DebraMilligan.com

 

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How I Work

When writing a draft, I usually compose on paper.  The blank page comes in the form of 8-1/2 x 11 legal pads.  There is a certain seductive quality to seeing your words “in print” on the computer screen that does not permit the objectivity which a writer needs for revising and editing.  I frequently must “input” thoughts, dialogue, and narration into an electronic file because the words appear with laser speed in my mind.  However, I always consider those passages as works-in-progress and have even deleted major portions of some of them.  A writer has to be willing to use the “Delete” button just as much as the keyboard.


Many scenes have “come to me” while I am driving, exercising, or doing errands.  There is always a pad of paper and a pen in the car or in my purse.  In a pinch, napkins and sales receipts have served my purpose!


During the process of inputting my hand-scrawled fiction into an electronic file, I automatically revise, edit, and sometimes decide that the material is not for this novel but for another one!  At a very young age, I was trained as a typist; my typing skills allowed me to earn my way through life for many years.  Thus the manual/physical process of working on a keyboard is ingrained into my creative psyche.  The thought of using a touch screen to write is quite appalling to me.

In terms of development of the novels that I have written and plan to write, the seeds of germination were planted long ago.  Some images were saved in my mind for over thirty years before being rendered into word pictures in a novel; other elements in scenes come directly from that day or week in my life during composition.  For decades, I wrote the following in chartreuse green cloth-bound journals:  myriad thoughts; impressions; passages of dialogue and narration; factoids; ideas for names; personal essays; and research information.  Those writings were later used to compile the draft of a novel.  The cloth-bound journals were then expunged.


I recall several lines that I wrote into a gray hard-bound journal sometime during the spring of 1983 while I was waiting at a bus stop.  I saved this passage from this journal and kept it in a file.  That piece of writing, which I still recall vividly, was used for the love story of Arthur and Camille in THE DAWN.  I believe that the glimmer, the seed crystal of that opus formed within that passage.


My method is understood by me; I don’t expect much more comprehension that that one.  I must state that home-schooling my children solidified, augmented, and enhanced not only their knowledge but mine as well.  I would not be the writer or the woman that I am today without those cherished years.

The Red Book


It is an historic day. The time has come for change. The U.S. Army green blank journals of yore are being replaced by The Red Book, a signal toward the future, perhaps of a more passionate form of writing!


My interactions with my friend and Russian artist have certainly contributed to this choice, although she would state that is mine 100%. Still, I must give credit for inspiration where credit is due, and her influences in my personal, creative, and professional lives have been and are immeasurable.


So to Svetlana, I dedicate The Red Book, blank and ready for dreams to come true!

Time


Very often I am asked where I get the time to do all of my writing. The question is not easy for me to answer because a part of my mind is always at work on a creative project. Everyday life provides many catalysts for the ideas that a writer finds interesting, but, for me, everyday life is the ultimate source of the time for the writing.


Rarely do I get up in the morning with a schedule to write. Sometimes I need to work an hour or so on editing or on revisions but I accomplish the work in-between other tasks in the home or during other activities. I do not shoe-horn myself into a fixed routine. I value my freedom to live free from my writing, and I place a premium on my personal life, to the extent that I have often put off writing until it can no longer be put off. Ergo, a short novel will “write itself” in the space of a few weeks after it has been “cogitating” in my mind for a few years, if not longer.


This method is not typical of many writers. I think the best answer for where I get the time as a writer to write is in between the time needed for all of the other aspects of my life. Time management might be the more modern term for it, but basically, being a writer means having many irons in the fire at once. The hope is that none of them go out or burn to a crisp!