Writing stories

Recently, the raining was pouring loudly, and, at the same time, the wind gusted with a loud and scary velocity. This storm has been a good time for me to hunker down and do some house cleaning in my office on our island. I have spent the last four years coming to terms with my life and narrating my story in print. I guess a lot of people would call it an autobiography or biography in that it is sort of a record of the ups and downs of the yo-yo pattern of the life I have led or followed so far. Maybe a memoir is a better word, I guess.

In cleaning up my desk, I have uncovered a lot of dead flies and a few dead yellow jackets, as well as a couple of spiders. But, more important to me, are a couple of questions someone wrote and asked me about and I know I have never answered them:

How much do you have to tell when you write?

I don’t know, but the publications that I am writing the stories for spells it out in an agreement: how much I will charge and when it has to be in their hands. But, I just like to write around things and let the reader use their imagination.

For example: After skiing in 4 feet of snow in Yosemite in 1947, we drove the 800-miles to Sun Valley where we would spend the winter living in our small trailer in the Challenger Inn parking lot. We were surprised to find less than 2 inches of snow around the lodge.

Exhausted after the two-day drive, we climbed into or sleeping bags and were almost instantly asleep. Two hours later, we awoke to loud, heavy rain beating on the roof of our small trailer.

The next morning, we discovered it had rained two-thirds of the way up Baldy as far up as the Round House and the temperature had dropped to 11 below zero and it would stay below zero for the next two and a half weeks. It is up to the reader to finish the story of parking lot living and skiing every day.

Q. How do you describe the recent America’s cup sailboat races in San Francisco?

They were held in sailboats that attained speeds of 58 mph. You almost have to invent new words to adequately describe this new high-speed phenomenon.

Q. How much do you leave to the readers’ imagination?

I use as few words as possible and give the reader the credit for filing in the blanks with whatever knowledge about the subject that they already have.

Here is an example of leaving things up to the readers’ imagination: I know they call it dancing with death when you ski in potential avalanche conditions. I had just started making my second turn in deep untracked powder snow when there was a loud crack and the slope started to accelerate under me as 10 billion snowflakes disengaged from each other at the same time. It is up to the reader to finish the paragraph and fill in the rest of the story.

Q. Where do you do your writing and when?

I am lucky because I have two offices. One is on a small island in the Northwest overlooking the sound and the other is on the side of a ski slope at the Yellowstone Club in Montana. In the many years that I owned and operated my film company, I woke early and worked late. These days, I sleep late and cut off early. My writing days are interrupted by crab season and sunny golf days, but when I am cranking out a story, sometimes I will spend a dozen or so hours nonstop pounding the keys of my computer. My biography, however, is now more than four years long.

Q. How do you get in the mood to write?

I don’t know. I would put that question right up there with how do you get in the mood to eat lunch? Being a self-taught author, I consider myself a lucky person, because of the many years that I traveled with my camera and my skis. That camera was a powerful magnet to attract interesting people to make turns for my movies. Often, their appearance in front of the camera led to lifelong friendships.

When I think back to high school, I know that I did so poorly in my English class that I had to take Bonehead English in college. Not only once, but twice, before I passed it. I think that was partly because I never did understand how to diagram a sentence and never memorized what a dangling participle was and what one was for. I do not even know what a participle is much less what a dangling one does or is.

The stories in this book just required that I sort out the words. I have been sorting out those words since I wrote my first essay in a junior high school English class. I received a failing grade on it and probably have not improved much since then.

I disagree with the skipper of an America Cup boat, after he defeated the New Zealand challenger when he was asked, “Now that you have won the America’s Cup trophy, are you going to write a book about it?”

His reply was, “That everything that is known about sailing has already been written. All you have to do is read all of those books, develop total recall and you can win sailboat races as I just did.”

If I have not made myself clear on all of the above, sometimes that is my objective (or, as my wife sometimes says, just a good excuse for not me making any sense).

Warren Miller is history’s most prolific and enduring ski filmmaker. Visit warrenmiller.net or visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/warrenmiller.