May 31, 2019

Clear-Cut Scenes

By Pam Hillman

Occasionally, I speak to book clubs, ladies’ retreats, and writers’ meetings, and at these events, I always leave time for Q&A. The question most often asked is where do I get my ideas. This question is quickly followed by a similar query asking how I transfer that seedling of an idea to the computer screen, then ultimately to book form.

I could just say that it happens. I type and rearrange. I type some more, then I hit delete. I move a sentence here, a paragraph there. I tweak a whole scene. Then—

But that’s not really very helpful, is it? Maybe if I explained it this way—

In The Crossing at Cypress Creek, Caleb O’Shea and his brothers run a logging operation in the backwoods fifteen to twenty miles north of Natchez, MS. They must figure out the lay of the land, build roads along winding ridges in order to snake the logs out of the wilderness. For their business to succeed, they must find the fastest, safest, and cheapest route to transport the logs to the sawmill in Natchez. They keep their axes honed and their saw blades oiled and sharp, their draft animals well-fed and their men content.

But all that planning and plotting isn’t going to do them a bit of good if they roll over and pull the cover over their heads when the breakfast gong sounds. It’s up and at ‘em long before dawn, with the O’Shea brothers and their crews working together clearing the path set before them.

It’s the same with a writer. We clear the path set before us, felling one word at a time. Once the trees are cut and hauled away, we purge the scenes of unwanted brush and unsightly stumps. Oftentimes, we plant more words on the page as we go, creating a new landscape that’s pleasing to the eye.

When all is said and done, we have a series of clear-cut scenes laid out before us. Scenes that stretch along the ridges in a neat and orderly line to a place called The End.
Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and Gilded Age. Her novel Claiming Mariah won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart award. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family. Visit her website at

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