Deciding on a direction

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“Say what you are going to say, say it, and finally say what you have said.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this rule for organizing the written word repeated in the educational realm. But rules are meant to be broken. Following this rule consistently will end up putting your readers to sleep. So many formulas to create structure in writing breed boredom instead. Good writing requires movement towards a goal, without being completely predictable.

There are multiple types of graphic organizers to assist the writer in brainstorming: such as branching, bridging, and bubbling. However, consider exactly how the reader would comprehend a composition if you wrote it with one central idea and all the related sub-ideas jutting out in different directions? This would be like constantly returning to home between every leg of a road trip. There is no way to get away from the fact that reading is a linear activity. When you examine all the types of organizational schemes for writing they fit into one of two categories: time-based narrative (sequential) or subject-based (non-sequential). Organizing your thoughts as words actually requires a progression towards an end using one or both of these.

Fiction, biography, history, and the unbelievable true story are predominantly sequential. But flashbacks, flash forwards, clusters of events and parallel accounts all break into the march of time so the narrative doesn’t always move forward. There is a larger, overshadowing orderliness based on the theme.  Being conscious of this helps you know when to insert a time bending device, such as flashback, because it assists the reader in understanding the next step forward to reaching the goal.

Non-sequential writing may move from topic to topic based on location, people or some other criteria, such as a biological tree. However, the overarching movement is normally from a topic of less importance to one of greater impact. Subject-based writing may still contain many chronological narratives. In fact rarely do you find a book or article that is exclusively composed of sequential narrative or discussion of topics. Most writing is a blend.

Finally there is the matter of digression–the comment only barely relevant to your article, story or book. Many authors divert from their goal to expresses a pet peeve, or to praise a tangent idea. When is it okay to digress? There is no hard and fast rule. If there were, you would only be breaking it to keep your writing interesting. You must decide if the digression adds to the color of the story, gives insights to your view of the world or simply makes the piece incoherent. As with other characteristics of voice, organization requires judgment, and that is why it reflects your uniqueness.

This entry was posted in Story structure, The writer's voice, Writer's resource and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Deciding on a direction

  1. Pingback: How to play the words well | Write about what?

  2. knlistman says:

    Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:

    Writing doesn’t just need to be organized; it needs to go somewhere.

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