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When I sit down to write in the evening after a long day of design work and family time, I have a determined resolve and weary mind. This means that I have all the desire in the world to write forever, but know that my clock it ticking down rapidly and will soon expire. And honestly, that’s what most of our days are like, isn’t it? Not enough time to do all the things we want to do.

My 60-90 minutes of write time needs to be the most productive, most efficient time I can manage. But because it comes at the end of the day, my ability to retain fine details is rapidly deteriorating. Add in a finger or two of whiskey, and it’s a miracle that I get anything written at all.

When I open up the document for whatever project I am working on at the time (which currently is my first attempt at a classic fairy tale in novel format), I have a flood of new ideas and bits of text and dialog that I know need to be worked into the narrative. But sometimes the items that are born of inspiration are not related to the specific part of the chapter I am writing. And by the time I get to the place they do belong, well, I’ll be asleep or at least too tired to remember.

So I have developed a technique over time that I like to call wireframing. If you are familiar with the process most web developers use for the creation of websites, then my process will feel familiar. Wireframing is all about putting the bare essentials on paper to gain a complete picture of the website, but without all the decorative and functional elements. It’s the skeleton that will be built upon, like that wire figure in your college art class that you would have to mash clay onto in some vain attempt to build a human body.

I use my own hacked-together form of wireframing when I write fiction. Upon opening my current document, I type the beginning of the next paragraph, laying out the most simple of summaries. And then I move on to the next phrase, typing only the most essential elements of the next necessary part of the scene. It’s not outlining; this is free-flowing, stream of consciousness stuff. There are no lists, no indentations, no order other than the next sentence moving the story along to the next point.

I repeat this as far as my inspiration can take me. I don’t care about spelling, or eloquence, or grammar. I am simply leaving breadcrumbs that I will follow on my next pass through the chapter. This does a few things for me:

  • It speeds up my upload time, getting the words out faster so I can move on to new words.
  • It lets me focus on solving problems without having to worry about prose and moving large chunks of text.
  • It takes much of the effort out of my next writing session, leaving me free to trust my breadcrumbs and simply flesh out the plot as patiently and lovingly as it deserves.
  • It gives me something less “artistic” to do when I’m “just not feeling it” on a particular night of writing.

When you adopt wireframing into your writing, you are acknowledging the fact that penning well-crafted prose and refining top-notch plot require different gears or mindsets. Wireframing your fiction (or non-fiction) can speed up the writing process and help me capture and develop all of those moments of inspiration.

So give it a try. It works for me, and has revolutionized the little time I have each day to write my fiction. Maybe it can do the same for you.