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Laying Down the Keel of a Story

How do you begin the bones of your story?


I have done this a few times though the original novels and stories were lost to a hard drive crash. And what I am going to talk about is not exactly analogues to laying down a keel, but that is what comes to mind when I think about this process. Of course you may have different feelings about what I am proposing, but if nothing else I hope that it makes you think about your writing in an analytical way. Of course as there is nothing new under the sun, thousands of writers may already do it this way.


Keel Writing: Laying The Keel Both Ends At Once


I was in a writer's discussion group a few weeks ago and we were discussing endings. I was reminded of something that I had experimented with years ago. It had done well for me in gaining and keeping momentum with a story, as well as matching the end to the beginning. Simply put, I would write the first and last chapter of the book or the first and last scene of a story. Further, I have in the past experimented with alternating chapters: first, last, second, second to last, etc...


There are two reasons I think this worked well for me. I tend to have a very strong idea of an ending already, so fleshing out the ending immediately allows me to get that down and out of my head. Endings are treacherous territory; navigating is fraught with peril and frustration. Having at least an idea in words of what the ending looks like relieves that pressure. When we go on long journeys, having a known quantity awaiting us at our destination makes the journey better. Imagine if you already knew that your lover was waiting in good health and you survived the journey intact, before the long car ride? Wouldn't it make concentrating on and enjoying the journey better? Alternatively, if you knew tragedy was waiting, you could use the care ride to prepare yourself for what is to come.


Specifically I am talking about the end of the story. You might also want to write the epilogue if that helps and if you intend on having one.


...And The Middle


I am going to experiment with this myself, but I am going to suggest writing the middle chapter as well. This can be moving from Act 2 to Act 3 or some mid-point of Act 2, but whatever it is, having three strong anchor points for your story allows you to write the connective tissue with some idea of where you are headed.


But... but... I have no idea!


Actually, you do have an idea. At least some idea and you are not bound to keep the ending as is. It is just like writing the traditional story the traditional way; you can change anything at any time. And if you are a pantser, just pants the ending! Do not overthink it, just put an ending to the story that makes sense and connects to the beginning. Then, if you want to do more, write the mid point. From there, connect all three and see what you come up with.


I am currently working on Bourbon & Djinn in this manner. So far so good and as I update that novel's progress, I will come back to this topic and discuss how it is (or is not) working for me.


Give it a try and good luck!


~SMH

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