Writing is like a Train

05 Dec

For me writing is like a train.Train

The Warm Up:

Train: The engineer gets into the locomotive, turns on the power, and fires up the engine.

Writer: I create characters that I think will be interesting. Next comes a situation the characters find themselves in that will create tension and lead to further adventures. The setting is somewhere within the fantasy world I created years ago. Finally, I gather my plot notes (islands), character sketches (Traits and Tags), and a big bottle of water and head to the Storyboard. Once the islands have been laid out, I go to the computer.

Leaving the station:

Train: The locomotive winds up and builds to a roar. The train begins to inch forward. It crawls along for a few yards as the full weight of the train is taken on. Now there is some momentum and the train begins to pick up speed.

Writer: The blank screen is deafening. My mind is full of the possibilities that await the characters but, nothing is happening. There is a moment of panic and self-doubt. My hands reach for the keyboard as I try to formulate the first sentence. It has to be the best sentence of the story. The hook has to be perfect. I stop and take a drink from the water bottle. Then I remember that the first draft is always crap. My hands return to the keyboard and I peck out the first sentence. No, it’s not perfect but, it is a start. Take another drink. Back to the keyboard. Soon the first paragraph is complete and the head is getting into the game. Each paragraph that follows is easier than the last.

Coming up to speed:

Train: The train accelerates to its cruising speed. The power and momentum seem unstoppable. The cars jostle around over the uneven tracks. However, the train keeps going forward.

Writer: Once I get into a writing rhythm, woe unto any who disturb me. My mind is in high gear and the fingers begin to have a hard time keeping up. I have become the characters at his point and the story flows out like a lake draining though a broken dam. I just stay out-of-the-way and let it happen.

Coming into the next stop:

Train: The Engineer reduces the power and the train begins to coast. The friction of the wheels against the steel rails begin to slow the train down. As the train enters the station, the brakes are applied. The momentum of the train strains against the brakes because it wants to keep going. At last the train jerks to a halt and the sound of the locomotive drops to a hum. It’s not off, just waiting for the command to crank it up again.

Writer: The mind is racing forward ahead of the fingers and it sees the end of the scene/chapter/story before the fingers do. Once the mind reaches the end, it begin to coast. The fingers continue to bang away but by now fatigue is beginning to set in. The keystrokes are becoming softer and begin to slow down. The final paragraph flows forth but much weaker than before. Finally, the fingers type out the last few words and then become motionless on the keys. The Save button is pressed. The mind, however, is already working on the next scene/chapter/story. Wanting to move forward.


Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Thoughts on Writing


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8 responses to “Writing is like a Train

  1. annewoodman

    December 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Nice analogy, Dennis. I don’t know if my writing process is as neat and tidy as a train journey, but it sure sounds good. ; )

  2. Dennis Langley

    December 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Please note that I did not discuss what happens when the train derails. 😮

    • 4amWriter

      December 11, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      Haha, that’s just what I was going to ask you!

      • Dennis Langley

        December 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

        You see that is the problem. Every time the train derails, I have to get it back on the tracks, restart the engine, and get it moving again. This takes up writing time as you are aware. So, the trick for me is to eliminate distractions.

  3. L.S. Engler

    December 5, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I think my writing is more like that little cart that follows the train in cartoons, you know the one….It moves slow and with an incredible amount of effort from the people who have to manually push the levers to get it to move….

    Very cool analogy, Dennis.

    • Dennis Langley

      December 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      That makes me think of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race? 😉 I just wish I could type faster.

  4. Chris Edgar

    December 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    The train slowly picking up speed metaphor resonates with how I think of writing — sitting there with the blank screen requires some degree of patience and trust, in my experience, that the words will arise, and if I “pass that test of faith,” they will come.

    • Dennis Langley

      December 10, 2012 at 8:27 am

      Sometimes, the hardest part is getting the first word down on paper. Thanks for your comments.


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