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I wish I knew. Then I’d tell the muse to get to work on all the sequels people keep asking for!
I come up with the setting first, then character/s, then plot.
Does laziness count? Otherwise, no. If I put words on the page I have something to work with. Blank pages can’t be fixed.
When I choose the setting, it’s inseparable from the research. Research gives me character and plot ideas.
I used to do it all. Now I have four published writers in the immediate family who can do research if/when I get slammed for time. But before I begin writing, I always do additional research so I can understand my characters better.
I was born with a “what would happen if” imagination. Ideas aren’t the problem. Finding time to write even 1/100 of them is the problem.
Write what you love. Even if you don’t sell your work right away, at least you will have enjoyed the process. If you want a career as a writer, never give up. It won’t guarantee success, but it will guarantee a chance at the brass ring. Like any lottery, you have to enter to win!
Originally I wrote only science fiction under my own name, Ann Maxwell. Then Evan and I collaborated as A. E. Maxwell on mystery/suspense novels. If a publisher wanted a pseudonym and/or there was a contractual conflict with using a previous name, a new name was invented. Thus, Elizabeth Lowell, which is my middle name plus Evan’s middle name, even though I write the Elizabeth Lowell books by myself. Confused yet? Just wait. One publisher wanted a woman’s name on the spine, even though Evan and I were collaborating. Thus, the Ann Maxwell romantic suspense books.Under any name, and whether set in the past, present, or future, I write fiction that celebrates the possibilities of life.
I work as many hours a day, as many days a week, as it takes me to get a book done on time. As writing is only part of the work of a novel—research, especially on the suspense books takes several months per book—there are too many times when my work week is illegal! Once I have done most of the research on a novel, I begin a synopsis. This is when I choose character names. (Always the first thing I do. How can you write about people who have no names?) The synopsis takes as long as it takes.I’ve never done one in under two weeks. A month is about average. As for the writing itself, if I average 35 pages a week, I’m ecstatic. I try to do it 7 pages a day and then catch up on the weekends if/when I fall behind. Once the book is turned in, I have to set aside two weeks out of my future schedule to go over the line-edited ms (when my editor asks her questions) and the copy-edited ms. Plus several days for final proofs. Fortunately my publisher doesn’t require a month-long tour each year. That sort of thing really trashes a schedule. Not to mention a writer!
I haven’t done so for years. It simply takes too much time to do even a half-decent job.
First I find a setting for the overall book, because for me settings and character are very much intertwined. Then I decide on a past for my character that will complicate the present of the story. After that, plot and setting and character feed off of one another. I guess you’d call the process “organic,” which is a polite word for messy.
I love regional idioms. I collect them. I find them when I travel, when my kids travel, in dictionaries, in my past, in my head, and talking with overseas friends.
Ask your friends why are they sneering at book that involves a man, a woman, and love. Would they rather read about murder, mayhem, and revenge? Disappointment, dismay, and depression? If so, great.But their choice of reading material isn’t inherently superior to yours. It’s just different. And if the word “formula” comes up: Do point out that mysteries/thrillers are formulas–the mystery is always solved and the good guys win. Same for science fiction. Almost all popular fiction is descended from the heroic tradition of good vs. evil, gods vs. mortals, etc. In this fiction, people rise above their limitations and grab the brass ring against the odds. Literary fiction? By definition (formula?) literary fiction CAN’T have a tidy, upbeat resolution. Does that make it superior because it is more “real”? No. It just makes literary fiction part of the modernist rather than the heroic tradition. Since the modernist philosophy has only been around for a century or so, and the heroic has been around for thousands…you do the math. Have fun discussing reading with your friends.