As a writer, the question of how to go deeper used to bedevil me. I would try to get into a flow. I would blank out every single thought in my head so that I could concentrate. The string that came out wouldn’t last for long, though, maybe a paragraph, and when I edited the piece later, half of it would come out because the stuff was so ordinary. 

Yet after I began editing, the answer came to me. The problem was that I hadn’t fully inhabited the space that I could have brought to life. If you want to create a thought string, you should compile all of the relevant data that informs that string. Let’s say you’re a teenager on the docks of New York City in 1850 and you see a magnificent clipper ship approaching from the tip of Manhattan. What, pray tell, does a clipper ship look like? Get those facts in hand first. You should know the different parts of the boat, at least as much as that teenager knows. Now let’s consider the time of day. Have you ever watched a yacht on a sparkling summer afternoon? How did that make you feel? How about on a day with gathering storm clouds? Were you worried for the skipper? Did you think he was reckless being out there, especially with that towheaded boy by his side? 

Now let’s go deeper. In that era, what did a clipper ship represent? It was a magnificent boat that traveled to all different ports in the world. What ports would that teenager like to visit? What does she know about those ports, and how does she imagine she would fit in to those places? Does she want to be set free? 

You see, the problem isn’t concentrating as much as you’re not amassing the facts in which to be immersed. You can do that. What got the character started on the train of thought? What could possibly be related to that idea? Write down a list and then connect the pieces. Pretty soon you will become fluent in running off your own wonderful skein.

Exercise: Review your manuscript and look for interesting spots where you could elaborate. Write down your initial impressions of the object. Now dig deeper. Research that object; find out the facts beyond your first impressions. Try to list 10 different facts. Now write down different tangents that could develop from these facts, related to your chosen character. Even if you end up editing it by half, you still have a strong thought skein.

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