Writing 'In Order'
edited: Monday, June 21, 2004
By Persia Walker
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, June 21, 2004
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A Word for the Mentally Messy
Sometimes writers bemoan how they can't manage to get their thoughts 'in order' and write a storyfrom beginning to middle to end. Whenever I hear that, I think to myself, 'What a waste of energy.' If you ever find yourself thinking that way, stop. Dig down and find a sense of trust -- in yourself.
Very few writers write a story/an article "in order," that is from A, B, C ... to X, Y, Z. And that's for two good reasons -- A) the untrained mind doesn't work that way and B) even the trained mind rarely works that way. I've met few writers or reporters who can sit down and just spew out their bit with logical consistency, from lead-in to concluding line. Many can scratch down a thin outline or synopsis, but adding the flesh and blood to any lengthy piece is something each writer has to sit and worry his or her lower lip over.
So whether you're working from middle to beginning to end, or end to beginning to middle or any other variation thereof -- it doesn't matter. Relax. The pieces will fall into place ... if you give them all a chance to float to the surface.
Stephen King, one of my favorite writers, has a great metaphor for the process of how a story presents itself in the writer's mind. He speaks of his "boys in the basement." They're moving men, and although they theoretically work for him, they have minds of their own. They move what they want to move, when they want to move it. They move the furniture that's in the basement (the scenes buried in his subconscious) up to the house (his conscious) in whatever order they please. Sometimes they bring up stuff for the kitchen, sometimes stuff for the livingroom, sometimes stuff for the bedroom -- all in what for him is a jumbled mess. It's his job to receive each piece happily, thank the "boys" warmly, and sweat to put the pieces in their proper place. A great metaphor, I think.
King, being King, has a second metaphor for the psychology of writing: working on an anthropological site. As every anthropologist knows, you rarely uncover an entire skeleton with every bone laid in place, or even in the same layer of dirt. Again, it's your job and your joy to receive every little bone -- or big bone -- with love and respect, trusting that each will eventually fit together. At some point, you'll have enough bones to figure out the whole animal. But only if you hang in there long enough to uncover them all -- and only if you have faith in your intuition.
To reiterate: Believe in yourself.