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.

paper

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.

I Edit My Texts Because I Love Words

When the topic of Scrabble comes up, everyone says to me I should be good at it because I was an English major in college.

Wrong.

I’m actually not privy to Scrabble all that much.

What I AM privy to is making sentences and paragraphs out of words in my brain, and then rearranging them to make them fit nicely on the page. This is ENTIRELY different from CREATING words out of letters printed on wooden squares.

Picking out words to use in a particular sentence is awesome. I love it, especially when I get going. I can’t pinpoint WHY I love it so much, it’s just a feeling. It makes me think and my brain gets head over heels.

I wonder sometimes how other writers feel about words. Comments?