Daily Writing Tip 12 of 100, Making Piles

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Making Piles

Source – The Writing Book by Kate Grenville

The first step in shaping a story is to sort through your collection of raw material. Have a look at all the pieces you have and see if you can sort them into different piles — categories of one kind or another.

What you’re looking for are elements that go together or connect in some way. They don’t have to connect in any logical way; the connection can be nothing more than an intuition that a couple of things are related. At this stage, your material doesn’t have to add up to anything, or be a story.

I have been a fan of Kate Grenville for a long time. I read the two connected novels Lilian’s Story and Albion’s Story and was tremendously impressed at her writing and insight. She’s also written a number of writing books and find her advice always good.

In today’s snip, she talks about writing from piles – instinctive groupings of stuff you have collected.

Maybe it is the hoarder in me, but I’ve always wanted to write like that – and always tried to collect little bits of inspiration (names, characters, situations, ideas, aphorisms, bits of dialog, places, conflicts, disasters) but have never had much luck with using them later in fiction works. The bits – that seemed like little shiny jewels when I collected them – seem to quickly lose their luster and fall to dust. I look at them and say to myself, “What the hell was I thinking when I wasted precious ink in writing this down.”

But here we have a master storyteller mining gold from this gray straw. I need to give it another try. I need to read what she says and take it to heart. She knows what she’s talking about and I, obviously, don’t.

So notepad on one side, highlighter on the other… in I dive.