The Structure of Writing

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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.

For the Sake of Writing

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What do you do when you don’t know what to write? Do you stop or keep going and write whatever comes out? This is what I’m struggling with right at this moment. For the sake of creating a daily writing habit I’m here typing out a blog post on nothing specific, but to just write.

I have a few writing exercise books that I could put to use here, write random fiction or non-fiction just to keep up the habit in the future. I think I’ve only used the books a few times so it’d be nice to put them to use.

But this isn’t a blog for fiction/non-fiction writing excerpts, it’s to get myself out there as a writer and hopefully establish some sort of online presence in the writing world. All the while writing my story. So I’ll try to keep those to a minimum.

I almost didn’t sit down to write this. I thought to myself, I don’t have anything to write about so why write? Then I second guessed myself and said, yes, I need to do it in order to kick the habit of NOT doing it.

So, I think I can say that day 4 of writing daily is complete!

Did the Story Come Before the Character?

Alright, I realize I haven’t been present since the beginning of the year, but for good reason: I’ve been writing!

Well, more like a jumble of writerly things along with school work and normal day to day things, and there’s been busy times where I’ve worked at home more often than I have in the past. But the important thing that’s been happening is that I’ve been writing and developing my character.

I haven’t been working on the same story since January, I started one, then flipped to another idea, but when that one didn’t hold my interest I decided to go back to the first one and that’s where I’m at. I’ve been developing the main character more than writing the story, which is something I’ve struggled with what to do first:

Did the character come before the story? Or the story come before the character?

One can’t exist without the other, but it’s essential to have a story in order for the character to survive and thrive in, but it’s also essential to have a character somewhat developed in order for a story to be present.

I’ve always struggled with what to do first, should I thoroughly develop my character before even starting the story at all, despite the fact I have an idea, or should I just dive into my idea for a story and let the character develop out of that?

I started to just develop the character, which got me nowhere – hence the non-writing for so long – and so I decided to start writing. But then I realized shortly after even starting to write, I couldn’t go too far in because I didn’t know my character well enough. So I went back to character development.

Side note: this story I’m working on, I’ve had this idea in my head for over 2 years, so it’s come a long way and I need to get it out!

So right now I think I’m doing a bit of character development along with writing the story itself instead of doing one before the other. I know some writers do one before the other, and that may work for them, but I’m finding out it might not work for me.

Up next time: a look at my progress?