I posted briefly about this on Facebook, but I thought it bore another look. Most of you who are acquainted with writers (which I suppose, almost by default, means all of you) have probably heard the term "plotters vs pantsers" at some point. It refers to two types of writers: those who outline and plot in detail before writing, and those who wing it - going by the seat of their pants.
There's another way to refer to this, and it's a bit more elegant: Architects versus Gardeners. (It's also less likely to get you a scandalized look at a party.) Architects design the framework and structure. Gardeners plant idea seeds and see what grows.
Now all this creates a dichotomy that's a little misleading. A lot of writers are somewhere in between, use different methods for different projects, or have shifted from one to the other over the course of their career. There's no ongoing rivalry between the two philosophies, though some books on writing would give you that impression. Since, obviously, it's much easier to write a book about planning than a book about winging it, you see more of them, and some of them do take potshots at the other style.
In any case, I've been studying for the CSW - Certified Specialist of Wine - so I've had wine on the brain, from grape varieties to terroir. And it occurred to me: between Architects and Gardeners, I'm a Viticulturist.
Before the vine ever blossoms, I'm pruning unnecessary foliage and spacing out canes for the best possible growth pattern. The remaining vine structure is trained along wires - call those my overall sense of plot, the characters involved, the invisible support of the main idea. And then allowed to blossom ... mostly.
Because as much as the grapes grow naturally, they receive constant, watchful eyes making sure that their growth doesn't get out of control and that they are protected from the extremes of weather and from pests. As a writer, I am pathologically incapable of just barreling on and leaving a scene "not quite right." I can't use placeholder words or names, marking them to fill in later. If I realize I need to revise something to make a later scene click better, I'm flipping back to do so right away.
What's one of the most important decisions a winemaker has to make? The timing of harvest, because there's often a balance between peak sugar levels and physiological maturity. In an ideal setting, these two elements happen at the same time, but shifts in weather (plot developments!) and other events can put them out of sync. For me, ending a story is sometimes difficult, because I like to stop with some loose ends; that sense of, "Yes, but ..." Just because the book ends, doesn't mean life does.
Then there's the process of turning grapes into wine, which I'll call the editing process. Don't worry, I'm not going to belabor the metaphor any further at this point, other than to say that I'm an Old World winemaker: my editing doesn't change the essential core of the story; the finished wine is an expression of the grapes and what the underlying terroir has to offer.
Oh, and a good story makes me a little tipsy. There's that, too.