Sunday, December 21, 2008

Writing in Scenes

Yesterday, my day-job assignment was to patrol only three buildings on campus, inside and out. It was an easy task. Classrooms are closed until the new year and staff don’t work on Saturdays. When I arrived at seven a.m., buildings were already locked down for the day and the area was blissfully quiet. It’s a strange feeling to know you’re the only one in an unfamiliar building. You’re more conscious of the sound of your footsteps and strange noises. It’s an odd balance between heightened senses and a relaxed state of mind. Outside, the temperature was minus 7 Celsius and brilliantly sunny. The snow had fallen three days earlier and icicles dangled off of eaves and plants. Pink salt crystals were sprinkled on sidewalks and stairs while parking lots remained deceptively treacherous.

As I tread cautiously among icy patches, I thought about capturing some of what I saw by writing scenes. Scenes that don’t have anything to do with current projects. It might seem strange to say this, but I rarely write random scenes. My stories, essays, and novels develop from outlines, so that even before I begin writing I know what each scene is supposed to do. It’s saved me a lot of missteps, but lately I’ve been thinking about trying something different.

I have an idea for a book. Not a mystery -- an urban fantasy. The idea came during a local RWA conference, where I learned about the many subgenres of romance writing. Boy, there's a genre that's blossomed over the years. Seven months later, the idea’s still with me and it’s beginning to grow ... not through a coherent outline but in separate, unrelated scenes.

One year, at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I listened to Diana Gabaldon discuss how she wrote her Outlander series by starting with random scenes. As some of you know, she creates 1,200 page stories that flow so smoothly it’s hard to imagine how she stitches all of those scenes together. Yet she does, and beautifully. Now I'm ready to try this method, one scene at a time.

To read excerpts of TAXED TO DEATH and FATAL ENCRYPTION please visit,

And to all of you Christmas worshippers out there, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

1 comment:

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, suspense author said...

Awesome post, Debra, and what a great idea to write random scenes. I'll have to try it too. :)

I also liked the description of walking through the empty classrooms...very creepy feeling.

Merry Christmas!!