Posts Tagged ‘threads and mush’




Threads and Mush: Plotting a First Draft

Filed under: Drafting, Pondering, Reading, Writing, Writing Style

I’m trawling for story threads. I’ve got my divining rod out and I’m looking for the well that holds my magic mush. I am plotting a first draft.


I have a solid little starter chunk of my WIP on the page–again. Yup. I said AGAIN. That’s how it works. I write. I get stuck. I unstick myself. I write some more. This whole writing a novel thing is a process. Somedays it feels like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. But really it’s about critical mass. I need to gather enough story threads and magic mush to weave and mold a complete book. I’ve had some material that has sparked me–enough to START a novel–but not enough to birth a full term book. This is not unusual. Not for me and not for a lot of writers.

Lots of people assume writing a book looks like this…


But really it looks more like this.

Kinda weird and wacky.

You feel like you’re doing the same damn thing over and over again, but really–you are making progress.

photo copy


On a good day writing can be a challenge, so not having the enough threads and mush to make a story come alive can be VERY frustrating. And while I do believe that Stephen King’s Boys in the Basement will get around to sending up what I need… eventually…I have discovered there are things I can do to stir up pot making the threads and mush more visible. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to light a fire under those basement boys…


*I’ve been reading really great books–books that inspire me emotionally and as an artisan. Some people say reading is counter productive for them because it masks their own voice, but I find it clears my head. It’s like waking up sleepy and having a strong cup of coffee. Reading fabulous literature illuminates me.

*I look back at my scrap pile and revisit the chunks of stories that have gone to the land of unloved toys. Why? Because these bits and pieces came from thread and mush that was once important to me. They came from things that made me think or feel and perhaps I am not done with them yet. It’s a bit like setting up a yard sale with all the stuff your kids haven’t touched in eons. Once in sight, those long lost bits make me fall in love with them all over again. There is good stuff in there–if I can turn it on it’s head and look at it in a different way–a way I was unable to see in the confines of a previous story structure.

*I spend time in bed day dreaming about my story. This is magic time for me. I’m sleepy and relaxed and my mind wanders to places I would never let it go if I was at full attention. I adore this thought limbo so much. It’s truly one of my favorite parts of the writing process. And trust me, it’s not like I’m sprawled out for hours at a time, day and night. I wish. In reality, it might be five or ten sleepy minutes between closing a good book and arriving at the Land of Nod. But those minutes bring me important stuff and I’ve learned to appreciate them.

*I also pay attention. I’ve learned to trust that content will show up for me to explore. It WILL show up. I simply have to be paying attention. I’ve gotten much better at accepting this and believing there are no coincidences. Just this week I saw a book in the airport by a non-fiction author that fascinates me. I had the urge to buy the book, but I was already reading another book that showed up. Yesterday I saw a blog post about the author of that airport book and I clicked on it and started reading. Of course they mentioned the new book. Then, within a few minutes I saw more information on the book and low and behold, it had content in it directly related to my threads and mush. I bought the book and I’m five chapters in and I have added a ton of threads and mush to my pile.

Doing all of the above gets me excited and stimulates my thought process. It forces the Boys in the Basement to be on high alert. And they are! I am tingling with excitement about how much more I can create with all the new threads and mush I’ve collected. I am sooooo close to starting over AGAIN.  *head thunk* And that’s the thing to understand about collecting threads and mush–they don’t weave and mold themselves. You need enough of them to have material to work with, but mounds of raw product will never become art on it’s own. Craft is involved in the process. No one can pull a story out of my head but me. So, it won’t be long until you’re reading a blog post about the amazing, yet hair-pulling act of writing a first draft of my WIP–again. But that’s how I roll.

How do you collect the story threads and magic mush you need to make your writing work? Are you a researcher? Outliner? Do you bull-doze through multiple drafts in NaNoWriMo style or do you take a quieter, slower approach to mulling over your characters and plot lines. Does it change from book to book? Tell me your secrets, I might like to steal them.









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