Nuts and Bolts -- The Horizontal Versus the Vertical

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Every story possesses the "horizontal" movement from plot point to plot point and finally to resolution, as well as the "vertical" development of character, theme, and emotional resonance. Discover Chuck's approach to building a story in layers.

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Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 9, 2011 - 10:56pm

In his workshop, Tom Spanbauer calls the act of writing the first draft: "Shitting out the lump of coal."  According to Tom's metaphor, you need to create the raw story before you can refine it.  Ideally, into a diamond.  It's a struggle, and it's frightening.  You have no idea IF this thing will resolve itself in a way that justifies your time and effort.  But once it's out, you can relax and enjoy the rewrite.  You can look at the overall shape of the whole thing.  You can carry around a printed, hard copy and line edit the details.

This is why I outline. Because I always DO have an idea if the book will resolve itself in a way that will justify my time and effort before I start writing it, although I won't know this will actually be true until I'm finished with the outline. But outlining takes a hell of a lot less time and effort than writing a first draft.