Home > Writing and Poetry > Composing at the Keyboard

Composing at the Keyboard

Over time I’ve come to believe that most writers think along the same vein and proceed from there. There’s a visual phase to the planning of a piece, a skeletal phase, and an execution-for-fit phase.

The Visual Phase

The visual phase allows the writer to close the outer eyes and concentrate only on the mind’s eye. The expectation is one of watching a movie with infinite instant replays. The stars of the show are characters that play against each other for an indeterminate length of time for purposes of deciding who’s the lead and who’re supporting players.

This could also be called a “daydream” phase. I’d be willing to say that most writers have been accused of that pastime since they were children. We’ve been practicing a long time. It’s unclear to me whether we still star in all of those daydreams, in whole or in part.

As the visual phase goes to credits, the writer will begin a skeletal phase. On paper this is called an outline or synopsis. The mental version I call a visual story board. Any writer can do both. In fact, I believe that the writer should do both. The visual/mental story board can be revised at an instant’s notice when a plot problem arises without having to rewrite an entire outline in that instant. The physical outline can be left for a space before it needs updating.

Tackling the Outline

There are many theories as to which outlines work the best. When I do mine, I take the time to write the whole thing in scenes.

I don’t always write down an outline, especially for a short story. Novel length projects, however, are ones that I’ve thought about for an extended period of time. I’ve mulled them over for months or longer and outlined in my head.

For me the written outline on such projects usually begins somewhere in the middle of the thought process. It acts as a story reality check. I write down the sequence of story I want to show. I adjust from there. I worry about chapter breaks after it’s all finished. The key for me is to get the visual/mental down on paper, like a cartoonist would do. Bits of business or crisis, characters in action showing their personalities and pecking order, pivotal points that demonstrate where a climax arises all have a role in my outline.

The benefits of doing my outline this way are many. I have already created the scenes which tell the story as I want it told. The principal characters are all in place with traits, quirks, etc. Also, the outline scenes act as triggers to bring those from the mental story board back in their vivid splendor, which makes writing each entire scene much easier and reduces the likelihood of lost gems of ideas within subplots.

Making Things Fit

At this point all bets are off. It’s time to get down to work. I’ve learned that I work best if I follow the example of my outline.

With either a mental or physical outline, I begin with the scenes that I’ve already created. Once they’re on paper, All I have to do is connect the dots. For instance:

  • Scene 1: the main character is notified that her husband has died and an autopsy has been ordered by the family doctor.
  • Scene 2: COD of MC’s husband is murder by poison
  • Scene 3: MC finds odd papers and receipts in hubby’s desk
  • Scene 4: A burglary occurs the night MC discovers the papers
  • Scene 5: MC is accused of the murder
  • Scene 6: MC’s own secrets come out during police investigation

These are all legitimate scenes from my women’s novel “Dreamie’s Box.” It’s obvious that these are “dots” and that they need connecting. Once the major scenes have their place, all of the subplots can fill in between those dots. And the conclusion writes itself, tying up all the loose ends. Et voila.

There you have a book in a box. I hope this technique can help someone else get their story on paper. Of course, everyone has their own working system. This one has been working well for me over the past year. I’m now closing in on two complete novels and two non-fiction books using this one.

Good luck, all, and may your writing be brilliant and a joy to you.

A bientot,


  1. October 17, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Oh, that my mind would be as organized as yours! See, this is why I could never write a novel. I don’t see dots. Spots? Yep. Dots? Nope. 😉

    Your blog is so full of great information, my friend. Thank you, and keep it up!

    • claudsy
      October 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      I don’t know, Marie, if it’s organization or desperation. I’m working on four books right now and blogs, etc. My time has gotten precious, being in such short supply.

      Let’s just continue to keep those fingers crossed. Okay?

  2. October 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    This is a much needed post. I haven’t outlined yet, but I had a push to do it for NaNo. Your post gave me the extra boost to finally say YUP it needs to be done.


    • claudsy
      October 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm

      I hope it helps, Cat. Much as I hate a traditional outline, this method works for me. Thanks for the comment. I hope to see you around more often.

  3. November 13, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    This blog about scribed poetry is amaizngly insightfull.. I admire written personality. Another poetry page i read a bucket load is known as myownverse poetry network ..

    • claudsy
      December 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      I’m glad you liked it.

    • claudsy
      January 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      I’m glad you like it, MsLove. I adore poetry, though I don’t usually put any on this blog. I write enough of it. If you’d like to see some awesome poetry, hop over to Amazon.com and look for “Prompted: An International Collection of Poems,” which is just that. Forty poets from around the world put together a collections of prompted poems, published it in England, and offered it in both print and ebook formats. Prize-winning poets and a cup of hot tea on a winter’s day just go together. I have a few poems in there, too. Try it on for size and enjoy. Profits go to the LitWorld Charity.


  4. TimPhillsen
    December 3, 2011 at 4:17 am

    Great blog to my mind. Thnx for enlightning that information.

    Tim Phillsen

    • claudsy
      December 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      Thank you, Tim.

    • claudsy
      January 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      You’re very welcome, Tim. I hope you stop by often.


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