The Chips Have Fallen

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

This is my favorite holiday, and this one is especially rosy, despite depression-invoking snow, snow, and more snow.

No, my husband didn't give me diamonds (I got those at Christmas) or even flowers. He didn't even know it's Valentine's Day (Not exactly a romantic, but it's to be expected from a man whose marriage proposal came by way of suggesting I buy a white dress.)

I'm happy because the last chip has fallen into place.

Let me explain. The stories that eventually become my novels come to me in bits and pieces. I'll start with a germ of an idea that's often related to me personally (like the idea I had when I was 49 about writing a book about women turning 50). But then I have to come up with something more exciting than my own life to make it into a story people will shell out hard-earned dollars for. That's the hardest part, creating the drama to hold readers' attention for the entire length of a book.

Beginnings are easy. It's the fleshing-out process that kicks my butt. I have a whole bunch of ideas in my file just waiting to be expanded upon. I've been concentrating on three of them. One I completed and deliberately put aside so I can see if it still looks good to me after a few weeks. One is still a challenge. The other is the one that came to me the night before last.

Inspiration is a wonderful thing; it can strike at any place or time. I showed up for work at 10:30AM yesterday, choosing to stay home and type everything out (did I mention the missing link came to me in the middle of the night?) before I forgot it. Last night I polished it up. It's not exactly gleaming, but it will be before I'm done.

When all the pieces of a plot fall into place, it ranks right up there with seeing my book in printed form for the first time and with getting paid.

Even if it's considered against market trends and no one wants to buy it, I've still accomplished something. One thing about a good story: It has no expiration date.

On to the next challenge!


PatriciaW said...

I love learning about the writing processes of authors. So varied and yet so similar.

So you flesh out your idea completely, then start writing (if it still looks good to you after cooling off)?

Anonymous said...

Happy belated V-Day.

One thing about a good story: It has no expiration date.

You can say that again. I have some books that I read years ago and can pick up now and still enjoy.

bettye griffin said...

I'm glad you're enjoying my trying to make sense out of how I go from idea to book. Sometimes I think I must be nuts.

Actually, there's a few other steps between the two you named. I flesh out my idea, write a synopsis, let it sit, then return to it, tweak it a bit, then it has to pass the agent test. My agent (whom I'll be interviewing here on my blog sometime in March or April) has excellent instincts and notices things I don't (like which character is the focus in those multi-populated mainstream storylines I do).

Once she approves (and she usually sends me back to the drawing board for improvements, one exception being ONCE UPON A PROJECT, which was in good shape from the get-go), the next step is either to submit the synopsis (if targeted toward an editor who knows me), or for me to do three chapters to add to the synopsis (if targeted toward an editor who's never heard of me). I usually don't start writing until after I've got a deal . . . unless I've got free time, i.e., all contracted work has been turned in.

There's a third option. If I'm not able to complete a manuscript at the moment because I'm up to my neck in other commitments, at least she knows what my story is. Just as it's important for me to continue to develop ideas, it's important for my agent to know what I've got ready to go, because she interacts with editors all the time and can always make an impromptu pitch.

Hope this clarifies!