Patchwork Writing

by LimebirdCat

I think I’m a patchwork writer.

A scene writer, if you will.

As I’ve come to know myself as a writer, I’ve come to understand how I work (or don’t, as the case maybe).

I’ll get an idea for a story, doesn’t matter if it’s the one I’m working on or not  – then feel an overwhelming urge to write it all down.

Twenty thousand words later and I have written… stuff. It’s a moment, a bit of a story… something happening to someone, somewhere.

Then I’ll feel able to focus on whatever it was I was trying to focus on in the first place.

These epiphany-like moments are most definitely cathartic. I enjoy the mad rush of writing all this weird stuff down, even if it just sits there in its own right, no beginning or end.

As the late, great Maeve Binchy once said “my head is full of stories”. So is mine. Not full stories usually, not every graphic, key moment – just scenes.

I’ll sometimes work out the bare bones of a plot:  boy meets girl or alien spaceship crashes, etc, then work at fleshing it out. That is when the scenes or moments that I have written previously come into play. I will raid them, like filling up my plate at a buffet. I’ll tweak these patches and pieces of other stories until I have a complete story.

Working on one little bit of a tale and then storing it away is such a valuable thing for me as a writer. I can develop it in its own right or add it to my main body of work. It’s my idea, I suppose, of quilting with stories.

Make sure you write everything down as you never know when it will be useful to you again further down the road. Keep a note book – laptops, mobile/cell phones and tablets are great, but the fluidity and freedom of pen and parchment is so much easier. The little doodles and drawings you get to do too – brilliant fun and all part of the process.

I have a folder where I keep all my little pieces of writing ideas and half-baked stories. I’ll go through it and occasionally gasp with wonder. I’ll have no recollection of ever thinking these things up or writing them down, but they are brilliant to rediscover. Coming back to an idea with a fresh head and fresh eyes can make such a difference to your work.

So, when I’ve hit a brick wall, I look up the past bits of ideas I’ve had and draw from them. It’s almost like having a literary larder. I can’t say it works every time either, but it is worth any writer of any level giving it a go. Just write whatever drops out of your head, via your hands and fingers.

Perhaps you already do this and I am preaching to the converted, but I think it is always good to know that you’re not alone with something and that other people who write also do the same.

LimebirdCat x

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36 Responses to “Patchwork Writing”

  1. Interesting. I will jot down notes on ideas I have for future reference, but I don’t think I’ve ever written whole scenes like you describe without knowing what it’s for or where it will go. I might try that sometime.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Vanessa 🙂 I think my ‘scene writing’ is almost like lucid dreaming. I just become aware of an idea and think I’d better get that down on paper before it disappears – who knows? It may lead to something later on, like into a story of its own. I find it really helpful and is certainly something to try; it’s a very organic writing process and I enjoy immeasurably! LBC x

  2. I do this all the time. When I’m going through a dry spell, nothing, then all of a sudden three or four stories to work on. It drives me crazy sometimes.

  3. Cat, I am EXACTLY the same as you. I do this all the time. I’ll write random parts to random stories with no background or anything. This is why I’ve never properly completed a manuscript because I have so many weird thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my brain. I can never stick to one idea. Great post!

    • Me too. I’ll start on a story and then that’s it, eight different things start vying for attention and refuse to form an orderly queue in order to get written! Vewry messy process, but fun! It’s a bit like making fairy cakes with a 3 year old. Very messy and probably mildly stressful, but all good in the end! x

      • I’ve been reading some of the other comments, and I’m starting to think I ought to just stick to short stories. It’s almost impossible for me to finish a longer work.

  4. Reblogged this on Continuous Strings and commented:
    This is a blog I did for my writing contingency over on Limebirds. I’m basically dicussing how I write. A sort of cathartic expression that unclogs my busy, creative mind 😀

  5. If I have something in my brain, I either write it down or store it in my brain. Sometimes I write chapters before even getting to that chapter.
    I just hope that that method is OK! 🙂

    • I’m like that too! I will write 20k words before getting anywhere at all. It is just so interesting to hear how different writers work. And yes, it is absolutely fine to work as you are! There are no rule books 🙂 if it keeps you writing then that is ruddy marvelous and totally right. LBC x

  6. I’m not the only one! *whew* I have notebooks and computer files full of what I call “sniglets”. Bits of scenes, character developments, etc. that have no real home. And, when I’m working on a project, I’ll often write it in scenes and then stitch it together.

  7. Love the phrase “patchwork writer!” Even if you don’t know what the pieces mean, it’s never wasted time. Maybe you’ll end up using a character from a scene in another story; maybe the setting is what really grabs you; or maybe you’re starting on the path to something much longer.

  8. I never stray far enough away from my current writing project to write thousands of words on an entirely different topic, but I, like you, do have files jammed with half-baked ideas. These files are a sort of scrapbook, filled with quick notes, newspaper articles, sketches, and other things that might be worth pursuing someday. I do love these files; they motivate me when I’m not feeling not all that inspired and remind me that new ideas can be found most everywhere.

  9. I do the same thing- the challenge then becomes how to write a whole complete story that justifies the existence of that one scene. A lot of my best stories were simply had to be written because I needed a world to exist where one particular scene could result and actually make sense.

  10. I was kind of a patchwork writer, too, when I was just writing various funny short stories about my misadventures in growing up. I didn’t know what to do them. It was frustrating because I felt they were good and they were interesting, but they didn’t hang together in any way that made sense.

    Then I figured out a way to tie them all together (after about ten years of many false starts). Now I have a memoir.

    Lesson: everyone starts someone, unless you never start.

  11. These patchwork things are the story ideas that come to me in the most inappropriate places: church, driving, while busy at work. Ugh!

  12. I do the same! I have a notebook where I write everything out by hand though, no idea why, I think it’s just so my computer isn’t so full of folders that I can’t find anything!
    Sometimes I just get bored trying to finish one project because it’s so long writing about the same characters so I just start writing short scenes about different characters instead and then go back to my main project after!

  13. Good post. I’ve written on post it notes, on about every type of paper imaginable, just to get the gist of an idea down.

  14. You are definitely not alone!

  15. From Socrates, (they think,): Know thyself! 😎

  16. This is a fantastic idea. I’ve always kept these unformed ideas in my head only to lose them later (or sooner!). I often don’t have the opportunity to write them down and even if I do usually the idea doesn’t form words. Sounds like good training to be able to convert ideas into words even if they don’t quite make any sense yet.

    • Yes! You should always keep a pen and paper nearby, or some other way of recording these gems. I even keep an old mini tape recorder I had in college on my treadmill in case I get some brilliant flash and don’t want to stop and write it down. It helps a lot, especially if you have awesome dreams you can pull from. Write them down right away or most likely you’ll lose them. That’s my advice, anyway.

      • Cheers, Angie! My phone (and probably everyone else’s) has an “active notes” feature where you can record video and audio clips and attach them to a text note. I should really start using it! 🙂

  17. I was just posting about this very thing and your post showed up! Now I have discovered your wonderful blog. I look forward to exploring more of it.

  18. I am a convert, this I know…but then are you really a convert if it’s something you’ve always done?? I don’t know, but I do know the value of writing it all down…an idea lost is never found again.

  19. I can be like that as well. Sometimes I have little paragraph stories in my notebook… or outlines of stories that I come up with as I’m walking down the street.


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