Saturday, January 21, 2012

Writing a Solid Story: Avoiding Rain Beneath a Leaky Roof

At the time of this writing, it's raining outside. The patter on the roof is without rhyme or reason. Gentle chaos, but only if I think of the random drops falling as individuals. Together there's a kind of sense to it, and the rain sounds orchestral. It's a soothing hum, an exciting roar, a secretive murmur; thousands upon thousands of tiny sounds that surround me.

A good book reminds me of this kind of rain. The words wash through my mind with nothing pulling me out of the story. No awkward phrases. No unrealistic dialogue. No infodumps or abrupt transitions. Instead, I forget that I'm reading at all. I'm connected. My consciousness and the book are one. I hear the words like rain and they're beautiful, both individually and as part of a mysterious whole.


At the time of this writing, it's raining outside and I hear a leak. An unnatural plunk I can't help but focus on. I try to ignore it. The rain takes precedence for a moment, but my mind hones in on the leak again. Its rhythm mocks the rain's delightful chatter. The rain is no less lovely, but I'm no longer under its spell.

Even if I could ignore the leak, it wouldn't make the greater implications of this problem go away. The leak is going to turn into a water spot. We need to have the leak repaired. And if I'm honest, there's a leak in the garage I've been avoiding, too. If I don't take care of these issues, I'm going to end up needing a whole new roof. Or, maybe it's too late and I already do need a new roof. Horror!

Writing reminds me of this. Am I overlooking problem areas? Did that little issue I forgot to address in chapter three become a plot hole? I read through my work and listen for the leaks. Sometimes whole scenes need to be rewritten.

I want my readers to hear my stories like the sound of the rain against the earth, dropping from leaves and falling from the sky. I want them swept up by the storm and lost to the book. The moment they hear a leak, the rain is no longer something to be enjoyed; the whole story becomes suspect. They may start listening for things, holding a figurative flashlight in the garage trying to see where the water spot is.

How do you deal with leaky spots in your manuscripts? Do you catch them as you draft, or find them on the re-read? When reading published novels, do you ever get pulled out of the story because of areas that could have used some patching up?

~ ~ ~

Diana Paz is the author of TWISTS OF FATE (Rhemalda Publishing, April 2013). She writes books for teens about magic, adventure, and romance. She was born in Costa Rica, grew up on Miami Beach, moved to Los Angeles in high school, and went to college in San Diego. Basically, she’s a beach bum. Diana graduated from California State University, San Marcos with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts. She loves old movies, epic fantasy, all kinds of music, and heading to the beach with a good book. Preferably sipping a highly sweetened iced coffee. Find her at her or on Twitter @dianapazwrites


  1. I love this post, Di, and how you used a rain storm to describe it. I have to my manuscript aside when I'm done with revisions, and then, after a bit of time has gone by, I re-read it on my Kindle. I find so many leaks that way, even after I think I have something near to perfect. I could patch it all day. I'm too critical of my own work. :D

  2. Thanks, Brenda. I'm the same way. It takes distance for me to really find those leaks, and the only way I get it is by taking some time away from my ms. :)

  3. I love the metaphor of the rain for writing. I have started editing my first draft, and those bumps in the manuscript definitely are like leaky drops!

  4. Excellent post. I know exactly how it feels, the way you describe the holes in the story. How it is distracting and the entire story loses credibility. Thanks for sharing this perspective.

  5. Thanks Lara and Honey. I had fun writing this post, and it definitely helped me think about my own writing. One thing we don't want is anything that distracts the reader from the heart of the story. :)

  6. Great post!! I love the comparison. It's so true, isn't it. I'm the plumber of my MS and I've been fixing leaks for a while. Tonight too. I just read John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. He had no leaks. Not one. Just constant, beautiful rain.

    Fantastic post ;o)

  7. Erica, you totally understand what I was trying to convey. "Just constant, beautiful rain." <3 That's the dream, always. And so funny about calling yourself the plumber of your MS, ha! I love it. :D

  8. I can feel your emotions about the raindrops as well, Diana. It creates some kind of rhythm when you listen to it carefully. Anyway, how's the leak in your garage? I assume you patched it up after you wrote this blog post, am I right? Well you should, it may cause (and cost) you more trouble if you leave it be. By the way, I really love how you write. Your post really sounds poetic. :)

    Lino Kosters

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  10. Yep. Always think out of the box when spinning yarns. That said, you should probably check out that leaking you describe, heh. Bad roofing ain't gonna be good for any activity.

    Ruben @ ARRoofing