was required to read in English class (though … More Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
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?