Jul 3, 2009

BIAM and Writing in Layers

By Christine Thackeray

I'm participating in the BIAM this month and am so grateful for the motivation to write. Day One I was finishing up an edit and wrote a long query letter so I reached my goal, but not on my work in progress. The next day I began to write but found I needed to do more research and the time flew. I went to bed at 2am with nothing written.

This morning was writer's group, and I went with my new chapter that I wrote last week. When I got there my friend Julia had a new chapter too. She has five little ones at home and found some time Wednesday evening to go to a little coffee shop and type away. With only limited free time she simply wrote. As we read through her rough draft, she came up with some great ideas that could improved what she had. Together we encouraged her to drop more clues and to have her antagonist make a showing to heighten the need for her protagonist to flee. When we finished, she had made some real progress in her story, discovering whole new motivations, plot points and characters.

Too often I don't write until I know exactly where I'm going and then I read and reread what I've done to take me to the next step, creeping along my plotline at a pathetic rate. Being willing to let go and just write the story is freeing even if it isn't perfect the first time. The key is to remember you can fix it later.

When I took an oil painting class, I was surprised that we began our projects by outlining them in charcoal. Then we did the broad colors, painting only the large forms. After that we added the darker tones and finally put in the reflections with pale shades and whites. So if your first draft is merely a charcoal drawing in words, that alright. The beauty of the age of word processors is that we can write in layers, bringing a texture to our writing that may have been more challenging with only a typewriter.

I say this because I believe it, not because I do it. That's what this month is about.


  1. Christine, I truly appreciate the things you shared in this post. you pounded a thought into my head that I have been trying to get for months and months...just write the stupid book! I get so caught up in the 'it has to be perfect the first time' that I get in my own way. looking at it as layers is a great analogy. THanks!

  2. Well done, Christine. In today's busy world it's not easy to find time to do all the things we want to do. I grew up with, "what's worth doing is worth doing well," but we discover that when we start something new it is probably far from well done. Do we quit? Or do we change the motto? "what's worth doing well is worth doing, even though it starts out poorly." Okay, that's not very impressive. Who can state it more cleverly?

    My point is that I've already spent more time on this comment than I had planned. It's better than it might have been, but I don't consider it 'well done,' I'm out of time, so do I post it or delete it?

    I choose to post so you, Christine will know I read and pondered your blog. Besides, we learn from both greatness and ineptness.

  3. The timing of your post is perfect since I'm a bit late coming to it. My friend and I are having a great deal of trouble with our writing styles. This reminds me to be patient with both of us. It's a process.

  4. Great post Christine! And I have to say I so loved what you shared with us about the oil painting class both here and at writing group! :-D (and thanks for all those recommendations you gave me) Now I need to go get those changes made!

  5. The painting class is a good way to visualize writing. Thanks!


Thank you for visiting. Feel free to comment on our blogger's posts.*

*We do not allow commercial links, however. If that's not clear, we mean "don't spam us with a link to your totally unrelated-to-writing site." We delete those comments.