I was recently asked how I come up with ideas for my books, and once I have an idea, how do I proceed? It took me a while to think about these questions. It’s always been such a natural process for me, that I never really thought about how it ‘happened.’
I will say that my first efforts in writing were done as a ‘fan fiction’ sort of project. My high school friends and I would write stories around television series. We’d cast ourselves against the leading men, of course. And we were always the heroes (or heroines) who saved the day.
Fast forward to my more serious writing efforts where I created all my own characters and plot lines. How did they come to be? Oddly enough, my first book, TEMPTING FATE began with a dream. I took a seed from that dream, and created rough outlines of characters. But a story needs more than characters. Since I’ve always been fascinated with the Victorian Era, I began researching historical events that would fit these two people I created.
That led me to the Great Exhibition of London in 1851. The event eventually became a critical scene in the book. As I was researching more about the era – housing, food, clothing, etc., I also came across some information about industrial mills, and how children were ‘sold’ as apprentices. Many didn’t reach adulthood, or if they did, were seriously maimed. Thus was born the idea of my heroine, Lady Alanna, taking on the mission to save these children.
The characters grew from these key ideas. They needed to be opposites so there would be conflict. Alanna is compassionate, caring and gracious. The hero, on the other hand, has just returned from the Crimean War. Kellen Harrington is cynical, distrustful, and rough around the edges. Needless to say, they viewed life from very different angles.
Book two, TEMPTING PASSION, grew from the first book. It tells the story of Alanna’s brother, Marcus Clayton, Earl of Norbourne. He was rather straight forward in the first book. I knew he needed an ‘edge’ to make the reader engaged and want to read more. So I set the book several years later, during which time Marcus suffers a great tragedy. He needed a heroine who would have the patience to understand his sufferings and help him heal. Christel Fitzwilliam was that woman, who has her own hardships to conquer also.
My process for writing is the same, despite how the story comes to me. I am a planner and a plotter, a person with attention to detail. (I’m a professional organizer by day.) I start with a synopsis, then outline each of the chapters, looking for character growth, theme, and pivotal story points that will move the story forward.
Each of my chapters usually has three scenes. I sometimes switch point of view during the chapter so the reader can experience the story from both sides. And each chapter has a hook at the end to make the reader want to keep reading.
Yes, it takes time to do all this. But to me it’s worth it so I don’t write myself into a corner three quarters of the way into a book. I also create settings, and find out what the weather could have been like. What did they eat for breakfast? When did they take tea? Was it proper for an unmarried woman to venture out alone unescorted? (The answer is ‘no’ by the way.) If the couple wanted to have spontaneous sex, could the hero really get through all that clothing in the ten minutes the couple had? After the first draft, there are several more, layering in details and checking for inconsistencies.
Once the book is completed, it’s ready to send off to my editor. And just when I think it’s done, I get the revision letter in my Inbox…
Such is a writer’s life. Challenging, but so very rewarding. And so very unpredictable! I’ve learned so much on this journey – about writing and about history. Are you ready to join me?