Writer Wednesday: The Drawbacks of a Straight Line

I grew up writing.  For the longest time I had a rather serious problem.  Most of my stories lost steam about a third of the way through and sat gathering dust.  


Then one day I picked up “The Outlandish Companion” by Diana Gabaldon, writer of the bestselling Outlander series, and I discovered an amazing thing: you don’t have to write in a straight line.

What?  But that can’t be right.  A story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end, right?  Of course.  And you have to visit each of those things in order, right?  Not necessarily.  

Once I learned that I didn’t have to follow that story thread from start to finish in my writing, that I could stand outside of time, so to speak, and pop back into the story wherever the mood took me, my writing took off.  

Now when I write, I see my story as a string of beads.  I have a string, which is the rough outline of my plot.  I have a beginning, I know where the story is going to end, and I know the direction it needs to take to get there.  But along the way are a series of scenes – the beads.  I pick up the beads out of the jumble in my imagination, and I can lay them where I want them to go in my manuscript.  Then, when most of the beads are in place, I can fill in the gaps and string them all together.  Voila! 

Sometimes a scene isn’t going to work with the overall story.  So when I get to the stringing stage, I might have to let it go and try something else instead.  But I find that the benefits of this approach far outweigh the occasional trouble of letting a scene go.

1. I actually finish the manuscript

2. I work more closely with my inspiration

3. I discover moments I might not have written otherwise

4. I uncover a new direction for the story to take

5. I identify scenes that just don’t work

Sometimes I do manage to write a story in a straight line.  And kudos to those who can do it every time.  But when it doesn’t work to write linearly, I find the “string of beads” approach helpful.  

4 thoughts on “Writer Wednesday: The Drawbacks of a Straight Line”

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