Wednesday, October 23, 2013


by Bethany Maines

It seems like I’ve been thinking more about structure and organization lately.  From trying to tame my husbands hoarder tendencies, to how to enhance the drama in a novel, everywhere I look it feels like everything needs more structure. 

To solve my husband’s “issue” I’ve decided that some of his things need to go live out in the carport.  Which is a bit like telling a writer that some of their favorite parts need to get axed from a manuscript.  First, you lead them along the path of logic and hope that they decide for themselves that something has to go, and then eventually you just blurt it out – “That doesn’t fit.”  In my husband’s case, I mean, quite literally, we cannot fit anymore in the spare bedroom.  In the case of a manuscript it’s more like, “This doesn’t sound anything like the rest of your book and it’s a bit of a tangent from the plot.  Do you really need it?” 

But some things do belong in the house.  It’s just that being buried in the closet doesn’t exactly display them to their best advantage.  I’ve got this pretty well figured out in my house.  I know what I like and I have a pretty good idea of what would be useful to us.  (Hint: it’s bookcases, MORE bookcases.) But in a book, it’s a little more difficult. Do I need this part about the narwhal?  (Hint: Yes, when it comes to narwahl’s the answer is always yes.)  Ok, so I need the narwhal, but would it look better over here?  Or maybe it would look better if I removed this part about the teakettle that’s sitting next to it?  What makes for the biggest dramatic reveal of a narwhal?  This is where editors, beta readers, and interior decorators come in extremely handy.  With an educated eye they can tell you what will create a focal point and what you should blur over.

But I suppose an “educated eye” is the key phrase there.  Five years ago, I couldn’t tell you with any certainty, what belonged in a book and what was something I just happened to like.  The more I read, the more clarity I get on what creates dramatic continuity and what pieces, while possibly beautiful, funny, or perfect in their own right, don’t belong in the manuscript.  Each book is it’s own learning process, but each book does teach me something.  Hopefully, by the time I’m oh… say 95, I’ll have this whole writing thing figured out.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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