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Ask me anything ... about writing

A reader of "Snowdrifts" approached me with some questions about writing ...

Reader - Do you picture the environment in your head? Like when you are writing a scene in an office are you visualizing the office in your head? How do you even think to bother mentioning “Joe’s desk clock tocked over”? This amazes me…..


I completely picture it, to the point that sometimes I forget where I am. I not only picture the environment, such as Joe's office, but I often see it from inside the character’s mind. While in that “writing moment”, I was Doug sitting at Joe’s desk. I loved writing this scene and tapping into Doug’s inner thoughts. I smile that you enjoyed the clock “tocking”. I wrote and re-wrote that sentence many times. I was sensing how uncommonly quiet Joe’s office would be. To make Doug feel the silence even more alone, I wanted something ordinary to break it but “tick tock” sounded too “Timex”. When I wrote clock tocked I enjoyed the rhyme. Interestingly, the italicizing of the word tocked was also a topic of discussion.

Another trick I do is use ‘images’ on the internet. I am a visual person. For example, I searched “lawyer’s office” and clicked around until I found one that looked like I imagined. For Joe’s farmhouse, I searched “old farmhouse with wraparound porch”. Eventually, I find an image that strikes me and I refer to it when I need to. I also do it for adult characters to get ideas and be better able to describe them.


Reader- Do you have the whole story outlined before you begin?

Absolutely not. I’ve tried this many times based on the good advice of many a great writer I’ve met but, for me, it just doesn’t work. I have to be writing to figure out what will happen next. Sometimes my stories go to places I hadn’t even imagined. When Meg was driving through the city and came upon the yacht club I was pleased as I hadn’t seen it coming. Sometimes my characters will suddenly behave a certain way and I am surprised. I texted a fellow writer recently and said “Oh my gosh, Emma is Irish!” while writing "Claire, departed". I had not sketched her as Irish but it just happened.

Many experts say that outlining is the way to go and I agree with them in principle. It would certainly save a lot of rewrites and consistency checking. But, for me, I just can’t do it.

About 70% of the way through “Snowdrifts” I did outline with coloured Posits as scenes (colours based on flashbacks vs. present time). I had them pasted all over a screen in my studio. I then inserted blank Posits where there were gaps and wrote those.


Reader - Do you write from beginning to end or do you work on a chapter here and a chapter there?


All over the place. It depends on my mood, location, all sorts of things. Part 1 of Chapter 2 of Snowdrifts was the first part I wrote but I had no idea about Joe or Andrea’s story then. I don’t recall what came next but a lot of the Doug and Margot and Chase scenes were early. The last chapter I wrote was where Joe goes to Andrea’s house. I avoided it forever over fear of missing a loose end.


Reader - How did you ever get brave enough to start?????

I’ve written my whole life but, after high school, life got in the way and it was just a “something I want to do someday” type thing. I also had a lot of fear. Writing can be very personal and sharing it is like walking outside in your underwear. It was very gradual that I told people I trusted that I wanted to do it. I’d also never formally studied English beyond some university and college electives so there was fear there of not doing it well enough, as far as grammar etc. Following a bad year with a lot of stress and grief, I came to the realization that life is too short to not pursue what you love. I signed up for some workshops and coaching and my coach pushed me along – which is why I want to coach now. After that it’s just a matter of sitting down, doing it, and being brave enough to share it in safe places, then ‘not so safe’ places.

I can tell you that Snowdrifts sat in a completed state for over a month before I got the guts to send the email to the publisher.

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