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What makes a story? I am in the beginning phases of my next novel so thought I’d sit back and define my process. It is both exciting and scary. I know…why scary? Picture your first day of school or work or first anything; there is excitement. But there’s also a little fear. What if you don’t like it? What if you can’t do the job? What are the policies and procedures? Everyone else walks around knowing what to expect around the corner. But you don’t.
Writing a story is kind of like that. Typically, right around the time I’m finishing a novel, I will get hit by a new idea. Where did it come from? Who knows. I like to say it is inspiration from God or my Guardian Angel. It could be a movie, or a phrase someone said, or an event in the news. The novel I just finished came from none of these. In fact, it is the first time I really can’t pinpoint the origin. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is the idea comes and festers. Kind of like a good stew, it has to sit and simmer for a while. I build the idea, mull it over.
The idea for my last novel centered around a large family with a dark past. I had the mystery aspect, I needed the fantasy. Bam: the family can manipulate fate. Cool, right? Excitement courses through my veins. But people have awesome ideas that go nowhere because they don’t have a plot. So, I sit and think for some time. I’m okay as long as I’m finishing up my last story. But, once that story is done, if the stew is still brewing with no results, I get a little worried. What if I can’t make it work? What if I’m all washed out? See…scary. So far, my Guardian Angel…muse?…has never let me down. I really don’t know how to describe this process. But, it never fails. For this story, I was sitting bored at a Young Adults meeting at church—God has already forgiven me. 😉 I had been debating about having an “adult” story and a “teen” story that runs parallel. The trick was to connect them. How was I going to do that? How would they be related? Then, as I watched lights form and fade from the passing cars on the street, the idea hit. I felt a physical “click” sound inside. This is the exciting part. Dominoes fall, ideas fly and I can’t get to a piece of paper fast enough. I have to write it down. Not really an outline, just a scramble of ideas. I’m sure if someone from the outside were to look at it, they would not understand. But to me, it is perfect. Changes will still be made as I dive in, but at this point I know the beginning scene as well as the ending scene. I will spend the next year and a half getting from one to the other.