How do stories form?

“A book (I think) is something which has a beginning and an end (even if it’s not a novel, in the strict sense of the word). It is a space which the reader must enter, wander round, maybe lose his way in, and then eventually find an exit, or perhaps even several exits, or maybe a way of breaking out on his own. It may be objected that this definition holds good for a novel with a plot, not for a book such as mine, which is meant to be read as one would read a book of poems, or essays, or at most short stories. But the point I am trying to make is that a book of this sort, if it is to be a real book, must have a structure of some kind.”

—Italo Calvino on Invisible Cities (1983)

Sometimes I feel I collect writing materials the way I collect stones at the beach. The scanning, selecting, sorting…

The sorting is key. You can’t bring home all the rocks. You can’t convey ALL the material to the reader. Your job is to curate the content so it expresses your main idea, works for the format/desired length, and reaches your reader in the way they need.

Photo by Stephanie Artuso

How do you move from general ideas to materials to a structure for your book? We’re exploring this idea in my This Is a Book! program this week. Where stories come from, how they cohere, what they do for the reader…it’s good stuff.

One of the participants likened the process so far to an icicle, slowly dribbling down to a main point, as in AH I see where this is going, YES.

Another participant said the only problem with the program is it’s so much fun he wants to focus on it instead of his job (relatable).

Want a taste of this?

Subscribe to my newsletter for a glimpse of the process. (Link on my homepage.)

Reach out and I’ll pop you on the waiting list for the next round of This Is a Book! Starts September 2023.

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