Another interesting way to write... walking.

Courtney Stevens, who wrote the excellent YA novel, Faking Normal, walks and writes. She goes on the road with a question that needs solving. She walks and thinks. At the end of the walk, she comes in and writes down notes. She feels this method has revolutionized her writing.

My son, W. M. Akers, is a writer. He walks, talks, and writes. He carries a tape recorder and talks into it. When the walk is over, he writes down the important things he remembers.

This is what he told me.

Whenever I want to think through a new idea, or try to solve a problem with a story, I go for a long walk in my neighborhood. I talk into the recorder, asking myself questions and trying to sort through the answers.

"Okay, so, why isn't this chapter working?" "What does she want in this scene, and how can she try to get it that's an approach we haven't seen before?" "What happened to him before the story started that affects how he's behaving in this scene?" "What are some locations we could use that are more interesting than the ones we currently have?"

I find that talking into the recorder forces me to organize my thoughts more than if I were just thinking to myself, but isn't as restricting as brainstorming straight to a pad of paper. Being outside, and moving my legs, probably helps get my brain moving too. Thankfully, since I live in New York, nobody really looks twice at someone who's talking intently into his hand.

 And here's the best part: I never listen to the audio. Once I've worked through whatever questions I was asking myself, how I got there isn't important. I'll scribble down the answers, either while I'm walking around or as soon as I get home, but I never need to go back to the files--which is great, because I hate transcribing, and really hate the sound of my voice. Just forcing myself to talk out the problem is enough to get my brain working--and getting a little exercise along the way probably isn't a bad thing, either.

When you're talking, your brain engages in a different way. When you're walking and talking, your mind engages in another different way. One thought triggers another thought differently than when thoughts are flowing from your brain down your fingers to the page.

I can start walking, having absolutely nothing to say, and turn on the recorder. Then I start talking. And, whether I have a thought in my empty head or not, ideas come... and generate different ideas, which trigger different ideas, which trigger better, more interesting ideas.

How cool is that?!

An added benefit of walking and writing is... you're walking! It's actually good for you.

Hear, See and Tell

Here's a simple way to find out if your writing is working:  read it out loud to someone who doesn't know the story. 

Then, have them tell you the story they just heard.

See how the story comes back to you... Is the story they heard what you thought they would? What you think you said may not be what they think you said.

What rewriting do you need to do for your friend to "see and tell" the story just like you had in your mind?

Communicate a story from your brain to your friend's brain via a piece of paper is really hard. Reading or telling it to someone is a good way to discover if what you think you said is what they heard.

Kind of like the game "Telephone."  It's not easy!


Walking and Talking and Writing