Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No Gorillas in the Mist

So far, the manuscript I'm working on is what I'd always dreamed writing would be like. Knock wood.

Yes, it's work, but it's incredibly gratifying. The story is there, I don't need to go hunting (much) for it. It's all in a wonderful refreshing mist hanging right in front of me. All I need to do is pull the molecules together and get the words down. This is the first time I've ever experienced an almost living organism with my writing, and hope this is the way things roll for me from now on.

What's the difference between this one and the others I've worked on?

1. The entire story began with a mystery. A tiny news story caught my eye, and my Intrigued Button was pushed. Pay attention to those little headlines that make you look twice.

2. I've worked hard at learning the craft of writing. The critiques and edits and courses I've taken are giving me confidence. Finally.

3. I began with some solid research into the story concept before I ever wrote a word. Research has a way of redirecting your story. It adds both credibility and depth because, with good research, you don't have to gloss over a story concept in hopes no one will look too close.

4. I found some amazing characters. Strong, flawed, passionate and unafraid. These characters came to me fully formed, even those who withheld their secrets. They've brought in sub-plots and issues I hadn't originally considered.

5. Brainstorming. Friends who are also writers are the greatest gifts I could have (aside from a puppy). From fleshing out plot ideas, to seeing the best motivation, to knowing what the first scene absolutely had to be.

6. A road map. Brainstorming early (alone and with another writer) led to notes and a rough synopsis. Not everything is spelled out (I'd be so bored) but the major plot points are there for me to know in which direction to aim.

7. The Story. And I'm back to the beginning. The initial concept had to be intriguing enough to mushroom into more. Without depth and color and mist-ery, a writer can only go so far. I just hope I can meet the challenge of the story.

Right now I'm in Writer Nirvana. Hoping that if there are any gorillas in the mist, they're there to bring tension to my characters, not to me.

Have you found an evolution with your writing?

CR: Rain Gods by James Lee Burke.

It's all better with friends.


  1. I can't wait to read this one, Peg! I really want to know what that first, necessary scene was, and what the news story is!

    I definitely find myself feeling less clumsy as I write more and more. But more striking to me is how little the process really has changed. Time will tell whether this is a good thing or not, I guess.

  2. You're home! It's been lonely without you, Jenny. Definitely going to have to check your blog to see how the wandering Milchman tribe did this summer.

    You must have started out with a slam-dunk process, because mine has definitely evolved. I've gone from Moses wandering in the desert for 40-years (but what a story in there somewhere—and that's the trick) to something a bit more directed and concrete. I've tried it all, and still think there might be some tweaking involved. Like . . .

    What I would wish for now is a wall like the murder board in The Closer. I could have all of my character studies, plot synopses and notes, timeline and research propped up in front of me. Then, when I wanted something a bit more elegant, poof! the murder board would disappear into the ceiling and the homemaker/designer/nester in me could be content.