Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A New Way to Write

In Barbara Kingsolver's, The Poisonwood Bible, one of the characters is born crippled. She walks with a limp all her life. Then she meets a doctor who tells her, essentially, "There's no physical reason for you to walk with that limp anymore. Stop walking for six weeks. Crawl instead. Then try walking again. The limp will probably be gone."
In the book, it works! After taking a break from her habitual way of walking, the character learns that she can walk normally. But she had to stop walking for a while before she could do it.

Several years ago I had some bad typing habits. For a long time I tried without success to break those habits. At last, I switched my computer to the Dvorak keyboard layout and made myself learn to type from scratch. It was a leap backwards at first. I went from being able to type at a reasonable clip to a slow, pained tap...tap...tap. But a few months later, my fingers could fly! I was typing faster than I ever had before. After a couple years I switched back to Querty, learned to type all over again, and now I can type fast enough to take down my grandpa's life history by dictation.

A little while back I learned something new about my writing---as much as I love to write by discovery, the kind of stories I love best don't happen to me by accident. Some authors seem to be able to do it, but now that I've finished three manuscripts I can see that story is the aspect I struggle with the most.

So I'm learning a new way to write. I'm outlining first.

There are some things I like better already. I am so excited about my story I can't wait to finish the book and share it with other people. In the past it has always been the characters I adored, and the premise and the setting, but this time I know my story rocks. On the other hand, I feel like I'm crawling around on my hands and knees, feel like I'm typing on a keyboard where someone has mixed up all the letters.

I'm hoping that I can learn this new way to write, and then something marvelous will happen.


  1. Wow, I'm impressed you started all over to learn to type!

    I'm like you--I didn't outline my first book and was just in love with the characters and the premise. With my second one, I used Larry Brooks's Story Structure Architect online to help me know which direction I was going. It was awesome. My plot is much more solid this way.

  2. Wow, Amber! I'm very impressed that you'd teach yourself to type like that. I couldn't (more like wouldn't) do that!

    I love to hear how other writers use different techniques. Mine vary from story to story. I don't really have a method. I just write what comes to me. (Whether by outline, or freewriting or whatever)

  3. I feel like I'm stuck in the middle. I want to have an outline to go by, but when I sit down to write the outline, I just want to write the story. Then when I skip to the story, I wish I had it outlined.

    My current WIP really needs a good outline, and I'm trying but...

    Ah, the joys of writing!

    Good luck figuring out your groove!

  4. Thanks for your comments, everyone!

    When a story grows inside me, awesome scenes come into my mind, like plants sprouting up from a hidden root. But these scenes don't come in order. I've tried writing them down as they come, then patching them together into a sequential story, but that ended up being irretrievably inconsistent.

    Now when a scene comes to me, I find a spot for it in my outline. I make just enough notes that I can remember the scene later, and then I can draft all the scenes in order.

  5. Great post. Isn't it amazing how we're always learning something new? Each book brings more knowledge about how to write. Don't you love it? Thanks for reminding me to always push the envelope and look for new ways of writing the best story I possibly can.

  6. Great post Rebecca. I love the idea of going back to the basics or taking a new approach. I think we often get so stuck on the idea that things have to be a certain way because that is how we have always done it. But if we would just try something new we may be surprised.

    Getting out of the box always helps seeing things from a different perspective.

  7. Oh outlines! How I love thee! How I despise thee!

    I'm with you Rebecca. Sure makes writing an entire book easier, doesn't it? (And so many less edits to make the thing work!)

    Here's to trying new things--and going back to the basics!(Great post btw.)



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