My name’s Steph Jagger and when I look back at my life, a pretty clear pattern emerges: I like to go big. It started with Egg and Spoon races and then turned into things like traveling to far-flung countries, smashing world records, and writing books. Well, to be fair, it’s just one book so far, but I know I’ve got some more in the chambers, so let’s just say books (plural).
In any case, when I dig deeper into all of those things, I see another pattern, one that’s buried one layer under going big. And when I think about it, perhaps its one of the ways I go big. The pattern is called writing, by hand, on paper. I scribble ideas, notes words, and phrases, I use them to create a visual of the very big picture. I scrawl paragraphs down in journals to “skim the fat” from my brain before writing things in a more solid form. I put ink to paper because it helps ideas come out of my head because what use are they in there anyway? I need them out. And once they’re out in some hand-written, half-formed way I can start playing with them and turning them into something big, something bigger than big.
My first book is called Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery, and because this is a place that celebrates the handwritten, I thought I’d show ya a little behind the scenes, sneak peak into the pen and paper part of my process.
From one writer to many others,
I printed off the calendars I kept from my ski trip. They served as a log for the vertical feet I skied on any particular place and when I was writing I used them to fact myself as well as jog my memory about particular places.
Handwritten notes I took while workshopping my very shitty first drafts with the wonderful Carly Butler and the unbelievable Patti M. Hall:
Cue cards developed at HarperCollins with my editor to help me understand the placement of each scene. The cards were changed, altered, and manhandled up until the very end:
A close up of one cue card:
People used to ask what it looked like to write a book, and about how I kept things straight when my brain and my heart were on fire. This is how: I booked a cabin in an isolated part of British Columbia, and filled one of it’s walls with my cue cards and post-it note additions:
This is what “skimming the fat” looks like — the journals I kept throughout the writing process. They had NOTHING to do with the content, just a practice that allowed me to get rid of the shit in my head before I started writing:
I started with the Hero’s Journey story arc. It was drawn onto paper and pasted on the wall behind my computer. This was the first thing I did before ANY of the writing began.
Notes from others: a note from my agent about my contract, and a note from my editor when the final book was mailed to my door. These are both hanging up in my office.
So what does all of that hand-writing get you — a lovely winter jacket. God I love puns.
Steph Jagger splits her time between Southern California and British Columbia where she dreams big dreams, writes her heart out, and runs an executive & life coaching practice. She holds a CEC (certified Executive Coach) degree from Royal Roads University and she believes courageous living doesn’t happen with one toe dangling in, but that we jump in, fully submerge, and sit in the juice. Think pickle, not cucumber.
Her first book, Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery was published by HarperCollins in January 2017.
You can find more at www.stephjagger.com or on Instagram @stephjagger