The Structure of Writing

downtown light & sky

Writers are unique thinkers. If you’re a writer and reading this, then you probably have an idea about what I mean. We (generally speaking) tend to keep to ourselves, might be a little quiet, definitely a little weird, have a way with stringing words into awesome sentences, have an exceptionally strange fascination with puns, and genuinely have a different way of looking at the world.

Some of this uniqueness may be because we’re constantly thinking about stories and writing, or observing our surroundings and the human condition, or simply just caught up in reading so much that our brains start to think in stories rather than real time.

So how does that uniqueness transfer to actual writing?

The act of writing, or how we write, is unique to each writer. I’d consider it to be in the vein of the writing process. There’s tons of writing on this particular topic, yet something I’ve consistently struggled with. I know WHAT I want to write, but HOW to write it is another story altogether (no pun intended?).

Some writers sit down the same time every day and write where they left off. Some write scenes out of order and then string them together later. Some create their character sketches before writing the story at all. Some outline and then write by following that outline.

I’ve generally been unsuccessful with all of these approaches. Right now, I’m currently trying to write from beginning to end, but I’m really struggling with HOW to do this. It’s such a simple concept, yet when I sit down to do it, it’s actually kind of hard. Is it possible my mind doesn’t think this way when it comes to writing?

The one thing I DO have is a general idea of how the story ends. I haven’t written it yet (maybe I should??) but a few weeks ago I started to think differently about how to write. Well, at least how to write this particular story I’m working on.

If, say for example, there are 5 major points in my story, the 5th being how it ends, how does my main character get to point 5? Answer: they get there from point 4. And how does my character get to point 4? Answer: from point 3. And so on and so forth. Essentially, it’s writing backwards.

But I’m not writing backwards like you might imagine, I’m a little all over the place at this point. I didn’t start with the end, but I took a point that I know my character gets to (near the beginning) and started to write the scenes about how she gets there. Then I’ll take some other points and figure out how my character got to those points. I’m hoping eventually they will all make sense once put together. It’s a new approach I’m taking to writing that’s help curbed the overwhelming-ness of the story in my head.

It’s possible that the underlying reason why writers think so uniquely is because we need to in order to move forward with our stories, and translating this to the real world outside of imaginary places seems like a pretty good skill to own.

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As a writer, I’ve often wondered if other writers constantly think about their characters, story line, and ways to write sentences.

I want to say I’m constantly thinking about writing my story (or stories) in particular, but in reality I’m only doing this part of the time. I have to diligently use my other time completing daily functions like working, sleeping, and playing with my pug (or rather, keeping him out of trouble).

When I’m not carrying out my required daily functions (god I sound like a robot), I’m either driving, eating, listening to music, failing at sleeping, cleaning… the list goes on. And during this time, I’m thinking about what my character would do in certain situations, how the story might unfold, what scene I want to write, what scene I’ve already written. Sometimes my story doesn’t even cross my mind, but rather about how to phrase a sentence or how a certain smell would be described.

Just today I thought how to word a sentence about what fresh copier paper feels and smells like. I pick up fresh paper from a giant office printer every day. What made me think of this today I have no idea. It’s possible I was thinking about writing and in that moment as I walked to the printer, waiting for my paper to emerge, I thought about how to write it.

I mean, c’mon. EVERYONE thinks like that, right?

When my husband and I travel in the car together and the trip is more than a few minutes, I’m sitting in silence more often than not. And during this silence I watch the world pass. Even if I’ve been down the road 100 times, I still find my mind wandering into random thoughts of how to describe a car ride, or how to describe a winter day, or setting a scene at a hot dog stand I’ve been past 1000 times.

No kid: I drove past a hot dog stand, a taco stand, and a BBQ stand for 5 years on my way to and from work every day. All on the same road. The BBQ smelled especially delicious and the taco stand had giant chili mascot. The hot dogs were only breakfast hot dogs; not open in the afternoon (I suspect this place generally catered to nighttime truck drivers).

My point being, I think about writing a lot and have done so for a long time.  I’d be curious to hear what other writers think about, and if I’m the only weirdo out there thinking about how copier paper smells.

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Note: the picture of copier paper at the top is NOT mine. I only say this because when I use a photo, I use only my photos. I just really wanted a boring looking picture of copier paper, because I don’t go around at work taking pictures of paper. That would be creepy.

Writing Break

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I graduated!

I now officially have my Paralegal Certificate. In the making since the fall of 2015 (1 1/2 weeks after getting back from my tropical island honeymoon nonetheless). With the classes and what I learned still fresh in my mind, I updated my resume a few weeks ago and I realized how much I actually learned and know – it’s kinda cool!

But this post isn’t about paralegal studies, it’s about how I’ve had so much more time on my hands to write, now that I don’t have homework looming over my head every week and classes to attend on Saturday afternoon and Wednesday night.

I’ve recently been forcing myself to write a little bit at lunchtime every day. I found a smallish notebook that fits perfectly in my bag that I bring to work. I decided to see if I could concentrate on writing a page or two at work during lunchtime. Surprisingly, I got right in the zone despite sitting at my desk with work and deadlines looming just a foot away on my computer.

Side note: since posting last, I did not get a paralegal job, but got a new job at the company I’ve worked at for 6 years. It’s in a compliance related area. I still want to be a paralegal (who writes novels on the side of course!) but for now I’m happy where I’m at – and it’s only been 7 months. The point is, the pace is very different from my old job that I had for 5 ½ years. When the pace picks up it moves extremely fast, leaving almost no time to breathe (good practice for paralegal work though). Whereas at my old job, the pace was fast BUT more constant and not as rushed.

So that being said, I often find myself working through lunch more often than not and it’s difficult to pull away sometimes. I’ll admit, I’ve become more of a perfectionist over the years and find myself wanting to do everything and anything and all of it RIGHT the first time. And if I don’t get it right, I’m unnecessarily hard on myself and it eats away at me. Not the healthiest, I know, but that’s where writing comes in.

These past few weeks I’ve taken more time away from work at lunchtime than not. I turn my seat around to the non-computer portion of my desk, munch on my food and write a few pages in my notebook. I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere with that manuscript I’ve been wanting to write for years. The only way to get it done is make yourself write. I recently read in a writing magazine that you need to make time rather than find time. It’s forcing yourself to do it regardless of life’s circumstances rather than sitting and waiting to see if a good moment comes your way.

Now, if only I could keep up regularly with this writing blog… until next time whenever that may be.

Peace out.

Not Much Time

I’m writing for the sake of keeping up the writing habit – again. So this no doubt will be short. It was a busy day at work training the new person and then right into homework when I got home, which left no time to brainstorm for today’s post, let alone any sort of writing exercise. But I’ve come to terms with that. It is what it is and tomorrow is a new day.

Although, it’s days like these I wish there were more hours in the day to get things done. I wanted to get some work done too this evening, but no time for that since my homework is due tomorrow. My brain is almost completely exhausted to the point it can’t form sentences… so that’s a sure sign I’ve worked hard.

I’m giving myself a task for tomorrow’s post: come up with a list of ideas I can pull from in moments like this so I’m not struggling to find a topic to write about. Of course I won’t post it here, but I’ll have it handy when I need it. And now that I’ve declared a task for myself, it’ll be in the forefront of my mind so it will most likely get done.

Off to bed now, because my brain can’t take any more words.

For the Love of Books

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I’ve neglected writing this entire weekend, which was not my original plan. I wanted to go for a month streak of writing, or at least 14 days since they say it only takes two weeks to make a habit, but I didn’t succeed. So onto trying again! Today being day 1 – again.

This weekend I had a dear friend visit me who I hadn’t seen in about 5 years. It was a fantastic reunion and it got me thinking that one of the reasons I love her is because we are both in love with books and learning. It’s always wonderful to be in company of others who love what you love, in my case, writing, reading, learning, and books. One of my other very close friends who lives on the other side of the country, we’re also both in love with writing, reading and books, so growing up together we bonded over that and will most likely continue to do so.

I find it refreshing to spend my time with someone who has the same amount of passion over books that I do. My friend and I ended up in a used bookstore for the afternoon on Sunday, searching for books on our reading lists, browsing, blowing off dust from the top of old books that haven’t left the shelf in years, and drinking the free coffee that the owners left out for customers. It was an awesome afternoon and we became completely absorbed in the bookstore.

It’s moments like these that reiterate it’s helpful to continue to be in tune with the writing world, especially if – like me – you have a day job not related to writing in the least bit. It’s times like these that jog my memory to take a moment to slow down and listen to what I love most: the written word.

Well, it’s not really “listening” to what I love most, it’s more “reading” what I love most.

Regardless, it made me love books even more, just like every time I go to a bookstore. Reiterating the fact that I’m on a journey to write, and what’s helping me get there and what inspired me in the first place is the love of books.