First we hear from Madeleine McDonald, author of The Rescued Heart, a newspaper columnist who made the change from non-fiction to fiction writing and made some discoveries about the writing process along the way.
Twenty years ago, in the days of print magazines, I was a freelance journalist. When I tried my hand at fiction, I had to learn a totally different craft. Instead of summarizing factual information for my readers, little by little, through a myriad of false starts and rejections, I learned to add mood and texture to the bare bones of a story idea. It took dedication, discipline and any number of rewrites. Today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s trash. Fiction involves a partnership with the reader, and it’s a lot more fun to write.
My first romance novel, Enchantment in Morocco, was published in 2010, followed by The Rescued Heart in 2013.
Madeleine raises a good point. Writing fiction is much different from non-fiction, though I discovered during all my years of writing TV news, that it was possible to find plenty of ideas from those real life stories. So where do ideas come from?
Let’s hear from A. Y. Stratton who writes romantic suspense for The Wild Rose Press about her writing process. Her latest work is Buried Secrets.
I am on a walk and see a workman loading a truck in a neighbor’s driveway. The man is young and fit, his shirtsleeves rolled up to reveal his muscles. Nice muscles. The box he’s carrying must be heavy because he’s sweating and it’s cool out. And he has a tarp over the box. The tarp covers up the writing that might reveal what’s in the box. I begin to suspect he’s stealing something from the neighbor, a lawn mower that was sitting on the grass or something from the back yard. Maybe a TV on the screened porch? All he has to do was use a razor to slit the screen and bang! The loot is in his truck and off he goes. I should always have paper and pencil in my pocket, so I can write down a license plate number.
I’m at a clothing store, waiting to try on some slacks. The woman in front of me steps into the first available dressing room with at least a half dozen outfits draped over her arms. She’s in the dressing room for a long time. I suspect she’s putting all the items on beneath her other clothes.
When I can’t go to sleep at night, I make up stories, adventures with thieves like the workman and the woman, lovers like the ones I see whispering to each other in bars. And pretty soon I have a story. The workman is really a detective spying on the drug king who lives across the street from the construction site. The woman in the department store is hiding from the man who has been following her. Why is he following her? To track down her parents who never returned from their vacation in Cuba.
As I began my latest published novel, Buried Secrets, I imagined two people hiding in a closet while a murder takes place in the bedroom. I loved writing that chapter. I had to figure out what they were doing there. The man was going to be my hero, so he had to be there for a good reason. And the woman had to be on a quest too, so that took some tricky plotting. Then I had to figure out how they would escape.
I go to a lot of Milwaukee Brewers games. While I’m there I wonder if the handsome rookie playing first base has a girlfriend back home in Arkansas. Maybe he has one in Milwaukee too. The women fans swamp him at the autograph sessions. He falls for a wealthy city girl who waits for him after the games. Who invites him out to her father’s boat on Lake Michigan and introduces him to her friends. I imagine her ex-boyfriend is jealous and plots to get the ball player drunk so he can plant drugs on him. And maybe… I really like this idea. I wonder what will happen next.
Conclusion? I am a confirmed *pantser.
*A person who writes stories by the seat of her pants, without an outline or a character list.
So whether it’s a pact with your readers or writing by the seat of your pants, the secret to the right writing process is there is no “secret.” Find out what works for you and go for it.
If you have a writing process you’d like to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you or feature your process on Write That Novel.