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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

A Novel is a Jigsaw Puzzle

I just had the juiciest conversation with a really smart new friend, who was nice enough to let me pick his brain over lunch. Like I said, this new novel has been marinating for a long time, but now that it’s officially under contract everything seems to be drawing together in an eerily deliberate way. I think, “I need to know X because that’s what my character cares about,” and a few days later there it is, on the shelf at the library or on the lips of a friend or stranger. It might be the detail I need, or the way to the detail, but in either case I get really, really excited and can’t wait to dig in. (Two and a half glasses of iced coffee enhance the effect, no doubt. I’ll probably be up ’til four again.)

As I said to my friend, writing a novel is like sitting down to work on a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle when there are only half that many pieces in the box. Those other five thousand pieces I have to collect in my travels, or in “chance” conversations like the one I had today. The trick is to recognize a piece when I see it, which of course is why I always keep my journal handy.

There’s really not much of a “trick,” though, come to think of it. It’s usually more of a PING, loud and unmistakable. That’s my intuition at work.


In the future I want to write more (and more consistently) about the mysteries of the creative process (and, like I said, how veganism has allowed me to enjoy that process much more fully). The nuts-and-bolts topics too, of course—I still have a list of FAQs from my time at St. Lawrence back in October 2011 to get through! The first two are about choosing a point of view and switching sexes (i.e., a male writer writing a female narrator or vice versa), and I’m hoping to have those entries finished and posted in the next couple of weeks. Anything else you’d like me to write about here, do please tweet to me or leave a Facebook comment. (I’ll be able to switch the blog comments back on once my new website goes up later on this summer.)

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.