An Algorithm for Writing

Today, I’d like to turn your attention away from my growing collection of soy sauce packets to a subject near and dear to all of us: algorithms. According to Merriam-Webster, an algorithm is

a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation; broadly : a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end especially by a computer

Algorithms are a key part of our lives. That computer, that software, that browser—algorithms helped determine many functions.


We like to figure things out, don’t we? It’s part of our human nature. But if a step-by-step formula exists to help us quickly gain the answers we seek, we want to implement it. We like labor-saving procedures that take us from point A to point B—a neat algorithm ala Euclid’s algorithm.

This is often the case in the writing world. Writers avidly study other writers, particularly those deemed successful. We read their blogs, dissect their query letters, watch them being interviewed, or stalk their agents. We want to know how we, like them, can be successful in our chosen field. Okay, perhaps I shouldn’t use the word we. I do that. Undoubtedly, you’re secure in your awesomeness. But me? I want to know the algorithm.

As I mentioned in a post back in February, I read Avatar—The Last Airbender™: The Art of the Animated Series by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko the co-creators of the hit animated series Avatar—The Last Airbender™. I wanted a step-by-step process to writing a critically acclaimed series. Were there certain ingredients or procedures I could incorporate in my fantasy series? If I have A squared and add it to B squared, will that equal C squared (to borrow from the Pythagorean Theorem)—C squared being the elusive alchemy of a winning series?

If you read that post, you know the answer to that question. But I can offer the step-by-step process I determined to follow as I continue writing:

1. Just do it
2. Keep on doing it
3. Push past discouragement
4. Do it some more to the best of my ability.

Like it? Then make it your method. Just do it.

8 thoughts on “An Algorithm for Writing

  1. Sorry, Linda…I didn’t finish my list….

    Here we go:

    1. Just do it.
    2. Use your weaknesses to illustrate your strengths. For example, I’m not so great at writing emotion, but I like writing action, so I keep trying to find ways to show emotion through action.
    3. Find a supportive community and lean on them whenever the first two aren’t working.

    • Laura, thanks for your list. I can relate to all of those points. I so appreciate our class at VCFA and the support we offer each other. I also appreciated the bloggers I’ve met through blogging. And oh man, how I love what you said about using your weaknesses to illustrate your strengths. I tend to bemoan my weaknesses, instead of being proactive about working through them.

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