The Three Levels of Writing

If this is going to be the new normal for a while, I’m going to have to find a way to make it work.  The boy is attending his college classes from home.  My husband is now my office mate which includes daily 2 pm conference calls which, I have to be honest, seem really pointless.  “Are you all doing your work?  Good boys and girls.”  I have two upcoming deadlines.  Time to get going on my writing.

The Big Picture

When it is time to start a new project, I generally consider the big picture first.  In her post, this is what Barbara Linn Probst calls the macro level.  What is the book about?  For the sake of discussion, I’m going to use People Pray as an example. The macro for this is “a book on global prayer.”

If it was a book of fiction, the macro would include the main character, this person’s goal, and what stands in the way.  Dorothy wants to go home but first has to make her way to the Wizard of Oz.  For your story to work at this level, whether your story is fiction or nonfiction, it has to be big enough for people to care.

This doesn’t meant that it has to be epic – she wants to save a kingdom.  But it does mean that it has to be meaningful.

Step by Step

Next comes what Probst called the mezzo or middle level.  In a novel, this is the scene.  People Pray is a picture book so the messo level is the spread.  What scenes or spreads need to be a part of this story for it to make sense?  This is what I consider when I write an outline.

Something has to happen in each scene or spread.  But it isn’t just a matter of keeping busy.  What happens has to matter to the story.  If you aren’t sure that a scene or spread works, take it out and see if the larger piece works without it.

Word by Word

Last but not least is what Probst calls the micro.  This is the level of individual sentences, words and punctuation.  When I want to make sure that a piece works at the micro level, I read it aloud.  Yes, even something that is book length. Reading aloud helps me here awkward phrasing and parts that are repeatative.

You can have an excellent story idea, the big picture, but without strong scene development and top notch copy editing, it isn’t going to reach your audience.  So when developing a new piece, take it one step at a time.

–SueBE

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