Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Getting The Train To The Station by Becky Lower

I love to find analogies in everyday life to use in comparison to my writing—both crafting a story and my career in general. So, as I was sitting in my car, watching a train zip by the other day, it occurred to me that writing a novel is very much like linking the cars of a train togeth
er. The analogy may be a bit out there, but since a lot of you are train lovers, I thought I’d share it with you.

You start with an idea—the engine. Then, you add cars to the engine—bits of backstory, introduction of characters and plot points. The big rail yard where all these cars get hooked together is your outline. Each scene becomes another car on the train. Sometimes, the scenes have a lot of graffiti on them, and need to be cleaned up or scrapped altogether. You may need to unhook them and rehook them together in a different order. If you pay attention to any train, you’ll see that cars of a similar nature are interrupted every so often with one containing hazardous material. Those are the dark moments of your story, and need to be evenly spaced out.

If you find yourself heading down the wrong track, you’ll need to readjust your direction and get your story back on the right rails. Eventually, you’ll wrap the story and your train up by putting a caboose on it with either a bang-up ending or an epilogue. What’s left to do? Oh, yes, make sure it follows the correct path to its end point–a publishing house or becoming an independent publisher, whichever track you decide to take, and that you publicly announce its arrival when it’s finally published.

Then, there’s the analogy of a train to a writing career. Watch a train when it begins to leave the railyard. It starts out very slow, as your first book gets released. You hope you can sell a copy or two to someone other than family and friends. When you get your first review from someone you don’t know, the engine begins to gather speed. As you begin to appear on other author’s blogs, and develop deep friendships with these people, your world starts to whiz by. With the second and third book, your rhythm picks up and you gain more readers, and appear on more blogs, maybe even get some national exposure. With a lot of hard work and persistence, your career takes off, and you’re headed down the track full speed ahead, with all the guard rails down and people are sitting in their cars watching you race along.

In both cases—both with a story and a career—there’s an awful lot of hard work, creativity, attention to detail, and some luck involved in getting the train strung together and eventually, to the station. Fortunately, with all the different tracks springing up in the publishing world, it’s a bit easier to get that train into the depot. The trick is now to have a crowd waiting when you get there.


  1. Great analogy, Becky. I especially like the image of adding different cars on as the story develops. So true about the slow start before picking up steam, and even after that we sometimes slow down as we reach depots along the way. But full steam ahead!

    1. Full steam ahead–that's an analogy I especially like. After this past year, I'm really looking forward to it.

  2. What a great analogy. I spend so much time rearranging my cars/scenes that sometimes I get the caboose in the wrong place and have to pull over on a siding track and unhook the cars so I can slip other ones into the right order. lol

  3. Becky I'm a train freak, so this really appeals to me and gives me a new way to think of things. Very interesting post, and I know it's something I'm going to think about!

  4. What a unique perspective, Becky. I never thought of a train analogy in regards to writing a story or my writing career, but I could certainly see how you arrived at it once you explained it here in your blog.
    In the trainyard in Harrisburg, PA, (the state in which I visited with my family so often) there seems to be tracks leading every which way and train engines and cars patiently waiting to be connected and given a tract. Well, it all looks like a tangle of spaghetti to me. That is how I feel about beginning an outline for a new story--just one tangled up mess.
    I can see from what you are saying here how that mess can be lined up, organized, and polished to form a sound story.

    As much as I have always been fascinated by trains, I've never ridden on one. I wonder if it's time for a train trip...
    Thank you, Becky, for presenting this inventive and helpful idea.

  5. Great analogy and very fitting based on all the research on trains I've been doing recently. It's like you can see my search history!