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.