Building a Scene: One Writer’s Process

One day soon, these scribbles on leftover notebook paper from my grown sons’ school days will grow into a polished scene in my third novel, Seven Wings to Glory

The Seven Wings to Glory bracelet was designed by my dear friend, Starlene DeBord, owner of Scarlett Sage Designs. Even when I'm not wearing the bracelet, I carry it with me everywhere I go during the process of writing this next novel. It serves as a talisman for me and keeps me motivated and focused on the work at hand.
The Seven Wings to Glory talisman bracelet was designed by my dear friend, Starlene DeBord, owner of Scarlett Sage Designs. It helps keep me motivated and focused on the work at hand.

Writing is a messy process, but after nearly forty years of writing for publication, I’ve learned to trust what works for me. Every article I sold to Family Circle Magazine, Air Force/Army/&Navy Times, and many other publications started out like this: first thoughts scribbled on whatever paper is at hand.

Sometimes I use legal pads or journals given to me by family members or friends. I joke that my first novel, The Final Salute, was cobbled together using sticky notes and index cards.

For Johnnie Come Lately, releasing from Camel Press February 1, 2015, my first thoughts were captured in a spiral notebook for a novel writing class I took at Southern Methodist University. Once I get a few words down, then I move to my trusty laptop. My job is to turn chaos into what I hope is an entertaining story.

If you’re a writer, what is your process? I’d love to hear. I’m always intrigued how other authors get their stories down. Whether you’re new to the business or you started out like me, tapping away on a manual typewriter, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Update: Dec. 1, 2016

seven_wings_300Seven Wings to Glory releases from Camel Press April 1, 2017

Johnnie Kitchen is finally living her dream, attending college and writing a column for the local paper. She adores her husband Dale and chocolate Labrador Brother Dog, and they reside in a comfortable home in the small town of Portion in North Texas. Their three children are thriving and nearly grown.

But Johnnie is rattled when her youngest boy Cade goes to fight in Afghanistan. The less frequent his emails, the more she frets for his safety. On the home front, Johnnie learns that Portion is not the forward-thinking town she believed. A boy Cade’s age, inflamed by a liberal bumper sticker and the sight of Johnnie’s black friend Whit, attacks them with the N-word and a beer bottle. After Johnnie writes about the incident in her column, a man named Roosevelt reaches out with shameful stories from Portion’s untold history. More tears and triumphs will follow, as Johnnie’s eyes are opened to man’s capacity for hate and the power of love and forgiveness.

The sequel to Johnnie Come Lately.


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Author of the novels The Final Salute, Johnnie Come Lately & Seven Wings to Glory. Former contributor to Family Circle Magazine and Military Times. Future work represented by agent Diane Nine, Nine Speakers Inc.

5 thoughts on “Building a Scene: One Writer’s Process”

  1. Fun to read how writing works for you. I’m working on a long tale with 7 generations of characters so I start writing up each character sketch. At the same time I start timelines of key events and scenes. My favorite writing tablet is a jumbo sized tablet for elementary classrooms (3 ft X 4 ft). Writing long hand helps a writer find the narrative arc and build a better story. Good pencils with erasers, too.

    1. Hi Jill,
      Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving your insightful comment. Seven generations is a lot to juggle, but you can handle it. I like that you are creating character sketches and a timeline of key events. When I was working on Johnnie, I scribbled informal notes about most of the characters and I used a 2007 calendar to help me with the present storyline. But it was the backstory where I had to rely on a lose timeline if you will. I’m not neat in my organization, but somehow I try to piece it all together.

      I’d love to see a photo of the jumbo tablet you are using. Maybe it would help me.

      Wishing you the best of luck on your latest writing project.

      🙂 Kathleen

  2. Whatever works for you–and something is working just right for you. I tend to do a rough draft long hand, but I edit, edit, and edit some more until where I end up is often a long distance from where I began.

    Johnnie is arriving on the scene very soon. I look forward to meeting her, Kathleen.

    Blessed Solstice and Merry Christmas.

    1. Hi Elaine,
      So I take it the first draft of Leaving Into Love was written in long hand. Guess what I’m holding right this second? Yes, your book. Making it my priority read this week. I’m excited to talk to you about your writing process and how you brought your own book to life.

      Thanks for taking a moment to visit my blog and leave a comment.

      Hug Willow for me.

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