Friday Speak Out!: Getting In Touch

Friday, April 15, 2016
by Stephanie Allen Crist

I’m a planner by nature. I plan out my life and my work. I wrote my memoir after creating a detailed plan and the process worked great. But, when it comes to my fiction, I’ve learned there’s something magical about writing a story by the seat of my pants!

After “fibro fog” began impacting my concentration, I needed something to get my writing back on track. My usual tricks didn’t work. It was time to get back to basics. I started writing by hand, listening as the pen scritched across the paper, feeling the ink slide from my fingers to the page.

But the scene that flared so brilliantly in my mind felt dull and lifeless. The notebook I’d used was the cheap, flimsy, wire-bound variety. The words I’d written fit the notebook so well I almost threw it away. I went shopping instead.

I found the upscale notebooks I wanted at Target. Bound like a traditional composition notebook, I found a version with a wide right hand margin. I could take notes on changes I wanted to make without getting caught up in a censor-style critique. So, I grabbed four.

The first was for the beginning. The second and third would comprise the middle. The fourth would be for the end. With Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering humming in the back of my mind, I figured that these four notebooks came with a built-in plan. I just didn’t know what it was.

I rewrote that first scene. The prose was far from perfect, but the words were worthy of those fancy notebooks. So, I kept going. Page by page, chapter by chapter, the story started to come together until I put my heroine in a too-tight spot at the beginning of the second notebook. She needed to do something extraordinary to escape. The words flowed like wine, heady and strong.

There I was, at the beginning of the second quarter of my novel, with a scene that could have made a climactic end. That meant that I needed to make things bigger and more dramatic from here on out. As the story progressed, the magic happened. I kept finding new ways to live up to that dramatic promise. Problems got bigger. I was tougher on my heroine than I’d been on any character I’d ever created. I gave her problems she couldn’t handle and I forced her to handle them. And she surprised us both when she handled them well.

Now the story is on my computer, still a work-in-progress. But I’ve noticed something else. Every time I read those big moments that come after that extraordinary escape, they still get me. I’ve read them dozens of times, but they still make me cry. And that’s magical!

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Stephanie Allen Crist is a writer, advocate, and marketer. Stephanie’s first two books, Discovering Autism / Discovering Neurodiversity: A Memoir and First Steps: Understanding Autism, are available now. Learn more by visiting and be sure to check out Caressing the Muse, Stephanie’s writing blog.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sheila Good said...

What a wonderful idea! Maybe it's a technique I should try. Best of luck with your book. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

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