Putting the pieces together: a tip for writers

I was working on a complicated short story and I couldn’t figure out how to sequence the events. I sat at my computer copying and pasting, scrolling up and down the word document, searching for what should go where. Finally I just printed it out, cut up the different segments and laid them all out on the floor. I tried out many different sequences until I found the best one. I also cut up some blank strips of paper and put them  in between sections that needed a transition.

2013-06-27 10.19.35It was so helpful to edit my story in this unconventional manner. I spend so much time on the computer, sometimes I forget that writing can happen off the screen. I highly recommend trying this out, but first, here are two tips:

1. Wait a little while before putting it in order. I tried putting it in order right after printing it and I ended up putting it back in the exact same order. I tried it again the next day, and came up with a much better, fresher order.

2. If you have pets, tape it up as soon as you’re done . 

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Even if this short story goes nowhere, Marla will always love my writing.

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  1. I’d never done something like this until fairly recently and it was immensely helpful. It was fun to move scenes around to see how they fit, or did not fit, together. In my case, though, I did it on the computer using my writing software called Scrivener. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it. Best piece of writing software, hands down.


  2. I have done this several times. I do it when I am trying to put together a talk or a lesson, and occasionally with other types of writing. I don’t have the pet problem though.


  3. Great idea. Young ‘uns forget that the words “cut” and “paste” actually did once refer to a physical activity using scissors and glue or scotch tape.

    I find it’s essential to read anything long and complex on paper, off-screen. I recently read a friend’s new non-fiction work and told him to go through it in hard copy with a magic marker so he could actually see how many of the same (boring) material he kept using over and over. It’s easy to get lost inside one’s own copy.


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