Part 3: When Writing, Do You Ever Feel As Though You’re Spinning Plates? One Word, Deconstruction

by Kendra Bonnett on August 15, 2012

catnav-alchemy-activePost #60 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Today’s post is Part 3 in response to a reader’s question asking us: Why do I need another book about writing?

Plate SpinnerRemember the plate spinner on the old Ed Sullivan show? (Yes, I’m dating myself.) He spun plates on the tips of tall bamboo poles. Lots of plates. And he had to run from pole to pole to keep everything in motion. By giving each pole a good shake, he’d keep the plate on top of the pole balanced and spinning.

And he’d do fine for awhile. But sooner or later (and this was the part we waited for as kids) things got out of hand. Either he’d add one pole and plate too many or he’d just run out of wind. And when he reached the breaking point, everything came crashing down. What made it fun for us was that we knew it was inevitable…it was just a matter of when.

The same thing can happen to you when you write because you too are balancing a lot of plates on poles.

Have you ever stopped to count the number of elements that go into writing?

Writing is made up of elements or components, which range from matters of technique to the creative and artistic. I can’t begin to give you a count, but here are a few examples: Grammar. Spelling. Plotting. Theme and Message. Point of View. Openings. Closings. Topic Sentences. Transitions. Motivation. Style. Characterization. Emotions. Dialogue. Sensory Description. Time and Place.

And this list barely scratches the surface because each of these elements can be broken down into its own components.

I can hear what you’re saying about now, “Yeah, yeah, Kendra, we know. Furthermore, we have the writing books on these subjects to prove it. We’ve got this covered.”

Uh huh. You’ve also probably taken classes and workshops–maybe more than a few. Perhaps you try to attend a writing conference or retreat every couple of years. And could be you belong to a writing group, too. All these are great sources of knowledge, ideas, inspiration and motivation.

But here’s the challenge: With so many writing elements to consider, ideas to absorb–not to mention your story to think about–you risk looking like our plate spinner. And worse, you may be headed for a crash. The question of whether or not it’s inevitable is up to you.

I’ll explain, but first this:


  • If you haven’t yet ordered Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep at our sale price, TODAY IS YOUR LAST DAY. For the price of a paperback, you get the book and free lifetime Charter Membership in the Association for Writing Excellence (AWE).
  • If you have Writing Alchemy but haven’t yet registered it and received your AWE membership, go to page “v” in the book and use the URL link
  • TONIGHT is the first in our series of AWEsome Webinars. But you’ll need to register your book first so we can send you the information about how/when to view the webinar. It’s only available to AWE members. We’ll immediately send you the link to register for the webinar…so there is still time. But you need to act quickly.


Okay, I was about to discuss the inevitability of your (or mine, for that matter) writing crashing…given all the information, techniques, rules and creative ideas we have to juggle as writers.

One option you have (and it’s the approach a lot of writers use) is to write your first draft as fast as possible. Just get the thoughts down on paper. Damn the spelling, grammar, organization, character development and other details, just capture the ideas. Then begins the long, arduous task of editing, rewriting and composing draft after draft. This is when it’s easy to get bogged down, bored and so tired of a piece that you abandon it for something fresh and new.

Or try Writing Alchemy: Matilda and I developed the Writing Alchemy system to help you organize your thoughts, dig deep into memory and imagination for details and description. And do this up front so when  you begin to write, you can focus more fully on your story and style. We call this approach Deconstruction, which is a form of pre-writing. The step-by-step system will help you both collect your ideas and organize them, but even more than that it helps you assess the elements of your story, decide up front as to the best, most effective way to share your story. Deconstruction puts you in control of the writing process.

Plate Spinner vs. Purposeful Writer

Rather than writing at the pace of a plate spinner and trying to get your ideas down on paper for the first draft, with Writing Alchemy you can approach your work methodically with greater confidence. Be a purposeful writer.

The proof is in the writing. We’ve seen every one of our students improve dramatically when she tried Deconstruction/Construction. As Matilda like to say, “We’ve never lost a write yet.”


This is the last day of our sale on Writing Alchemy. Plus, tonight we hold our first webinar for Charter Members of the Association for Writing Alchemy (AWE). To learn more about Writing Alchemy and AWE, click here. And you can read what what our students and other writers are saying about Writing Alchemy.

TWEET THIS ARTICLE: #writing Are you like a plate spinner, trying to handle too many story & writing elements on the fly?

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