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Sunset at the midnight dome above Dawson City overlooking the Yukon River in northern Canada. Taken in the summer time.

Colleen Winter discusses “Travel and the Writing Process: Five Parallel Paths”

Colleen Winter is the author of The Gatherer series of techno-thrillers. You can find out more about her on her website www.colleenwinter.ca, or by clicking here, read her last posts here, and buy her books here.

Travelling and writing are two of my favourite activities. You might not think they have much in common, but I am often struck by how similar they are and how one feeds into the other and makes each a richer process.

  • Planning and Research

Trips take a lot of planning and research: What to see, where to stay, how you’ll travel. It reminds me of planning a novel, when you are constantly researching to inform the endless decisions that will ultimately influence the final product or experience. In many ways you are walking blind for no amount of planning can truly prepare you for everything that will happen during your travels. Or what will happen once you start writing. For me it is a form of exploration, the same way writing a novel is an exploration of the story. You never know what you’ll find.

  • New Locations

A few years ago, my brother and I took my parents on a trip to the Yukon in northern Canada to visit the property where my mother had spent the first five years of her life. My grandfather was a gold prospector and miner and my mother grew up 85 miles from Dawson City which in the 1930s would have been an extremely remote location. The Yukon is a harsh and beautiful landscape, and during the week that we were there, I fell in love with it to the point that I did not want to leave. When I was starting the Gatherer series it made sense that this powerful place would be where I would start the series.

  • The Unpredictable

There’s a sense of exploration and the unpredictable that makes road trips more compelling and appealing for me than a destination vacation where you remain in one place. In a trip to Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada last year, we spent three weeks travelling long distances, having multiple vehicle break downs, and seeing some of the most spectacular scenery I have seen in my life. At one point, on a back road in the southern tip, we ran over a pothole that shattered our back window. That combined with the two other break downs, made for a trip that was perhaps more eventful than we would have liked, but that is the beauty of it. The unpredictability was what made it memorable, and that element of unpredictability is why The Gatherer trilogy is essentially one big road trip. On the road, anything can happen, and it often does.

  • New Experiences

I attend the annual Thrillerfest conference in New York City each year, and in 2019 my companion and I had left the conference hotel on the final evening to return to our Airbnb. What we didn’t know that was there was a major power outage in the city and almost the entire island of Manhattan was in a blackout. Walking through the darkened streets of New York City with thousands of other people who were forced out of their apartments when they had no air conditioning is an experience I will never forget. When we entered the subway station there were hundreds of people waiting on the platform and they looked like they had been there for hours. That sense of claustrophobia and restless impatience made it into The Gatherer series during multiple scenes that take place underground with that pressing closeness never very far away.

  • Clearing Your Head

Travel is a great way to clear your mind. You’re taken out of your routine, introduced to a new place, or places, and are so busy either experiencing a new culture or figuring out a new tram system that you don’t have time to dwell or even think about everything you’ve left at home. Sitting down to write each morning provides a similar experience. When you’re focused on your writing, you are taken outside your regular routine and launched into what could be a new world that you’ve created, characters you are still getting to know, or technical details that you need to learn to get the story right. After an immersive morning of writing, my perspective and thoughts can be as refreshed as if I’d just returned from a week away.

Do you travel to refresh your mind? Or do you prefer to stay at home and explore through your writing? Or perhaps, like me, you do both?

Colleen Winter

With one foot in the world of technology and the other in the world of words, Colleen Winter’s fiction explores our relationship with technology and ultimately the choices it requires us to make. You can find out more about her on her website, www.colleenwinter.ca, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Carl Vonderau
    Carl Vonderau

    I agree. Both are an adventure. Many years ago we lived in Montreal and went camping in the Gaspé part of Northern Québec with two young children. In the middle of a national forest the axle of our car broke down. Strangers picked up my wife and kids and brought them back to the campground. Other strangers towed my car and fixed it in a gas station. Quebeckers I’d never met before fed me dinner and were patient with my crude French. They learned that I was American and we talked about Quebec’s desire to be a country. They told me that Americans thought too much with their heads and not enough with their hearts. A great lesson.

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      Colleen Winter

      Wow. That sounds like a great adventure and exactly what I’m talking about. Unpredictable yet so worth it. Thanks for sharing.

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    saralynrichard

    Perfect analogy. Wishing you happy trails, literally and figuratively, Colleen.

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      Colleen Winter

      Thank you! I wouldn’t have thought there were so many parallels until I started writing the post.

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    Laurie Price

    My husband and I purchased a pop-up camper and a truck a few years ago that we affectionately all “Big Betty.” We’ve gone off-roading and into many national parks and plan to continue seeing the country. We took BB to Baja (one of my favorite trips). Traveling is an absolute boon to my creative process, not only, as you said, to clear my head and obtain useful “settings,” but I cherish that vagabond vibe. The feeling is quite liberating, and your creative spirit feels open to all kinds of possibilities. Great post, Colleen!

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      Colleen Winter

      Glad you enjoyed it! I can see you are a kindred traveller. Baja sounds heavenly. Hopefully our paths will cross on a future road.

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    Margaret Mizushima

    I loved reading about your travels, Colleen, and your comparisons to writing a novel are spot on! Thank for your interesting and entertaining post!

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      Colleen Winter

      My pleasure! They don’t refer to novel writing as a journey for no reason.

  5. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    Makes me long for a road trip!

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      Colleen Winter

      Yes! And it’s the perfect time of year for one.

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    Avanti Centrae

    I love traveling and many of my stories, like yours, are based on experiences that I’ve had on the road. Can’t wait to check out your trilogy!

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      Colleen Winter

      Likewise! The elements of unpredictability and exploration are so much a part of storytelling.

  7. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Thanks for your interesting post, Colleen! My trip to O’ahu ten years ago inspired my Book 4 with its mystery wrapped around that island’s history; a trip to Cornwall will make its way into my Book 7. Your five paths hit the mark for me as a sometimes traveler and often writer. My four detectives travel more than I do (!) and show how they grow from those experiences. My hope is that my young readers will be inspired to travel, too.

  8. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    What fun. There is nothing like getting away from it all to boost some creativity. I love just riding quietly in the car for thinking.

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      Colleen Winter

      Agreed. I love driving alone with beautiful scenery and mulling over ideas and letting my mind wander.

  9. Tracey S. Phillips
    Tracey S. Phillips

    I can’t wait to travel to Greece, where my 3rd Romantic Suspense book is set. I want to follow my character’s footsteps from Athens, to Milos, to Crete, Thera and Mikonos. We hope to plan that trip next year!

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      Colleen Winter

      That sounds like a great trip. How smart of you to choose such a wonderful location that would require research and follow-up. 🙂

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