Sometimes, on the small screens that are the lot of laptop jockeys like me, a plot is tough to track. I mean, come on. I keep my 12 pt. type at a 155% magnification, all the better to see you with. Tracking the multiple threads of a complex plot through multiple pages on the small screen? Not so wonderful.

Small wonder why physicists keep complex equations on large boards.

I am dyslexic, which makes the process especially challenging. Following a complex plot through its multipage expression on computer screens is, for me, like trying to untangle a plate of spaghetti, strand by strand, without touching it. It’s difficult, at best. Most of the time, it’s just plain painful.

And changing it? Dear me. When you’ve ripped the pulsing organs from a chapter, trying to reorganize them into a more efficient living being, the computer is a poor operating room. The parts are all in different places.

Can we outline? Sure we can. Do we? Sure we do. But it’s a process that eats up time like a hoard of hungry zombies in a room full of brains. We get trapped in the nuance-loop. We include the stuff that might be handy to know. We end up with an outline that’s as lengthy as the document we started with. Which means that the problem starts all over again.

Last night, I rediscovered a technique that I have used successfully in the past. A technique that involves my perennial little silver buddy, the tape recorder. The technique asks you to outline the section in question. Verbally. From memory. Without notes.

Warning: This technique is flopsweat-inducing. It’s scary. It ain’t easy. It takes patience. And focus. And a certain wirewalking skill. And energy.

Tough. But not impossible.

The thing is, you’ve been there, in that plot. You’ve lived it over and over. A complex trek, yes, but you’re no stranger to the points of origin. Even if your brain is too scattered to wade through multiple laptop screens to track the plot path through all its twists, you CAN re-create it. And it’s the trying that brings the reward.

Something about the lining up of those plot-parts from memory: It brings a clarity to what has been impossibly confusing on the screen.  Calling up the plot from memory reduces the many-lined nuances to their essential elements in a way not even a written outline can do. The exercise gives the head dominion over its creation. Better still, it gives the intellect a bump, a sense of achievement that helps the heart find the answers.

In mastering the challenge, suddenly the plot’s flow makes sense. And the miracle has come to you in less time than you would have spent extracting an outline from page after page of text.

A forced march. To a five star Caribbean resort: Hard getting there, great once you’ve arrived.

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