Monday, May 11, 2015


Please join me in welcoming Mary Gillgannon to Discover Yourself. It's always fun to read how an author works! 
I am what I call an “into the mist” writer. I don’t really plot, but come up with an opening, characters or story idea and start writing. I do it this way not by choice, but because if I try to plot out my story, the creative part of my brain refuses to cooperate.
My theory is that in order to write, the two sides of my brain have to work together. The creative side comes up with story, but the rational/organized side then has to find the words and structure to describe it. It’s as if my consciousness has to jump back and forth between the two sides in order to write.
Over time, I’ve learned some things that facilitate this process. The first one is that basic physical activity increases this connection between the two sides of my brain. If I’m totally stuck and get up from the computer and do something—make tea, use the bathroom, walk downstairs—any one of those very mundane activities seems to unlock something and make the words flow.
Along with walking comes driving, another activity where part of my brain is engaged. While the rational part of my brain is calculating distance and speed and helping me make the decisions of when to pass and when to slow down, another part of my brain is making creative connections and furthering my story.
I’ve also discovered that dreaming and daydreaming both represent a state where the creative part of my brain works best. I’m not a morning person. I’m basically dysfunctional until about 10 a.m. And yet, I can get up in the wee hours and write. It works because the dream state you experience while sleeping is related to the state where the creative part of the brain is most accessible. I’ve learned that if I get stuck in a story, if I think about the story while I’m trying to fall asleep and when I first awake, my unconscious will often tell me where to take it.
The third thing that seems to help me is simply telling someone about my plot. It has to be live and in the moment. And it has to be an oral description/explanation. But something about the physical act of verbalizing my story seems to free the creative half of my brain. Again, the physical process apparently fires the neurons I use to create the story.
For me, the process of writing is mysterious and magical. And incredibly messy and wasteful. For my few books, I probably wrote an extra 30,000 words for every 100,000 that ended up in the finished book. I’ve gotten better over the years. I don’t get quite as off track as I used to. I’ve learned to recognize when I’m headed down a blind alley and stop and figure out where my plot needs to go. My muse is stubborn and independent, but she will listen to reason occasionally.
But the true test of my getting better at this is whether I can manage a mystery plot. My current work in progress has a murder, and there may be more deaths. (I don’t know yet. Which probably seems odd, but it’s true. I won’t know until my characters find another dead body.) When writing a mystery, everything has to make sense and tie together at the end, and yet keep the reader guessing throughout the book. You have to set up the clues and also throw in some red herrings to misdirect and confuse. This is real plotting and it takes more logic than instinct and intuition, which is how my romances evolve. But I’m determined to master this. Because someday I’d like to write a real mystery. And that’s a bit daunting when you don’t plot.

Blurb and buy links for Wicked Wager:
When hardened gamester Marcus Revington wins Horngate Manor in a card game, he is delighted to finally own property. Even discovering he must marry the heiress of the estate doesn’t deter him. The heiress, Penny Montgomery, is happy with her life raising horses at Horngate and has no desire to wed anyone. When she learns about her guardian’s Wicked Wager, she schemes to convince Marcus she’s unsuitable as a wife so he’ll forget his plan to marry her. Who will win this battle of wits and wills? Or will they both discover the name of the game is love?


  1. I guess i'm an 'into the mist' writer as well as I can't plot. Best wishes with mystery. That genre ise beyond me for the moment. :)

    1. Writing a mystery is kind of wishful thinking for me, too. If I ever do, it will be because some idea just came to me. Thanks for stopping by, Angelina.

  2. Hi Mary, I'm fascinated by the thought processes of other authors. While I'm a linear pantster, I often step aside from the writing to clear my mind. I can still recall plotting entire during five-hour drives to Northern Ontario.

    Joanne :)

    1. Some of my tricks, like doing something physical, seem to work for most people, even if they plot. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I can't plot, either,but I want to. I think it would be fun to have at least a clue what was going to happen next!

    1. I know, it would help to know where you're going, wouldn't it? I sometimes feel that the way I write is like setting off on a cross country trip with no roadmap and and only a vague destination in mind. Who knows where you'll end up! Thanks for stopping by, Liz.