Thursday, March 16

A Little Advice

by Margie Senechal

I've been thinking a lot about writing lately. Probably more thinking than the actual doing. Although I have done some writing, just not as much as I'd like.

So, I'm here to offer some advice I received recently.

For Christmas, KB got Lauren Graham's--she of Gilmore Girls fame--autobiography, I'm Talking As Fast As I Can.
While reading it, she stopped, found me, and made me read the segment titled The Kitchen Timer. I just want to say, your procrastination must be pretty bad when your daughter tracks you down to offer advice to make you more efficient.

This method was created by Don Roos. Basically, you make an appointment to write for an hour a day. You set a timer, shut down all distractions--internet, silence your phone, turn off the television--and write for an hour. You can write on your current WIP or in a journal. But, you just write.

I know this isn't new information. What I liked it about is that you decide the day before when you're going to make your writing date. I know some people--Nan--work best by writing at the same time every day. 

For my life that isn't realistic because I do shift work. This week for example, this week I'm working three mids (10-6) and two closing (2-10) shifts. So, for me to say I'll get up at 6 every morning isn't going to work. Because, really it's not going to happen.

But, what if I say tonight, "I'll write between 8:30-9:30 tomorrow morning." That gives me time to get up and get ready for work, eat my oatmeal, make my coffee, watch the opening of the Today Show to make sure we're not facing the apocolypse just yet, and then settle down to write for an hour.

The other piece of helpful advice I read this week came via a writing newsletter I receive from author Rachel Herron:

Then I remembered something I heard Ann Hood say: she likened her writing to a jigsaw puzzle, and it really affected me.
Think about your last jigsaw: there are so many pieces, all in disarray. It looks like a hot mess when dumped out on the table, all the cardboard sides showing, sticking together in clumps formed while the box was in transit.
“Just do the edges first,” Ann Hood said.
It felt so good to hear—so right.
We have an idea when we start. We know what the book (or story, or poem, or article) will be like, because we can see the box in our mind’s eye. Oh, it’s a glorious story! Just wait till we get it on the page! Readers will revel in the ups, and they’ll weep at the downs.
Then we sit down to work on the book, and instead, we have all these damn pieces which don’t seem like they even came from the same puzzle box we bought.
So we do the edges.
There. We have a frame. 
 I so needed to hear this. While I love Ana, Danny, and the suitcases, I know I want it to be more. I want eloquent turns of phrase, lyrical word play, and poetic imagery. 
And I admit I've been tempted to go back and start filling in the corners before the frame is actually done. Surprisingly--especially for me--I know how this story ends and what's coming down the pike. It's the committing those words to paper that I'm having trouble with.
 Especially because I have a shiny, new object that wants to come out to play. So, I'm committing--right now, to all of you--to spending an entire hour a day on writing Ana's story. And my daily reward is that on my lunch I can take the shiny new object out to tinker with. 
Okay, that's all I got for this week. Have a great Thursday! 


  1. Margie, I've often thought of my stories as puzzles. They start out as a collection of pieces, in other words, scenes or snippets of scenes. Eventually, as you move the pieces around and construct the frame, or structure, a picture emerges. And if you're really lucky, that picture is clear and beautiful!

    1. I never really looked at writing like this before which is amazing because jigsaw puzzles are like my third favorite pastime.

  2. Always good advice to take a story one piece at a time!

  3. A great post, Margie. I love the puzzle thing. I like timers, too. I've been doing sprints and enjoying them, too.

    1. I might have to try a sprint one of these days.

  4. Love this post! This jigsaw puzzle analogy is a good one!