Keep Your Eyes Open

By Yvonne Montgomery

Yvonne MontgomeryAs I draw near the end of my current project, A Signal Shown, Book Two of the Wisdom Court series, I’ve reached one of my favorite phases of writing a novel, what I call the Gifts from the Universe stage.

All writers are scavengers, gratefully and greedily snatching what we can find to flesh out the narrative. We eavesdrop on conversations and watch interactions among strangers, squirreling away precious bits and pieces to adorn our stories. Everything is grist for the mill, and someday that episode will find its place in a story, said Louis L’Amour. The man knew writing—and writers.

What I’m talking about is a little different. When you’ve been eating and breathing your work in progress, you come to a state of hyper-awareness. Perhaps it’s an inevitable tip into creative madness, maybe just a turn of the kaleidoscope making everything you encounter take on the characteristics of your particular focus. I prefer the idea of a generous, creative force presenting me with extra elements of completion for my manuscript.

One pre-dawn morning this week I was lying in bed and I saw a small triangle of light overhead. As I watched, the light skimmed across the ceiling and disappeared. Undoubtedly it was a stray shaft of light from a car driving through the alley.

But my novel is about a haunted place where strange happenings are eroding the comfort of its residents. The light floating along the surface of the ceiling set off my imagining another room where the moving glow was a sign of an eerie presence. The scene I wrote later in the day informed the chapter I was working on, and it had a little extra chill to it because of what I’d seen and felt that morning.

As I’ve mentioned my work lately, some people have generously related shivery anecdotes of otherworldly events I’ve found both evocative and worth stealing. (Of course I always ask their permission.) I’ve stumbled across reminders of ideas I’d forgotten, resurfacing now when I need them the most. A few weeks ago my grandchildren badgered me into watching a kid-TV show with them, and an element of its story let me see how a point-of-view shift in my narrative would enrich one major character. Pure gift.

We RMFW members are well aware of the creative community resulting from interaction with fellow writers, from attending critique groups, from combining our energies in conferences and educational programs. With each novel I’ve written, be it mystery, saga, or metaphysical thriller, I’ve had the additional, lovely experience of being a part of a realm in which those inspiring energies surround me. Whether generated in my fevered mind, lobbed my way by benign writing partners in the ether, or as a result of the overwhelming desire to be done with this book, I take great pleasure in these Gifts from the Universe. Their appearance truly means I’m nearly at the end of telling myself this tale. Before long the fervor of its creation will subside and I’ll be looking for another story to write.

Keep your eyes (and ears and minds and hearts) open to the creative gifts available to us as writers. They’re all grist for the mill.


Montgomery_Scavanger Hunt Yvonne Montgomery lives in an old three-story house in Denver’s historic Capitol Hill. Its nooks and crannies and odd noises in the middle of the night have inspired her latest works, Edge of the Shadow and A Signal Shown, Books One and Two of the Wisdom Court series, to be e-published in early 2014. Her e-books are widely available, including at Amazon, B&N Nook, iBooks, Kobo.

Yvonne is the author of two mysteries, Scavenger Hunt (aka Scavengers) and Obstacle Course, and co-author of Bridey’s Mountain, a Colorado saga awarded the Colorado Authors League Top Hand Award for Best Book Length Fiction of 1993.

For more information, please visit Yvonne's website, Writer in the Garret. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

In The Aftermath of Colorado Gold

By Yvonne Montgomery  

One of the sessions I appreciated the most at this year’s Colorado Gold Conference was Christine Jorgensen’s Plotting Your Novel Using a Dynamic Grid.

My study has always been a forest of papers where the filing system is similar to an anthropological dig: one layer on top of another. The goal is to keep the important bits available to weave into the work. The longer it takes to write a novel, the easier it is to forget those cunning ideas that crop up at inconvenient times: twilight sleep, in the shower, as I’m cooking coq au vin. Every gem is scrawled onto a scrap of something and set aside to look at later—if I can find it. At times I’ve had more paper tacked onto the walls than piled on my desk. Always I’m haunted by the suspicion that my most brilliant ideas are somewhere in the debris.

Chris, author of the wonderful Stella the Stargazer series, and whose new suspense thriller, Missing, is coming out soon, is a voice of reason in a cluttered world. With two or three Styrofoam presentation boards, tape, and many colorful Post-it notes, she demonstrated a sane way to make plotting both three dimensional and coherent. Starting with the “Character Sheet for the Dynamic Grid,” filled out for the protagonist, the antagonist, and for important secondary characters, information about the inhabitants of the work is collected.

Major incidents or crises are compiled and noted on the Post-it notes. They, in turn, are stuck to the Dynamic Grid board, which has been divided into Acts 1, 2 and 3, with sub-headings for the vital plot elements. Character and plot information are put onto the Post-it notes, which can be moved around to suit your muse.

I have long entered plot and character information in notebooks, guaranteeing lots of flipping through pages to find needed information. First I have to find the right notebook.

Chris’s system offered a way I could see the plot elements as well as the characters interacting through them before and during the process of writing. I could take some of the clutter off my walls and, through judicious use of the character sheets, begin to tame the wild kingdom of papers scrawled with haphazard information and scattered throughout my house.


In the month since the conference, I’ve begun to make some progress toward organizing my writing process. It’s happening slowly, because I’m working to finish the second of the Wisdom Court books, a series of metaphysical thrillers set in Boulder. Since it’s a series, I’m using the principles of the Dynamic Grid with extra boards for the story arc that extends through the first three books as well as the plot elements specific to each book. A few of the characters are in two or three of the books, and others are introduced along the way. Putting information about them on a plot line I can see when I look up from the computer might take me out of contention as the slowest writer on the planet.

I’ve written fiction a long time, but I’m always learning something new. Thanks to Colorado Gold and people like Chris Jorgensen, who share their techniques for dealing with the issues that plague us writers, we members of RMFW can hone our craft and enjoy good company. Doesn’t get better than that.

[Chris’s handouts for Plotting Your Novel Using a Dynamic Grid are available on the RMFW website under the Conference setting.]


Yvonne Montgomery is the author of two mysteries, Scavenger Hunt (aka Scavengers) and Obstacle Course, and co-author of Bridey’s Mountain, a Colorado saga, awarded the Top Hand Award from the Colorado Authors League for Best Book Length Fiction of 1993.

Yvonne lives in an old three-story house in Denver’s historic Capitol Hill. Its nooks and crannies and odd noises in the middle of the night have inspired her latest work, the Wisdom Court books. The first, Edge of the Shadow, will comes out as an e-book later in 2013. Her ebooks are widely available, including at Amazon, B&N Nook, iBooks.


Yvonne’s website is at Writer in the Garret,

Yvonne ‘s Facebook link: Yvonne Montgomery Ewegen

Twitter: Yvonne Montgomery Ewegen