Thursday, May 21, 2015

Romance Novelist Melanie Milburne Writes: "The Mystery of the Writing Process."

Christal Rice Cooper

Article – 612 words

Guest Blogger Melanie Milburne
The Mystery of the Writing Process

So many people dream of writing a novel. I dreamed of it for decades before I actually got around to doing it. But it was only by doing it that I discovered what a mysterious process writing is. Like right now for instance. I began by sitting here thinking what on earth am I going to write about? But as I typed my subconscious came up with words and phrases that appeared in front of me on the screen. The more words I saw the more words I could feel building up behind them waiting for their turn on the page. Sure, some of them will be culled, others will stay, and some will be shifted around until I’m happy with the order they are in.

Writing is like solving a giant jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces you need are in your subconscious just like a puzzle in a jumbled mess on the top of a table. All the scenes, the thoughts and emotions of your characters, their goals, motivations, conflicts, and their dialogue are scattered. It is up to you and your skill as a writer to get them in the right order so your story not only makes sense but also makes the reader feel emotion, which according to Robert McKee is the function of story. To elicit emotion in the reader.

I’m probably making it sound much easier than it is. It requires discipline to write. Writing is hard on your mind, your body, and your relationships. It is a pursuit that takes up large amounts of time- time you can never get back.

As I said earlier, it is a mysterious process. The fictitious characters in your head become real as they start acting and speaking on the page. They start saying and doing things you didn’t expect them to do. Why is that?  I don’t know. It remains a mystery to me even after 64 books!

One thing I do know- I have to trust my subconscious to come up with the goods. Most people doing a jigsaw don’t have a deadline. It is a hobby. They do a few pieces here and there and come back to it when they have time. Writing to deadline is completely different. There is enormous pressure to get the book in on time. That can really mess with your head when you’re trying to solve the puzzle of your story.

My family knows to steer clear when I’m close to finishing my current work in progress!

Here are some tips I’ve found useful in getting to The End without (too many) tears.
Ask yourself- why are you writing this story? Describe your story in a sentence. (I always do this at the beginning of a project but it’s helpful to do it again later to remind myself of the core story elements.)

Do something menial. Yes, you read that right. Do some cleaning or ironing or whatever lets your mind drift. I can’t think of a single time where I have solved a story problem by sitting in front of the computer. It is always when I’m doing something else.

Read. So many times I have been reading a book and a light bulb has gone off in my head. That ah ha moment is pure gold.

Don’t give up. If you walk away from a manuscript the chances are you will do it again with another one until you never finish anything. Manuscripts are like relationships. If you can’t sort out what is wrong with this one then you’ll just take the same problems to the next one.

Photograph Description And Copyright Information

Photo 1 and Photo 4.
Melanie Miburne in her home office
Copyright granted by Melanie Milburne

Photo 2  and Photo 11
Melanie Milburne
Copyright granted by Melanie Milburne

Photo 3.
Robert McKee at a Story seminar in October 2005
GNU Free Documentation License

Photo 5
Jacket cover of His Inconvenient Wife 

Photo 6
Jacket cover of Chatsfield's Ultimate Acquisition 

Photo 7
Melanie Milburne and her books with her pet dog.
Copyright granted by Melanie Milburne

Photo 8
Melanie Milburne and her husband Stephen.
Copyright granted by Melanie Milburne

Photo 9
Melanie Milburne's pet cat behind her laptop.
Copyright granted by Melanie Milburne

Photo 10
Melanie Milburne with her pet dog.
Copyright granted by Melanie Milburne.


  1. Great post Melanie and I do love your stories thank you for many hours of reading pleasure :)

    Have Fun

  2. Really enjoyed your post Melanie and look forward to reading your stories!

  3. Writing a novel is like a jigsaw puzzle. Great way of putting it Melanie. Thank you for a peak into your writing process.

  4. Excellent post Melanie. Great advice for writers at all levels.