I’ve been doing what I often do two-thirds of the way through a novel, I’ve been re-structuring it. My most influential writing teacher, Ellington White, used to say often that if a piece of fiction isn’t working, or becomes bogged down, the problem (or solution, depending how you want to look at it) often lies in the structure.
The phrase “think architecturally” I’m borrowing from Naomi Epel’s nifty little deck of cards recommended to me by Steve Krause, called The Observation Deck: A Tool Kit For Writers. Each card addresses some writerly advice gleaned from a wide range of writers Epel interviewed. It sounds cheesy, I know, but the idea is to draw a card when stuck or looking for a little inspiration, read the discussion in the accompanying booklet, and take it from there. It rarely tells me anything I don’t know already, but that’s usually the point: You’re forgetting something you already know!
So in my case, when I drew this card and remembered Ellington’s advice, a cursory examination of the three threads of the story quickly revealed they were seriously out of proportion with each other, and while one was ladled in great globs, the others were eked out in dribs and drabs. The sequence of events in each needed to be seriously reworked. This led to other discoveries and an end to the logjam. Feeling stuck? Ellington, Naomi, and I recommend having a look at structure.
I love that card deck! I’ve kept one on my desk and one in my backpack for years now.
Another wonderful though less obvious card deck that I keep on me at all times is the Oblique Strategies deck
It’s great for prompting in weird ways. And no, I swear, I’m not just a Brian Eno fanboy.
Okay. Maybe a little. But just because I’m planning on tampering with the new School of Business’ announcement system to constantly beam Music for Airports.
I’ve never been able to lay my hands on an Oblique Strategies Deck. I priced one through your link, Dustin, and it was 30 pounds! Is it printed in gold leaf? Where can an impoverished midlist writer such as myself fine one?
30 pounds is a steal. Decks used to be found on eBay from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Insanity!
I know there’s a swanky little widget if you happen to have a Mac.
Or I can just make you one with our badass label printer at work and a stack of index cards 😉
I do have a Mac, of course, so I’m off to see the Widget. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll have to hit that label printer after hours.
Hey! I got mentioned in your blog! I gotta play with that deck some more….
You should definitely get yourself an Oblique Strategies Widget. I’m addicted to the thing!