Do you wonder how writers write?

The #mywritingprocess blog tour is going round the world asking writers to answer questions about their writing process.

Writer and traveller Patricia Storbeck – who leads the kind of life I sometimes dream of— has just taken part in the tour. She’s an intrepid brave woman who’s not afraid to bounce back from personal losses and really live! Most recently, she’s been sailing around the world on her boat Mojito, posting about her experiences and working on a romance! If you’re wondering how writers write and how writers live, do go over to Patricia’s blog Mojito and Me to find out more.

desk 1Patricia kindly invited me to share something of what I do while dreaming in my chair and fiddling with words.

It occupies hardly any space, the cavity between two ears, and behind two seeing eyes, a tasting mouth and a smelling nose. And yet, those electrical impulses are literally as big as infinity. Or so it seems to me.

Anyway, that’s my workshop: my noggin. So far, it’s created two novels, a social history, a couple of short stories, some poetry, guest posts and this blog.  As for what’s bubbling in the workshop — here goes …

What am I working on?

Focused I’m not. Things always seem to go better when I’m doing a bit of this and some of that, and best in different genres.  Here’s my list of WIP’s:

  • Exorcising Second Mother’s Ghost —about how my grandfather’s first and third wives became best friends while trying to exorcise their husband’s true love, a dead pi-pa player, from the marriage  (just a few blinks in the noggin right now, will need research).
  • Afterward Some are Stronger — a sequel to As the Heart Bones Break, where Nina runs off to the Thai-Burma border to embrace another war (1/4 through but slow going because I keep changing tack) .
  • In Search of Living Flesh — where a Singapore police inspector teams up with an obsessed poet to track down a cannibalistic chef  (1/3 done and marching along nicely).
  • Unguided Missives from Katie and Zoong — a record of moments from my two older children’s childhoods (almost done).

Why do I write what I do?

First half of the question first: I write because I must. I grew up in a bookstore surrounded by books and I’ve been addicted to story forever. Well before I learnt my alphabets, I remember hiding under my bed drawing stick-figure cartoons on the wall above the baseboard.

You talk too much — my parents, husband, children are always saying. Hah! If I didn’t have pen and paper (computer and keyboard these days) for my words to spill onto, they’d really be sorry.

As for the second part of the question — why do I write about what I do?  God knows!

I don’t mean to be blasphemous. I really truly do believe someone out there or up there or in my soul seeds the little lights that blink on and off in my noggin. Some shine brighter than others. They become ideas and starting paragraphs. And then they grow.

With hindsight, I’ve realized I’ve been writing about my world — about South East Asia or South East Asians, about people and places I’ve lived in and care about, about dilemmas that move me: who are we … why is the world they way it is …  how do we live our best lives in the circumstances we’re given?

How does my writing process work?

Like Patricia, I don’t have a ‘proper’ process. Like Patricia I write, I edit, then I send it out to beta-readers, then I rewrite …

Some days I wake up early, turn on the computer, go down for a cup of tea, come back up to my desk and start writing. Other days, I’m in a taxi and tapping out small words into my phone while rushing between meetings.

It’s all about the lights in the noggin. Sometimes they shine so bright and strong I’m not allowed to rest until whatever they’re shining at gets written down. Then, everything else gets put aside until the idea is turned into words.

 Some days, there’s no writing at all. I’m stuck. When that happens, I send a question out into the ether and wait for answers from the ‘libra mundi’ or ‘the book of the world’.

In my experience, the ‘libra mundi’ always provides. In my first novel Learning to Fly, I got the idea of an affair between a young girl and her professor after overhearing a man and his lover in a café.  In my latest, As the Heart Bones Break, I decided to make my hero a spy because of a book I picked up by accident.  In one of my WIP’s, a supporting Australian character becomes Scottish because my husband commented that the tribal Karen had been unduly influenced by their colonizers.

Whatever … Once I’ve gotten my hint, I’m off again.

And so it goes in starts and stops till it’s done, whereupon I put the work away and start on something else.

After a decent interval, I re-read, cancel, chuck out or edit. And edit. And edit again.

While all this is happening, I read. For me, it’s an essential part of the whole whatchamacallit.

I read everything. But the words that move me most are those from hearts deeply rooted in true and real lives, writing that branches out from a particular culture and place, writing that redeems. I’ve asked 3 writers who write with such words to join #mywritingprocess tour. They are:

Clara Freeman, a nurse of 30+ years, was born in the Mississippi Delta and now lives in Chicago. I first found Clara on her book review blog where she introduced me to the world of women of color.  Clara, who isn’t making a living from writing but making a life with writing, also shares her personal life lessons to empower the voice of other women at Do go over there and be moved.

Mirel lives in Jerusalem and writes about her family roots in Europe and America. Mirel is open-hearted in sharing her personal experience of Jewish culture and history. Her powerful stories of the holocaust, the warm recounting of festival celebrations, and simple memoirs of what she sees and encounters take me into her world. Mirel’s own beautifully written short stories are another window, as are her wonderfully on-the-spot book reviews. To enter Mirel’s world, go to

Janelle lives on a Canadian farm and writes about family, faith, raising boys and the pursuit of the simple life.  Her posts in my email have magnified the divine in the ordinary and the everyday.  Her prose is poetry and light. They never fail to inspire. You can walk with Janelle, her 3 men and her god at

Go over there and follow them. Come back and tell me if they’re great, yes?

10 Responses to “Do you wonder how writers write?”
  1. Mirel says:

    Oh, Audrey, you’ve moved me beyond words. Thanks for your kind words. I will check out the other blogs you mentioned,
    and await your new books 🙂

  2. clara54 says:

    Hi Audrey,
    You know I’m a fan! Thank you for the nomination. I’m completely humbled, grateful and feeling a bit intimidated by the awesome company you keep:)


  3. Love to read about your process and am in awe of you, look forward to reading them all.

  4. Audrey Chin says:

    Thanks for taking part Mirel

  5. Audrey Chin says:

    Thanks for sharing Janelle

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  1. […] blog, Some­times Words Help, and look for her writ­ing. Audrey recently par­tic­i­pated in the #mywrit­ing­process blog tour. The tour is going round the world ask­ing writ­ers to answer four ques­tions about their […]

  2. […] shares some thoughts about her writing process here, on her blog Sometimes Words Help. She’s got some cool stuff on the go over […]

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