A Book Begins; Commence the Wandering

Hey all. Gerry Boyle here. And I’m reporting in after spending much of the day in my favorite part of the writing trade: the wandering.

I love the writing itself. I love the long hours in the study with the story. I like seeing the finished book and I like going around talking the book up. But there is something special about the research stage of  a book, when ideas are forming but nothing is decided and anything is possible. This is what I call “the wandering stage” when I set out with notebooks and camera and Gazeteer and go where intuition takes me.

With a book in the hopper and the next one a vague notion, this morning I set out early, taking an SUV just in case. I’m doing research in Jack McMorrow’s backyard, and even after all these years on Jack’s turf in the willwags of Waldo County Maine, I keep the Gazeteer beside me. I drive back roads and then I drive roads that are just dashes on the map. I eased my way down one this morning that had signs directing drivers (of ATVs). I bumped along, glad it hadn’t just rained because the road was clearly the stream bed. I drove and mulled and pulled into logging roads and pondered.

The plot is emerging, like people walking out of a haze.  I sit in the woods, get out and walk. I drive back to paved roads and park. Pickups drive by and everyone waves. They figure anyone out here must be someone they know. If it isn’t, they need a good hard look. I’ll bet I’ll come up in somebody’s dinner conversation tonight:

“Saw this guy in a grey Toyota? Way back in the woods.”

“What was he doing?”

“Hell if I know. Just kinda sitting there.”

“Wasn’t some pervert was he?”


“Yeah, well.”

Drove a road named somebody’s gulch. Jack will go there. Met a young woman along the way, in a store. She told me her dad makes furniture. Sweet smile. She’ll make the book. Saw a kid on a bike, flailing his way down a big hill. Put the brakes on so he could give me a wave. Norman Rockwell come to life. Got the dead stare from two guys in a Toyota pickup. How can so much be said by no expression at all?

I get asked sometimes where I get my ideas. Now you know. Fifty miles from the study. From a glance. A smile. A back road that ends in a washed out gully. A couple of guys who could be loggers. Or could be coming from a meth lab in the woods. A hundred bucks says there was a firearm in the truck. Fifty says it was loaded.

So is this how all writers start a book? I don’t know. I’ll ask my compatriots in MCW. Hey, guys. How do you set out to write a book?

I just know how these things form for me. I wouldn’t, couldn’t, do it any other way.

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5 Responses to A Book Begins; Commence the Wandering

  1. Hi, Gerry,
    Interesting post. And a curious coincidence. My post for Monday, already written, is also about the early planning stages for a new book . . . but a very different slant.


  2. John Clark says:

    I tell my library patrons nobody describes our part of Maine better than you do. This post is a perfect example. I have a somewhat similar experience by being a small town librarian who likes to talk, but likes to listen more. People seem to have fewer venues for face to face conversation these days, so libraries serve as a place where they can get stuff out. Mind you, it doesn’t go anywhere (in my case anyway), but I’ve generated some dandy short story ideas from listening to other people’s experiences and frustrations in recent years.

    • Gerry Boyle says:

      Listening is crucial to a writer, I think, John. Dialogue, human nature, people’s joys, sadness, everything in between. It’s all there, if we listen.

  3. Lea Wait says:

    I love this blog! And that it often feels as though we’re on parallel paths with one or more of our fellow MCW-ers. I, too, am in the planning stages for a new book. I have twenty pages of character bios and sketches and ideas and even words (stay tuned for that blog,) but it hasn’t come together yet. Last night I joined my husband on our porch with the words, “I can’t find the right way for her to die.” He was appropriately sympathetic, but not really helpful. (He thought I should just shoot her in the head. Not artistic at all. I needed something a bit more symbolic.) And who knows? By the time the book is written the victim may not even be a “her”. Will look forward to your post, Kaitlyn. Or maybe I should just start driving ….. Thanks for sharing, Gerry.

    • Gerry Boyle says:

      Interesting, Lea. Lots of creating going on. We work in mysterious ways, don’t we?
      Love the bit about the manner of death. I had a similar conversation with my wife Friday night. We were on the boat. An eagle and ospreys and a lovely breeze. What better place to talk about homicide!

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