Poking around the skeleton of a story in progress

Sometimes writing a book is as much a visual exercise as a mental one, though maybe my visual challenges come because I compose on a keyboard instead of in a notebook.

As I also did with my first book at this stage in the writing process, I printed out 100 pages of my latest WIP (work in progress) over the weekend and spread it out, chapter by chapter, on the dining room table.

The exercise translates the outlined story arch into a three-dimensional structure. I realized I had a couple of too-short chapters, which I combined, and I found a chapter that was entirely out-of-place where I wrote it originally.

With this WIP, I’m telling two stories concurrently, so printing them out and reading them individually helped me see some of the false starts and superfluous storytelling.

Rereading the whole work so far also inspired more than a dozen ideas of little vignettes I need to expand upon. The exercise erased any threat of writer’s block. If you’re stuck in a manuscript, I highly recommend the investment in printer ink.

If I had been writing this book in a notebook, I imagine it would be easier to flip back and re-read than it seems to be on my computer screen. Sometimes I simply need to see two passages at once, and switching back and forth just doesn’t cast light on the challenges.

It’s also heartening to reread particularly well-written passages. “Oh, yeah, that’s brilliant,” I thought as I remembered the way I described an event or used dialogue to flesh out a character.

“Brilliant” is a safe adjective to use at this point in the privacy of one’s own writing process. Without it, there’s no point in continuing.

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One thought on “Poking around the skeleton of a story in progress

  1. I love this and it is very true. I recently just printed and started editing my second draft of Destiny Lane. I discovered that there was so much more to add when reading on paper, whereas reading on the computer I would have missed a whole lot of details and key points that make up the plot. I find their is something about writing pen to paper – a sense of magic.

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