We’ve covered “By the Seat of Your Pants” and the “Plot it Out” methods for writing. Now we’re going to cover the more disjointed style of writing – Mosaic writing. This method is near and dear to my heart, because it’s what I discovered works best for me (after lots of trial and mostly errors with the other writing methods).
Mosaic writing is like mosaic art, lots of little pieces that come together to make one whole. It can be argued the other two writing styles do this as well, in a more structured way. The Mosaic style is more fluid, more “all over the place” – which can be disastrous if it’s not right for you, but is magical, if it is.
Giving you a structured outline to mimic seems counter intuitive for this method, but saying write whatever the h#!! comes to your mind doesn’t sound very helpful either – even if that is the heart of this writing method. Let me try and find a middle ground.
Separating your Inner Editor and Inner Writer
The first time that I discovered mosaic writing was after reading the book The INFJ Writer by author, Lauren Sapala. In her book she has an exercise where you find a piece or music that moves you – one that touches you to the very core. You find a quiet place, completely alone, and listen to it. You let yourself get absorbed in it- and then you write.
This exercise was so help for me, because the biggest struggle I had as a writer was editing while I wrote. I would write a chapter, then edit a chapter. I fooled myself in to thinking that I could be successful “editing as I went.” I wasn’t. Finishing first drafts seemed to take ages, and when they were done I was rarely satisfied, and often started the dead-end process all over again.
It wasn’t until I did the exercise that Lauren suggests that I found my creative zone – the place where my editor was no where to be found.
Take Order Out of the Equation
Not writing your story in order may be nearly impossible for you, but if mosaic writing is the right method for you, this is the most essential step. You write the story in whatever order in comes in. If you get the ending before the beginning, write it. If you get one minor scene in the middle of the book, write it. DO NOT force the story to come in order. If you do, you’re inviting your inner editor back in to your writing season and your editor will stop you in your tracks.
For myself, scenes from my stories come in flashes, almost like memory fragments. I write those “memories” down. I write on my computer, so for each book I create a new document folder, then when these fragments come I have a place to collect them all together. I personally create a word document file for each fragment “memory.” I save it as the book title and keyword from the fragment. That helps make it easier to piece the fragments together later in the process.
Your First Draft Will Look Different than a Typical First Draft
The first story I wrote using the mosaic writing method was by far the most satisfying writing I have ever done, but I do remember wondering if I would know when the story was “done” since everything was coming to me out of order. You do. There hits a points, when the fragments start filling in gaps between other fragments you’ve already written. Eventually the fragments stop coming, and that’s when it’s time to invite your inner editor to have a look at what you’ve created.
My inner editor freaked out a little bit after seeing my first “draft.” Thoughts like, “you call this a draft” and “this is incomplete” came to mind. Ignore those voices. Mosaic writers first drafts don’t look like other first drafts – that’s okay, just don’t stop there.
Grout – the Stuff that Holds Your Ideas Together
When you beginning putting your written fragments together you’ll need grout. In real mosaic art, grout is used as the glue to hold the artwork in place, and fill in the random gaps that the broken tiles can’t. Mosaic writing is no different.
You’ll know, by this point, what shape your story is taking. You’ll know your characters, you’ll know where the story needs to go, it’s just a matter of filling things out. That’s what the “grout” writing is for.
I personally invite my “inner editor” to sit with me as I read through all the fragments of scenes I’ve written and then let my editor piece them together like a puzzle (editors like things to make sense, your inner editor will love this job). You’ll notice a natural order emerges to your scenes – at this point, I rename the files to include numbers, so that the scenes are in the order you would read them in a book. It looks something like this:
But my story is never complete at this point. Sometimes I have redundant scenes (like how I have two #6 scenes in the example). I have to pick the one that’s a better fit and throw the other out. And once I’m happy with the order, my editor goes buh-bye for a time and I have to start writing again, creating scenes and “grout” that connects these fragmented scenes in to a complete picture.
Now You Can Edit
With mosaic art, the grout doesn’t dry instantly. You often have some time to shift things around until it comes together the way you like. You have that flexibility in mosaic writing too. Keep making tweaks and adjustments until you are satisfied with your story (or nearly satisfied, if you’re someone like me who never feels like their story is complete).
This method is wonderful, if this is how your mind works. I recognize that not every writer could function using this method. Which is why we have “The Seat of Your Pants” and “Plot it Out” methods, because honestly, the mosaic method might make some personalities completely bonkers! Yet, if you are struggling to shut off your inner editor while you write, I recommend you try this method. Hopefully it will be the magical fit for you that it was for me.