First - I should note that there's no one way to write a book. Every writer I know uses a different method to get from point A to point B. I start with an out-of-the-blue idea. It could be spurred by an overheard conversation, a snippet of a book or a movie, or an interaction I witnessed on the street or while traveling. Sometimes, believe it or not, I get ideas in dreams. Whatever the origination, the idea itself comes from asking myself, "What if?" What if that couple I overheard discussing the awful service at a restaurant vowed to take revenge on the waiter? What if the little boy I saw holding his dad's hand as they cross the street decides to find his dad a date?
|From the idea file for Slow Tango With a Prince|
At the same time I file away possible story ideas, I think about characters. Characters often come to me the same way ideas do. I might sit up late watching SportsCenter and think, "What is day to day life like for a skiier on the World Cup circuit? Do they have difficulty maintaining relationships when they travel so much? What if they have a significant other who can't--or won't--travel with them for some reason? How would they handle it?" (That "what if?" line of thinking gave birth to Justine Cornaro, who became the heroine of The Royal Bastard.) Characters go into the idea file, too.
While I work on other projects, I let those characters and story ideas simmer in the back of my mind. From time to time, I pull out the file and add more details to the notes on certain characters or ideas.
Next time, in The Process, Part II, I'll discuss how I flesh out those ideas and characters to create actual stories. This involves my plot group, where I brainstorm with friends and fellow authors Christina Dodd, Emily March, and Susan Sizemore.
Then, in The Process, Part III, I'll tackle the hard part: producing pages and editing.