The writing process: Don’t try this at home, kids

Katahdin sunset

Katahdin and friends at sunset from Route 11 in Stacyville. Busy doesn’t mean blind, after all.

My Crime Writer colleague Brendan Rielly a week ago confessed he’d been too busy to write. I was relieved. Misery sure does love company.

And I know the rule of writing is that YOU MUST FIND TIME TO WRITE NO MATTER WHAT.  Especially when you’re in the middle of a book that should have been done a while ago. And I totally agree with that, but when every minute of your day is pretty much filled up with things you have to do, it’s not gonna happen.

Side note: I posted the above photo just because I like it. I had to interview a couple in Millinocket for an article I was writing freelance, and one of them mentioned this view, which I was familiar with. As I left to go home, I was thinking about that great view, and realized maybe I could get it at sunset — it would mean adding another hour onto a long drive, but you gotta do what you gotta do. So I raced the sun up Route 11 and got there just in time. I don’t regret it. Busy has its limits.

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, too busy to write. I’m not complaining, just explaining.

Part of the issue is the writing process itself. I’ve known writers who can steal a half hour here or forty-five minutes there and get a lot done. On one hand, I can sit down and whip out 5,000 words in ninety minutes. But I can’t stop, so lots of times I don’t start.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have writer’s block. When I’m in the middle of a book and it’s going well, it’s going on in my head all the time, whether I have the time to sit down and deal with it or not.

I saw a car drive down the street in front of the house the other day and thought it was a character from my book. But then I remembered he doesn’t really exist.

The problem with the book going on in my head — besides blurring the lines of reality — is that I come up with VERY IMPORTANT plot notes, dialogue, scenes, lines, that I don’t want to forget. I have notebooks everywhere so I can jot them down. I probably  have the whole book on legal pads scattered around my room and car.

Oh yeah, and my phone.

When it’s three in the morning and I don’t want to go through the huge ordeal of turning on the light (it’s not one, just seems that way at three in the morning), I grab the phone and use the note app.

Unfortunately, sometimes this is the result:

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I’m really hoping when I sit down to write and get back to that scene — if I can remember what scene it is — it all starts making sense to me, because whatever that brilliant idea was the other night doesn’t make any sense now.

And if any of you other Maine Crime Writers can figure it out, don’t steal it!

38944_1545079435871_4987412_nThe good news is that next week I’m renting a friend’s camp on a very quiet lake in a very quiet place and I’m going to do nothing but work on my book. Some people may crave a Disneyworld vacation, or a whirlwind trip to Cancun. Maybe shopping and shows in New York. Not me, I can’t think of any thing I’d rather do.

No cabin or did, no doubt about it! Blackberry indeed.



About Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at @mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at She hosts the podcast Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.
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3 Responses to The writing process: Don’t try this at home, kids

  1. Wishing you a good and productive week writing, Maureen!

  2. Oh, yes, Maureen. Between my clumsy typing on small screens, Siri’s inability to understand a word I say, and the cryptic nature of note-taking, I have some gems. One recent one reads: Instructions for the pumpkin. Another is: Delayed by Porn. They may not mean to but they do. Everything makes all the difference. I am a pineapple (unless it is banana, this one is written in French) and a chapter title for an imaginary book: In which the man is offered wolf repellant. Also Water wars and the douser, and I was a jibberish major. Have a lovely writing retreat. I am green with envy.


  3. Barbara Ross says:

    I LOVE that photo of Katahdin. My writing, too, has been constantly interrupted by traveling and moving. Envy your cabin week. Best wishes for being productive.

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