Friday Speak Out!: Gathering Pieces for the Writing Puzzle

Friday, June 13, 2014
by Kay Rae Chomic

Writing and publishing my debut novel, A TIGHT GRIP, was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. A 60,000-piece puzzle. But I didn’t have the pieces, and I didn’t know what the final picture looked like!

The question, Where do I find the pieces?, challenged me over and over throughout the seven years it took to write the novel, and the subsequent three years of editing and striving for publication.

My story spans a week in time. Early on I sketched out what would happen each day. These rough notes created the border to the puzzle. I placed characters, conflicts, food, side plots, weather, food, dialogue, emotions, and yes, more food into the middle of the puzzle. Also I wanted a week of intensity with a lot of action, so any pieces of dullness, I scrapped. The story started out as a novella, but an editor encouraged me to make it longer by adding more scenes, and depth to characters—more pieces to find for the puzzle.

Three activities helped me write the novel. I mined memories, tapped my imagination, and talked to experts. The pieces for my themes of competitive golf, women’s long-term friendships, middle-age angst, a troubled marriage, and details for a small-town’s culture came from my own experiences. My main character, Par Parker, is a mother of two sons—not in my realm of experience, so I relied on my imagination, giving it permission to play, and reflect on decades of observing and listening to friends who had children.

Par Parker gets arrested and spends a night in jail for an alleged DUI offense. As this has never happened to me, I tapped my imagination and wrote some bland scenes. Frustrated, I set these pieces aside. The next time I visited my hometown I contacted the previous Sheriff who had been my boss in a past life. He set up a meeting for me with the current Sheriff of Jackson, Michigan. This gracious man had a love for literature and was keenly interested in me as a writer. He answered my questions, gave me a tour of the jail, and led me through the tunnel connecting to the courthouse. At one point, he said, "If you want to write about being handcuffed, you need to be handcuffed." A little stunned, I asked, "Could I be?" He then took me out to the parking lot where many of his deputies were getting off shift, and had one of his deputies handcuff my wrists behind my back and put me into the backseat of his car. They told me about field sobriety tests, and the process of getting arrested and jailed for DUI. When I rewrote these scenes, their one-dimensional flatness became 3-D.

Gathering up my courage to ask for help was hard; the payoff, great. Emboldened by this first experience, whenever I needed to write something I knew nothing about, I found an expert. In listening to these people explain their specialties, I felt their enthusiasm for providing distinctive and colorful details, and afterwards, my writing flowed.

The final picture of this puzzle is a 60,000-word novel published by She Writes Press (6/10/14). All the pieces can be found at, or your favorite bookstore.

* * *
Kay Rae Chomic's debut novel, A TIGHT GRIP, published by She Writes Press, is a story about golf, love affairs, and women of a certain age.

Kay's from a small town in Michigan, a graduate of Michigan State University, and she earned a MBA in management from Golden Gate University. She currently lives in Seattle. After decades of working for corporations and teaching business courses, Kay considers herself a recovered MBA. She’s happy to report her left and right brain have stopped wrestling, and now play nicely together. When she’s not writing, or working on the business of writing, she loves to swim, travel, and promote literacy by working as a tutor.


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Sioux Roslawski said...

Kay--I wrote a short fictional piece, and my character got her head stuck in the sink at work (she was washing her hair after work to save the shampoo fee during a salon appointment--that really happened to me!) and the firemen were called to get her unstuck (that, luckily, did not happen). I went to the local firehouse and they were quite gracious and helpful, showing me the equipment they would have used to bust up a sink, telling me that they would have come in full gear, and so on...I really appreciated their help and the sharing of their expertise.

Great post, and good luck with your book.

Unknown said...

Love the puzzle analogy, Kay. Good luck with the new release!

Margo Dill said...

I just wrote a guest post for my blog tour I'm currently doing and the first line was comparing writing a novel to doing puzzles with my daughter! :) Great minds think alike. Best of luck to you. :)

Kay Rae Chomic said...

Thank you, Sioux! I'd love to read the short story you
mentioned. Very funny.
Kay Rae

Kay Rae Chomic said...

Thanks, Lori!
Kay Rae

Kay Rae Chomic said...

Thanks, Margo! Hope your blog tour is going great. Enjoy it.
Kay Rae

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