By Deren Bott
Most writers have heard of the two most common methods of writing: discovery writing and outlining. If you are an experienced writer, you likely know which of the two methods you fall into. However, you may not have given much thought to what each entails. Both ways are valid and knowing your writing style can help you both utilize your strengths and address your weaknesses.
Discovery writing is the method where you just put your pen to the paper (or hands on the keyboard) and just write. There is little planning beforehand beyond a general idea of something cool you want to write about. This method of writing capitalizes on the flow of ideas and allows the story to unfold organically.
Since there is little planning beforehand, a key part of being a discovery writer is revising your writing once you are done. Once you reach the end of your story, it is likely that something has changed since you first started writing. Maybe you gave a character a new name or decided that an event didn’t actually happen. Spending time to revise will allow your writing to be consistent and easy to follow.
The other method is to outline your story. Unlike discovery writing, outlining requires much more work beforehand. Typically, outliners will use a story structure to plan out the arcs and events of their story. This can be done to varying degrees of detail and is especially connected to worldbuilding. While outliners usually spend less time revising for consistency, it is still important for them to revise.
The Two Methods
Both discovery writing and outlining are great ways to write, and the best part is that you don’t have to be limited to one or the other. Most writers find themselves somewhere between the two techniques. For example, many writers outline major plot points but discovery write their characters. I’d encourage you to experiment and try both methods to see what works best for you!