Short answer: simplicity.
Because I've long felt that most writing instruction is needlessly complex (I don't even like the term 'instruction'), my chief guideline while writing YOU'VE GOT A BOOK IN YOU was simplicity.
Simplicity in the ideas I developed, simplicity in my presentation of them. The best teachers, as we know, merely point the way.
I first got the idea of the Route 66 placemat when creating a webinar for Writer's Digest University on writing mysteries and thrillers. My concern was plotting. I expanded on the 'heart-clutching moment' plotting method I'd first written about Writer's Digest magazine, then put together a simplified version of the classic 'hero's adventure' framework.
Then, something even more basic—one might even say rustic—occurred to me, which can incorporate both methods, really, while being totally 'graspable'. A story's plot, I reasoned, is like a map—is a map—and I thought of the simplest map I'd ever seen, which was a Route 66 placemat. Here it is:
I developed the idea in the proposal for my book, and then further in the book itself.
The Route 66 placemat map is a powerful symbol of movement and simplicity, perfect for writing.
Because every book, fiction or nonfiction, is a journey for the writer and for the reader. And ideally it's an adventure too, filled with zest and new vistas.
Just as drivers need a map to get from Chicago to Los Angeles, we as authors need some sort of map to get from "It was a dark and stormy night," to "THE END." And for the journey to open us to the joys, terrors, and opportunities of the unexpected, that map should be as simple and flexible as possible. The beauty is that a simple map lets you get into virtually endless complexity—side trips, backtracks, interconnections and junctions—without encumbrance.
A good lesson for writing, and a good lesson for life!
I submitted a bunch of photographs and other images with the manuscript, but Writer's Digest Books only included a few of them in the published book, the reason being that the images would have put the page count over a threshold that would have put the price of the book too high. My other choice would have been to cut pages of text, which I didn't want to do.
So to my sorrow, the book does not include an image of the Route 66 placemat.
But I'm glad to present it here, just for the hell of it.
I'll publish other images that didn't get into the book here, with explanations and more insights.
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