I Forgot How Books Work

While struggling to keep laying down words in both Pharos and Epitaph for Everything Else, I realized I had a problem. I’d forgotten how books work.


The creeping vines of Netflix binges, Twitter rants, news cycles, and medical concerns had completely locked down my mental processes. My attention span suffered. My scope narrowed. My brain was out of shape.

The other night, I rebelled. Picked up a physical book that had been holding down a shelf for far too long (the excellent Updraft by Fran Wilde) and turned off all my screens. Sat down to read. And remembered how books work.

Now, I’ve never been much of a plotter. When I start a book, it’s usually a “what if” that then spirals out of control (and people seem to like that). My outlines look something like this:

  • What if there were decopunk pirates living in an alternate reality where 1920’s New York City was mostly water, like Venice
  • There are now decopunk pirates and their names are Dorothy and Edna
  • (Then some stuff happens)
  • And in the end, they blow up the secret speakeasy in the sealed underwater levels of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

Until recently, this process worked great for me. What I had lost was my ability to fill in the middle…because I forgot how stories are supposed to be put together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dusting off the old Hero’s Journey steps (never really worked for me), but I’m getting back to reading more books and remembering how it’s done.

I have no great tying-together line for this blog post, so I’ll leave you with this cat.


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