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A body of writing: good bones are just the beginning

When someone says a house has ‘good bones’ we tend to think of a solid structure, or a floor plan that can be used or improved without major renovation. In writing, ‘good bones’ also implies a sound structure, providing clear direction and logical flow of information.

However, I actually think of this as the skeleton rather than the bones. My previous career in health care relied on my understanding of anatomy and physiology; anatomy being the study of a bodily structure and its parts. For me, there are a number of parallels between the anatomy of writing and human anatomy.

Like the coloured plates in an anatomy atlas, writing has layers (or stages) superimposed on each other to create a complete form, starting with the bones.

  1. Bones
    These are the basic elements or building blocks that can be put together to create structure. Begin with inspiration, capturing ideas, brainstorming and research.
  2. Skeleton
    ‘Articulation’ is the act of expressing something verbally in a coherent manner. It also means putting bones together in the proper order to create an accurate skeleton. This is the planning stage that gives your ideas a framework, structure and order. Skipping this step means you might find out later you’ve created the equivalent of Dr Dolittle’s pushmi-pullyu.
  3. Flesh (it out)
    Expand concepts and add detail and substance to make your writing convincing. Evidence adds weight and credibility to your argument.
  4. Connective tissue
    Connective tissue is what holds us together; supporting our joints, organs and other tissue. In writing, transitional devices and signposts help your readers understand links between points and how they contribute to the overall argument or premise.
  5. Biomechanics
    Does everything work together, or is it a bit clunky? Is the piece fit for purpose? As with anatomy and physiology, structure and function are closely linked.
  6. Aerodynamics
    Improve the weight, thrust and momentum of your argument by reducing drag. Editing can help streamline a document by trimming fat and replacing jargon with plain language.
  7. Cosmetics
    Proofreading, formatting, graphics and design. These final touches smooth out any wrinkles to make sure your piece is presentable and attractive.

With writing, as with a renovator’s delight, there’s a lot more work and many layers beyond the foundation and potential of good bones.

Image via Pixabay

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