How to write a book.

Zachary Staines

We’re building a shed this fall. The first thing we did was measure the space and pour a concrete pad on the ground for the foundation. We drilled the wood frame into the concrete. We used hurricane clips for the walls and trusses — steel clamps that hold the building in place even in high winds.

This is one way to look at writing a book. You can try to make it windproof.

Look at your story outline as the frame of the building. Then fill the walls with insulation and drywall (character and setting) and put the shingles on the roof (add finishing details), etc.

But there’s another way to look at it. A shed is built to withstand the wind and snow, but a story can have more flexibility. You can hold the frame loosely when you’re writing a book.

Consider the way you would make a basket out of willow branches. Hold the branches firmly, but loosely at the same time — it’s okay for the shape to shift a bit as you work it. Let it move. Let it bend.

You don’t need a concrete foundation. Why not let basket to pass from hand to hand?

Let the story hold what it needs to hold. The meaning can change, depending on who holds it.

When you write a story with flexibility, you give it the space to hold more mystery.


Photo credit (top): Zachary Staines

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