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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The LEGO Method of Writing a Book

I've said many times that I don't outline.  It's probably some post-traumatic stress left over from high school note-taking or something like that.

But, as I start in on some new projects, I thought I'd analyze what I actually do in lieu of creating an outline.

I'm kind of like a kid with LEGOs.

First, I get collect all of the LEGOs (ideas) I can about the book and stuff them into a bag  (document).

At this point, I know I want to build something, but I am not sure what it is.  If I knew exactly what I wanted to make, like this:
Then I would probably need an outline,(those little paper directions that I always lose) otherwise it would NEVER look like that in the end.  However, usually, I am not quite sure what I want to make.  I just keep sticking LEGOs (ideas) together in different ways and taking them apart until I end up with some kind of something that might be cooler than I would have dreamed, like this:
(this is an Escher LEGO house, by the way)

Now, often it doesn't come out so cool.  Often I have to take it all apart and put all the pieces in a bag for a while.

But for me, I think the reason I fear the outline is that I don't want to settle for what I think might be something nice when maybe I could create something amazing.

So, I start with my collected bits and begin to see possibilities.  I think discovering the potential is the part I like the best. 

(Of course, sometimes I have a vision and no idea how to build it, but that is another story.)
One last gratuitous LEGO pic that pretty much sums up writing:


Jonathon Arntson said...

The MC Escher is so amazing, that is, like, whoa. Thanks for this awesome post and for following my blog.

I am so far behind on my thank yous!!

Jessie Oliveros said...

That last pic is CRAZY. Creepy too, like our writing is not. Those little paper directions tell us how to make someone else's masterpiece. Not our own.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Fun post, Shelley! That yellow lego dude is very cool, but in a wacko kind of way! :-)

Kelly said...

Great analogy. My kids love legos. I love their spectacular finished creations (we have so many Star Wars and Harry Potter masterpieces in our house), but I also like when they create their own products. My five year old just made a Money Transporter (that's what he called it) out of leftover random Legos, and it was really cool!

Michelle McLean said...

Love the analogies! And very cool pictures :D

Also just wanted to tell you that I finally got a hold of a couple of your books and my kids LOVED them. I had to read GOOD NIGHT, GOOD KNIGHT twice in a row last night LOL Thanks for a few wonderful bedtime stories :)

Susan R. Mills said...

Ha! Great analogy. Made me laugh too. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

Love that last image -- that's exactly how it feels sometimes!!

L. T. Host said...

Great analogy-- I love the M.C. Escher one. So cool to see that in 3-D. And so very, very true!

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, awesome post and pics! You know, you can outline.. and then stray? Lot of people start off with a rough plan and then by the time they are done, it is unrecognizable. Not saying you need to.... you are doing just fine with your own method! But just felt like pointing that out :)

Myrna Foster said...

My little guy is obsessed with LEGOs, and I like building stuff with him. I hate stepping on the little buggers though.

The LEGO guy reminds me of a quote by Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith: "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."

Elana Johnson said...

Dude, Shelley, I think we're twins! This is exactly what I do!! I gather all the pieces, but sometimes not all at once. And some of them are Lincoln Logs and I'm trying to mesh them with Legos.

Then I put it all together. Then rip it apart and try again.

Great post!

storyqueen said...

Jonathon-I know! When I was looking for Lego images, I was like....No Way!

Jessie-Yeah, I debated about putting that last one in, because it does creep me out a little, but, creepy or not, it is still cool. and you are right about the masterpiece bit.

Shannon-He's okay to see on a blog. Would NOT want him in my living room!

Kelly-I love our Lego HOgwarts! A MOney Transporter must have been awesome.

Michelle-Thank you so much for liking the books! It really means a lot to me1

Susan-Well, I couldn't find any Lego shoes, you know...

Sherrie-Yes, strange but true!

LT-I would love to see it in person!

Corey-I suppose it is possible...but I am such a weirdo that I get, for lack of a better word, glued to an outline. It's like a security blanket...and then it ends up lying to me...such a dysfunctional relationship!

Myrna-I thought of that same quote when I saw it!

Elana-I totally get the Lincoln Log bit! I swear, sometimes I fell like I'm trying to stuff cinderblocks in the story!

Laura Pauling said...

I can't believe that last pic was made from legos. I love hearing how different writers work!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This has got to be the coolest post I've seen on outlining. :D

I've seen you comment on several blogs I follow. Until three minutes ago, I didn't realize you were the author of the Good Knight books. My kids and I love those books.

Lisa and Laura said...

Awesome post! And it makes me really glad that we just started from scratch because if it was a lego creation it would look like something my 2-year-old cobbled together.

Have a fabulous weekend!!

Amy Tate said...

We're big LEGO fans too. In fact I'm toying with an early reader LEGO idea. Love this post!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I love the Legos analogy. What cool pics too! Especially the guys pouring his heart out. That's def my method of writing.

Ann Marie Wraight said...

If I had to describe the way my creation comes together - I would have struggled to somehow explain how you so elegantly and visually did. It was perfect!!

That's the way I also go about writing...I could really relate to that.


Tess said...

that last pic really does sum up writing ... I echo your 'hrh'

and, it is a good analogy here. I do something like it. I start w/ a broad overview of plot arc and then I plot in chunks as I go ... piece by piece.

storyqueen said...

Laura-That's one of the things I like best about blogs...reading about how other writer's write.

Stina-Thank you for stopping by. I am so glad your kids like my books! Yea!!

L and L- Yep, lots of my writing looks like that too. But the great thing is that it is always rearrangeable, right?

Amy-Ooooohhh, can't wait to see what you do with your idea!

Karen-Mine, too! (it's nicer to think of it as his hears instead of his guts....)

Ann-Thank you for stopping by my blog....and I KNEW I wasn't the only one!

storyqueen said...

Tess-we posted at the same time! (Another way we think alike!)