On What Rock Do You Build?

Today’s mail brought a glossy brochure advertising the opening of a new CornerStone Church in our area. I like the name.

A cornerstone isn’t a complicated thing to understand. The dictionary defines it as a keystone, foundation, or basis – an important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends.

It makes me think of Matthew 7:24-27* where we are admonished to live securely grounded on the rock that can withstand storms rather than on sand that will wash away. It’s a smart policy whether we’re talking about our faith, our lives or our homes, and I think it can also be applied to our writing.

Writing by “the seat of our pants” is a sans-plotting method that many of us have used. It works, too, but I sometimes wonder why, because it’s a little like building a story on sand. There’s no firm foundation, nothing substantial set in place to anchor it or keep it from falling apart as we labour on, tossing our words at it.

I’ve mentioned my not-quite-pantsing, not-quite-plotting, somewhere-in-the-middle planning method before, in a guest post on Joylene Butler’s blog (you have to scroll down a few entries to the October 14th post if you want to check it out), and I’m not advocating any particular method here. I’m just wondering how other writers guarantee a strong storyline in their novels.

Does your writing have a cornerstone? How does it work for you?


* “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
[Matthew 7:24-27, NIV]

Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

12 thoughts on “On What Rock Do You Build?

  1. Foundations – might have to piggy back your post onto mine. Like how you related it to writing & Matthew 7. We just finished some foundations – 120 concrete trucks over a 1000 cubic yards of hydraulic concrete – foundations 5′ 6″ thick & all poured underneath 12 feet of water – can’t pause. Divers, cranes & concrete pumps. (Don’t have much of a voice left.) It was a good (exhausting) day. Now 5 days at my favorite place – home. Maybe I’ll get to write!

  2. Dear Carol: I write by the seat of my pants and lots of prayer. I start with an idea, a rough outline in my brain, and ask God to fill in the mortar. It works well for me, but I write NF. I think a novel may work differently, eh?

    Great post!

    1. Thanks Jen. Between your outline and God’s mortar you probably create a pretty firm foundation. Even NF needs a solid base although you’re right, building fiction is more convoluted.

  3. I guess, for me, it’s a matter of writing about things that are important to me, things that I care about. My topics aren’t usually complicated, nothing earth shattering, but there has to be some reason for me wanting to write about it in the first place. I like writing about ordinary people because I think the world is made up of ordinary people who do extraordinary things in their lives without necessarily realizing it. They just call it life! We call it entertaining.

    Once I know who and what I what to write about, I wait to see what’s going to happen. I sometimes have a vague idea, other times I don’t.

    Interesting question, Carol.

    1. My first novel was a seat-of-my-pants effort… about a woman whose momentary carelessness caused the death of her baby. The grief and guilt destroyed her marriage but the story was mostly based on her efforts to regain her interpretation of a normal life. I’ve never been happy with it (thus the reason it’s been shelved) because her recovery was too ordinary to be an interesting read. I decided nobody else would care about it. Some day I may rewrite the story from a different approach, but it would need some purposeful outlining and I’m not sure it’s worth it.

  4. Over the course of months, I play the book in my head like a movie. Every time I hit a snag, I pause, contemplate, then try a particular scene. It’s slow. I thought after 5 books, it would get easier. Nope.

  5. I usually figure out the theme, imagine a person struggling with a particular problem, and hope the rest works itself out. I’m not sure that’s a solid foundation, though, since the story I’m working on now has shifted dramatically since I started on it.

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