By Caroline Clemmons
Non-writer friends often ask me how I think up all the stuff in my books. I wish I knew a clever comeback. My friend Bobby Terry tells people she gets her ideas from a small factory in Ohio. What really happens is our crazy brains conjure all these characters and situations. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. And we’re not really insane, either. Well, most of us aren’t. I’m not naming names, but there are a few people on my Probably Certifiable List.
And there are those (lazy?) people who say, “I’ll feed you ideas, you write the book, and we’ll split the royalties.” Uh, no. Not happening. Ever. The idea is the easy part. In fact, I have more than I can list. Writing a cohesive book with a credible story line is the hard part.
I’m fortunate enough to have three great critique partners who help me plot my books and who are members of this blog: Geri Foster, Brenda Daniels, and Carra Copelin. Sometimes Hero helps me over a sticky plot problem. I can plot by myself, of course, but an exchange of ideas spurs creativity. Even if I don’t like their suggestions, hearing them helps me formulate my own. And if I lose my way writing, they help steer me back on course. (Plan to join Geri Foster and me for our BAD BOYS AND COWBOYS Facebook Launch Party on April 18th.)
Then comes the hard part. Some parts of writing become easier with each book. One part that does not is making basic plots fresh, giving a tried and true idea a new twist. People argue over how many basic plots there are. The number varies from nine to twenty-seven. Supposedly, any book is a variation of one of those few basic plots. And the more books an author has written, the harder that new variation becomes. Yeah, bummer.
How to make feisty, spunky heroines differ from those in past books? How different is one handsome cowboy from another? How many ways can Tab A insert into Slot B? You get the idea, right?
Hero and I used to joke about a favorite author who repeated her basic plots. We would say, “This one is plot A.” Or plot B. She only had two. The city and names varied, but little else. At the time, we had no notion of the difficulty of a fresh plot. And, hey, she sold a gazillion books and is still even though she’s passed away.
The main problem I encounter is that life keeps slapping me upside the head. Literally, if you count the fall I had last August. You know the usual: dental appointments, doctor visits (or your prescriptions won’t be refilled), and all the errands and social stuff necessary to function. Plus, we’re still recovering from our move, the deaths of friends and family members, and all the other stuff that hinders everyone everywhere.
Many people think that if you work from home, you can stop and do this or that because, after all, you don’t have a “real” job. Sigh. This is why Debbie Macomber has an office away from her home, by the way. If we stop writing, we lose our concentration, our “groove”, and have to reread the last portion we wrote to get back into the zone. Fortunately, Hero understands this. Full time authors have to set goals in order to stay on target and publish frequently enough to stay in readers' minds.
I try to vary settings and events so that my books appear fresh, even though they are always in my style and voice. Whether contemporary or historical, with the exception of one novella set in Georgia, they’re always set primarily in Texas. They’re the same, but different. Each main character has a journey, both external and internal. The same, but different.
So, now that I’ve finished GABE KINCAID (which will launch April 18th please remember) and it’s off to my editor, I’m taking a few days off to clean house. Yeah, it’s way past time—even the dust bunnies are writing “help me” on the furniture. While I clean, I’m mulling over my next book or two.
I’m sure you’ve heard that writers are either writing or thinking about writing. It’s true. We can’t help ourselves. For the next few days, I’ll be thinking about writing. And cleaning. Ah-choo.
P.S. Did you see Geri Foster's and my ad in InD'Tale E-zine? The e-zine is free. We're on page 37 of the April issue.
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