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Layering Your Creation With the Good Stuff

by Bonnie S. Calhoun

Okay…chocolate does come to mind…but not this time. Remember the famous saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Go one step further, “No great book was built in one writing.” By that I mean many authors hamstring themselves by trying to include everything in their first go round.

Character emotions, allegories, red herrings, hidden meanings, clues, descriptive phrasing, and a whole host of the other things that make a novel come together as a great and interesting work don’t just happen by accident. It’s near impossible to think of all these things at one time.

Have you caught yourself going back to add in a clue or descriptive phrase after something you were presently writing jogged your memory or gave you a revelation? LOL…welcome to layering. Nope, there’s no mystique to it, but there is an organizational approach that I use. You can tweak it to whatever floats your boat.

I start off by writing the first draft. Yes…I do just write with wild abandon, to get it out of my head and onto the page before my addled *uh hum* older brain forgets it. LOL, have you ever walked into the kitchen and can’t remember why you’re there? Or put the milk in the sink and your cup of hot coffee in the refrigerator? But I digress. My wild abandon does include doing an edit on each section that I’ve written before I start something new the following day, but that’s just me. If you want to wait and edit at the end of a chapter, or even at the end of the whole book…that’s fine too.

As I’m writing, if I think of a specific detail, and remember exactly where to add it at that moment, then I go back and do it, but if it’s something that would divert my train of thought, I write it down to include later.

On my second pass at the manuscript I add in more descriptive phrases and emotions for my characters. (My brain works like a scriptwriter, so it expects people to think up themselves what the characters look like) while most people would really appreciate knowing your input on the character you’ve created.

On my third pass I add in descriptive phrasing on locations or settings because again…it’s still all in my head and not on the page.

Fourth pass…by now I’ve started thinking about things like clues and red herrings, and go about working them in, and in the process I’ve often come up with an allegory or two that seems appropriate.

If you create a list for yourself of things you’d like to include in other passes it will take the pressure off you to try and remember this stuff the first time around. I’ve found many times people hit a wall, or are blocked…or think their muse has gone on vacation, simply because their brain is trying to come up with too many details at one time. Stop it!

Just write…and go back and fill in the award-winning details on a later pass!

Bonnie Calhoun
Bonnie S. Calhoun is owner of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, publisher the Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Northeast Zone Director for ACFW, ACFW’s ‘Mentor of the Year,’ for 2011, President of Christian Authors Network, Appointment Coordinator for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference.

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5 Responses to Layering Your Creation With the Good Stuff

  1. Angel Moore says:

    I’ve just joined ACFW, and this article was worth the price of admission. You were inside my head. I’m excited to sit down at the desk tomorrow with a fresh attitude. Thank you.

  2. Bonnie, thanks for the great info. That’s pretty much what I do, too, but I always thought I was doing it wrong! Glad to know I’m not supposed to be able to do it all in one pass!

  3. Thanks, Bonnie! This is my process, too. I’m glad to know I’m on the right track!

  4. Isn’t it wonderful that we have computers and word processors that allow us to cut and paste, edit, search, find and replace? It’s so wonderful ot be able to rewrite with ease.
    Imagine the headache of writing on a typewriter with paper. Great to be living and writing today!
    KP

  5. Really, really good writing advise.