On Sunday, Husband and I were driving up to the lake and I was telling him about the event I’d attended the previous day. My chapter of Romance Writers of America sponsored a mini-conference with Bob Mayer, who presented his Write It Forward workshop. I still couldn’t find the words to describe all that I’d learned, but what came through loud and clear was how inspired I was by what Mayer had to say about writing and the process of writing.
As I was sharing, Husband asked me about my process, how do I start a new book? All books begin with an idea, as Mayer told us. That’s “the heart of your story.” For me, sometimes it’s an event in my life. That was the case with Rule Number One. The fun we had in a pub in Cork, Ireland when Son got to pull his own pint of Guinness inspired a scene that became Katy and Jack’s story.
Sometimes it’s a film I’ve seen that sparks an idea that turns into a story. The seeds of my first novel, The Music Is You, were sown with one scene from a movie that I saw over thirty years ago. That one scene stayed with me and eventually ignited the creative process that became the novel that my agent signed me on.
The third novel came from a character from The Music is You who cried out for her own story, and the fourth started as a simple romance between two colleagues, but then turned into a story of suspense when a walk along the shores of Lake Michigan made me think about shipwrecks and lost treasure.
So as I was telling Husband about my process, I tried to think of an example and suddenly, here was the kernel of my next book. “What if…?” I said and proceeded to set up a situation. He immediately got into it, making suggestions, offering different paths to take, “Or how about if the heroine is…” and “What if she…?” By the time we arrived at the cottage, I had the rough outline of my next story.
The creative embers that I’d deliberately banked for the last month and a half to work on the paying gigs flared into a small fire that is already filling my mind so quickly I’m overwhelmed with ideas. All through the weekend, I scratched notes on scraps of paper—words, characters, scenes, choices, movies or programs that I might want to check out, things I need to research—what Lani and Alastair at StoryWonk call discovery. Late Monday night, I sat down at my little netbook and at least got everything put into a Word doc instead of carrying around the bits of paper.
When we got ready to head back home yesterday, we stopped by the neighbors to say goodbye and one of the guys asked if I was writing this week. I mentioned briefly that I’d had a new idea and was playing around with it, making notes, and figuring it out. He grinned and said, “See? That’s the difference between a writer and the rest of us. When you daydream, you write it down. I daydream all the time, but I never think to write it down.”
Well, maybe that’s not the whole difference, but it’s probably the beginning…
I like your neighbors’ definition!
Judy, Judy, Judy
Little scraps of paper always remind me of the movie Stealing Beauty. I love that movie. In it, Liv Tyler’s character is forever tearing off little scraps of paper, writing a 4 or 5 line poem on it, and sticking it in a random book.
Yay you’re in discovery for a new book.
You’ve probably read Stephen King’s book, On Writing. In it, I remember him stating that one of the things he does to come up with ideas is to use the “What if…” scenario, so you’re in good company. 🙂
I liked this post, Nan. Got me thinking now…I always have people first, and I’m not sure where those first little story germs were born.
So glad you’re back in the saddle after those long weeks of editing. That is an interesting comment from your neighbor. Must go record some daydreams. : )