Building Castles in the Sand

Bruce & Emma in the sand - Guenette photo

“Writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” (author – Shannon Hale)

Never has this quote meant more to me than in these days when I start out on the hesitant and often lurching journey that will one day culminate in the fourth Crater Lake novel.

My sand consists of character sketches and grids, location descriptions, lists of major and minor climaxes, scene ideas, title options, timelines, research notes and random snippets of dialogue – all in no particular order. As the file on my desktop for this novel grows – the box into which I shovel this sand – I know I am making progress.

It is hard to trust this process as I shovel a few more loads of sand onto my story board. Definitely a messy business but this board is something I cling to. It exists in real time and space in a way that all my digital notes cannot rival. It is wonderfully solid though constantly evolving.

My mind rushes ahead, backtracks and gets stuck with regularity. I repeat myself, lose sight of important insights between one document and next and cart around a book that burgeons with quick handwritten notes. It occurs to me that there must be a neater, more linear way to proceed.

No doubt, but that way wouldn’t be my sand or my sandbox. I wouldn’t be working to build my own castle. Finding one’s way into the telling of a story is as utterly unique as there are writing practitioners. There are no blueprints for creativity. Just a messy sandbox waiting for a world to be wrought from

Sedona - Bruce Witzel photo

7 comments on “Building Castles in the Sand

  1. Stuart Campbell says:

    We all work so differently. My method owes a lot to decades of academic and business writing. When i made the switch to fiction, i couldn’t kick the habit of writing economically and very carefully. I usually start with a core idea in my head and i draft a plan after I’ve written a few chapters. I think of writing like sculpting; once you’ve chipped some stone away, you can’t put it back. For this reason, i rarely do extensive rewrites.

    • Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your process, Stuart. I’m always fascinated by the different ways writers go about getting the story down. It sounds like you have a pretty good grip on what you want to say before you set keys to the keyboard. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Your style really works for you.

  2. jenanita01 says:

    My sister and I both write, but that is where the similarity ends. Our methods are as vastly different as chalk from cheese. She picks up a pencil and starts to write, and keeps writing until the end. Me, I’m like you, and mine resembles a rubbish tip! Wouldn’t work if we were all the same…

  3. Behind the Story says:

    You’re so right. We all have our own ways of gathering the sand we’ll need in the construction of our castles. I like the image. It sounds like you do a lot of work before you start writing.

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