The Cons of Verbal Storytelling

Last week I talked about what I found helpful about verbal storytelling. You can read all about that here. Today, I’m going to be outlining a few of the reasons why, despite the pros, I won’t be implementing verbal storytelling into my regular writing routine.

The biggest con I’ve run across in verbal storytelling is transcription. It takes forever for me to listen to what I say and type those words into a computer.

When I transcribe, I have to constantly stop and start trying to keep up with what I’ve spoken. In the end it takes me much longer than it would to have just written out the information in the first place. This is especially true when there is more complex formating like dialogue. When I do verbal storytelling, I don’t frequently put any kind of dialogue tags, instead relying on the change in my tone of voice to convey who is speaking. While this works fine, when I transcribe, I have to put who said what in order to be able to go back and understand what I was talking about.

The issue of transcription is a huge con for me and the primary reason I don’t typically take advantage of the pros of verbal storytelling.

Another issue, very related to transcription is the process of organizing what’s been transcribed.

As I said in last week’s post, I basically word vomit for twenty minutes. This is great for getting all the thoughts out and verbalized, but it’s not great when I have to go back and sort through what makes sense, what doesn’t, what stays and what goes to the cutting block. I have found that in a twenty minute conversation with myself, I might only get 200 words of actually useful story or story building. 200 words for over an hour of work is not worth it.

The third issue I have found with verbal storytelling is the limits to its helpfulness.

I could never replace writing for verbal writing because everything would take much longer to transcribe, write, and edit. While I might be able to get ideas out quicker, I would have to do everything multiple times. When I’m writing, I’m getting ideas out, typing them, and I automatically begin to implement grammar and style. During verbal storytelling, each of these steps has to be done separately for the same amount of story or ideas. The effort put into verbal storytelling is not equal to the result that comes out.

To clarify, while I know of some writers who genuinely prefer to dictate their writing first and do so as a practice, I realize in most cases, especially in my own, that verbal storytelling is not meant to replace the act of writing, but enhance it in certain circumstances.

As I mentioned last week, it makes sense to me to find ways to write in situations where I don’t have my laptop or a pen or am unable to use such things. What doesn’t make sense to me is speaking everything aloud only to have to do extra hours of work to get the audio into written words especially when I could have just written it out in the first place. For this reason, I find that verbal storytelling loses its helpfulness in the context of my normal writing process.

Overall, I enjoy the technique as a way to quickly get information of my brain where it can be saved, especially in circumstances where writing information down isn’t a viable option. But that being said, the amount of extra work involved in getting an audio recording onto paper turns me away from the technique as a regularly used part of my writing process. I will continue to do the occasional verbal storytelling session when the need arises, but for now, I’ll stick with writing and typing.

What has your experience with verbal storytelling been?


The Pros of Verbal Storytelling

verbal storytelling

I often say that because I’m a writer I have a hard time with conversations because I don’t have a chance to go back and edit what I say in order to use the words I really mean. I find this frustrating when I’m trying to tell a story to someone and can’t think of the right word to describe my feelings on a topic. Because of this I often won’t say something because it’s not fully formed to the point that I want it to be.

It’s interesting because some of my earliest ‘writing’ was in verbal form. I used to tell myself stories while I walked or when I was trying to sleep and that used to be enough of a creative outlet for me. When I started writing my stories down, that changed and I moved away from verbal storytelling to writing down little scenes or conversation exchanges whenever inspiration struck.

Recently though, I turned back to verbal storytelling.

There are certain activities I don’t like doing because of how single purposed they are. Sleeping and driving are two of the highest on that list. There’s not much I can do to my sleep in order to multitask, but driving is a great time to write. Unfortunately, I can’t type and drive at the same time. But I can talk to myself and drive.

So, during Camp NaNo, I started recording the conversations I had with myself while driving. Because I was in the car alone, and tried to speak unfiltered and without restraint; the same way I try to brainstorm when I am typing. That meant lots of words, some more related than others, were recorded in the twenty minute drive. I was surprised how in that short time span I outlined and created a hierarchical society with social classes, traditions and religious beliefs for my world.

Specifically that kind of information would have taken me hours if I were writing it out because I get so caught up on being accurate to current systems and classes that I filter how I’m naturally thinking about my world in order to supplement it with hours of extra research—in general this isn’t a bad thing, but getting a base idea recorded allows me to go back to the framework I created in twenty minutes and fill in research where I actually need it.

Being unfiltered and speaking in a first draft, so to speak, lets me simply get the bare ideas that are floating around my head out. Definitely in more words than less, but once I go through the transcript, I can say what I said in a 100 words in 10 by choosing specific and meaningful words for my intended meaning.
I find that I get so wrapped up in complex ideas and concepts that I sometimes lose important details that I meant to include in my stories because I wasn’t able to type my thoughts as fast as I was thinking them.

When I’m speaking out loud, this isn’t an issue because I can talk almost as fast as I think. I love the freedom that comes from not getting stressed out over the fact that my typing speed is limiting what ideas are saved or forgotten.

I have found that verbal storytelling allows me to do at least three beneficial things:

1.It allows me to multitask in otherwise inefficient situations like driving or walking.
2.It allows me to save time by being unrestrained in my first draft thinking.
3.It allows me to verbalize the ideas and inspiration that sometimes get forgotten when I don’t write my thoughts down fast enough.

Verbal storytelling has been a wonderful exercise for me in discovering how I can adapt my writing process to be more effective, more creative, and more fun.

Do you do any verbal storytelling? What kinds of techniques do you use to get your thoughts and stories out?

Getting Stuck

Right now, I’m stuck. Last week I didn’t write a blog post partly because I’ve been working extra long hours this week, but partly because I didn’t know what to write about.

There are so many excuses I could use that have varying degrees of truth to them.

“I’ve been busy these last couple weeks”
“I always lose momentum right after Camp NaNo”
“I’m at hard part in the novel”

But the truth of the matter is, I’m just stuck.

I don’t know how to get from one scene of my novel to the next. To make matters worse, to get to the next point in my story I have to introduce a new character. A character I know nothing about. And for the past two weeks I’ve been looking for inspiration in the people around me for this character, but I still haven’t found anything.

And I’m frustrated. I want to keep writing, but this character is too central to the story to just jump over and come back to.

What’s even more frustrating about this situation is the fact that I want to write. I am in love with my story and I love the way the story is going. I’m excited that it is summer and my time to write is no longer at odds with other things like writing papers or studying for exams.

But I get this panicky anxiety that my time to write is passing me by without me and then I spend more time worrying about not writing than actually putting in the effort to write. It’s a vicious cycle.

All that being said, the conclusion I’ve reached is more of a reminder to me rather than a new lesson.

Getting stuck happens.

But getting stuck only refers to the momentum of my writing. I’m not going forward when I’m stuck. But that doesn’t mean I’ve left the writing trail or that my story isn’t going to work. It just means that until I come up with a solution I’m going to stay in the same spot. And like a car spinning its tires in mud, not every solution will work as well, and that’s okay. The important thing is continuing to try to push past that blockage or lack of motivation and find a way back onto that road and forward movement.

At this point, I don’t know how to get unstuck. I don’t have any tips on how to get unstuck. I’m still stuck and I may be stuck for a while. But I’m not worried anymore. I’m focusing on letting go of that anxiousness of time passing and letting myself live in the moment of being stuck as a learning experience and as a time to reflect on when my writing is going well.

So I’m stuck today, but I won’t be stuck forever and when I get unstuck, I’ll let you know how I did it.

Reflecting on My April Camp NaNo Experience

Camp NaNoWriMo was finished at midnight on April 30. I danced dangerously close to that deadline when I finished my goal and validated my win. What a month it has been. Here’s what I’ve been up to while working on my Camp NaNoWriMo project for April 2018.

My project, as of yet, remains frustratingly unnamed. It’s a YA pirate novel lingering in the realms of fantasy. (This is my third pirate/seafaring people based novel that I’ve written)

Here’s the short summary:

“Given a second chance at a new life, Phoenix is enlisted by the navy to hunt the pirates wrecking havoc at Imperial ports, but word of mutiny and blackmail leave Phoenix wondering who really are the “Scourge of the Seas”. Pirate or Imperial?”

My goal for the project was to do 3600 minutes (60 hours) of work on it during April. This could include anything from brainstorming, to planning, to writing and everything in between.

The breakdown of that time spent looks something like this:


Writing: This was the actual writing that I got done on the novel. During Camp NaNoWriMo I wrote about 22,000 words in my novel. I was really surprised by this because it seemed most days that I only got a couple hundred words written.

Unfortunately, the scenes I have written do not go past the first plot point of the novel meaning the main conflict of the story has not yet happened in 22,000 words, which is not good. It is way too late in the novel for the main plotline to just be starting, but the story itself is enjoyable to read and write so changes will have to be made during editing to take out the unnecessary events and tighten the plot.

Plotting: I spent the first 15 hours or so of Camp NaNo working on fleshing out my plot. I knew the basic run of the story and how it ended, but how the story moved between events and how Phoenix ultimately becomes a pirate I hadn’t figured out, so I tried out different endings, different conflicts and different scenarios in order to find the plotline I eventually landed on and built my outline around. I knew some of the themes I wanted to build around and and some motifs I wanted to follow. During plotting, I figured some of these things out with more certainty.

Character Building: I had a lot of fun building characters this month. I thought I had Phoenix figured out, but as you can learn about here, I really didn’t have her figured out until I started writing about her.

Some of the other characters I got to build and develop were Phoenix’s closest friends. At the start, I just had a bunch of names of eventual Imperial crew mates. But I was reluctant to build any sort of in-depth characters for fear of falling in love with them because I know this story is the beginning or origin story for Phoenix the Pirate–not Phoenix the Imperial. She’s not going to stay with her Imperial friends for very long.

Of course though, I did fall in love with my group of Imperials and I am not excited to see the end of this novel play out when Phoenix leaves the crew she and I grew to love. My heart will break so many times.

Research: This part of my month was minimal, but necessary. I started reading a book about pirate myths and drew on the research I had done for a paper I had written about the Dutch Sea Beggars. If you put my book in the real world it would fall just before the the Golden Age of Piracy which happens between 1650-1730. I’m generally unaware of what the world was like then so there was some research into the technology and medicines of the time which helped to flesh out some of the world.

Creating Settings: If you couldn’t tell by the brightly coloured pie chart, I’m a visual learner. So part of the month was spent creating and drawing maps and settings for my world. I already had the world map, but I needed a map of the compound where Phoenix spends most of her time, so I drew it and then painted it as well as drawing a few of the specific buildings like the mess hall and barracks in order to help me visualize and create the space in my mind and thus in the book.

Worldbuilding: Normally I blitz through a first draft without stopping and use placeholders in order to remember to flesh out some part of my world later, in edits. But this month I took the time to stop writing in order to flesh out the world when I came to an idea or concept that I didn’t know.

I spent hours coming up with slang, creating constitutions, building cultural festivals, outlining the societal hierarchies, working out the finer details of a judicial system, and writing histories. Breathing in the world this way has allowed me to immerse myself in a new world which I’ve never written in.


These components split my time during Camp NaNoWriMo in a nice balance, and if I ever plan to do NaNoWriMo with a time-based goal rather than word count goal, I will likely approach it in a similar manner.

I loved this April. I loved my story, my characters, the process, and all the wonderful people who were in my camp cabin who encouraged and supported one another throughout the month. I can’t wait to keep working on my story, keep writing and planning and hopefully write with some of my cabin mates again.

July Camp NaNo, here I come!

How did your Camp NaNoWriMo go?