Write the Skeleton

Writing advice, like a lot of things, namely philosophical queries, story ideas, revelations on how I should tackle that next scene, ideas to flesh out my work, brief snippets of poems, you name it, all these things come to me in the shower. Here’s one of my most recent (hopefully) profound shower thoughts.

Write the skeleton.

You can always fill in the body, hone its musculature, precisely lay every vein, artery and strand of sinew, every inch of flesh, every wrinkle, every hair follicle, every mole and imperfection.

Sure, the metaphor sounds gross but there’s wisdom in it. I’m almost sure of it.

Write the skeleton. Write the bare minimum of scenes as they appear in your head, as you go, write whatever plot points you can think of in whatever order you think of them. Map out the bare minimum dialogue to convey the point you’re trying to weave into this scene and write that and that alone. Don’t try to flesh out the dialogue during this phase. Just say what you need to say and no more.

These are your bones. You probably already know where they’re supposed to go. If not, you can always figure that out later. You’re not always going to write the bones you need. Sometimes you’ll create bones that already exist. You’ll write another left femur right after finishing the perfect left femur and only realizing this once you’ve finished your collection.

Assemble the bones as you go. Name your snippets, keep them organized, so that you’ll know where they go once it’s time to assemble your collection of bones and various other body parts you’ve accumulated during this process.

Sometimes you can just assemble a skeleton and sell it as is. Some folks like that kind of thing. Writing that immediately gets to the point. It’s why Hemingway was so successful.

However, some folks won’t, so be mindful of that. But that’s okay. Entertainment isn’t meant to appeal to everyone. You’ll find your audience. Folks who keep trying usually do.

If this is what you want, that is. Otherwise, you can flesh things out, like I said, it’s up to you. Only you can determine what you want your art to look like.

Just write the skeleton. Even if you don’t use it and you decide you’d rather write the entire body as you go, you’ll have a guide. A framework. Scaffolding upon which to build your masterpiece. Whatever.

Just write the skeleton.

I don’t know if this is particularly novel advice. In fact, I’m sure someone has said something similar, probably worded it better than I have here, but I don’t know. Maybe someone will point this out to me in the comments. But who knows? Hopefully, this is the first time most of you are reading something like this, and if so, I hope it helped.

Now if I could just get myself to take my own advice, I’d probably be golden.  

About Justin McBride

My name is Justin McBride and I’m a guy who enjoys writing, playing games and writing about playing games. Sound lame enough yet? Well, I have other interests as well such as hanging out with friends, watching TV, going to the movies from time to time, surfing the internet, listen to good music, drive at speeds I shouldn’t be driving at and so on. The problem is, that’s all stuff everyone likes to do, so why write about it? Oh wait, seems I just did. Oops.

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