Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas by Janice Carter

Perhaps some of you are acquainted with this scenario:  urge to write;  blank Word document.  No matter how long you sit and stare at that white page, nothing appears.  And even if you have a microscopic 'germ' of an idea, cultivating it may be challenging or even impossible.
     One of the most frequently asked questions of writers is "where do you get your ideas?"  While this question stems from curiosity or a genuine desire to understand the writing process, it sometimes presumes that there is a repository somewhere full of original ideas for novels.  Or worse, that ideas are spoon-fed to us by our publishers. (I wish!)  Some bolder types go so far as to offer their own ideas for our books.  Unfortunately, these ideas may be based on typical misconceptions about romance novels.  Others may believe novels spring from formulas and outlines provided to us by our diligent editors.  I wonder if authors of international award winning books are ever asked these questions.  Somehow I doubt it.
     My stock reply to the question is usually "anywhere and everywhere", which suffices most except those seeking more detail.  I tell them that the Heartwarming novel I've recently completed stems from a National Geographic magazine article I read years ago.  Or that the one I'm currently working on came from a visit to the museum on Ellis Island.
    But what readers and interested family members or friends really want to know is how the book came to be written, which is much more difficult to explain.  The process is long and convoluted, impossible to sum up neatly.  How to explain the hours of day-dreaming or tossing and turning through sleepless nights while attempting to work through a story?  Each novel has a start, but that's all ideas are, right?  Simply beginnings.  An idea is not a plot but merely a hook or spin-off that, if we're lucky, will lead to a good story.
     And this is where ideas and stories meet and marry.  In the beginning, it's difficult to determine which ideas will develop into a captivating story.  Many of us have had book proposals or completed novels rejected for any number of reasons but the basic one is often that the idea isn't enough to carry the story.  Yet coupled with a lot of thinking, game playing (the 'what if?' kind) and more day-dreaming, some ideas actually do turn into stories and novels.
     The tricky part of this new relationship comes when we have to objectively assess it.  What works and doesn't work?  Which part or character makes the cut?  The editing process is painful for everyone - even the editors I'm sure, who have to make cuts or request changes as diplomatically and sensitively as possible.  When I got back the line edit for my first Harlequin years ago, my immediate reaction was "why did they buy it if it was so bad?"  Then there was the wonderful foster mother of the heroine in an early Superromance whose role was tragically abbreviated by an editor.  Over the years my skin has grown a few more layers as I accepted editing as one part of the business of writing.  Nothing personal intended and nothing personal taken.  Interestingly, in every case the editing did make for a much better read.  Still, my fingers are crossed that all my characters in my Heartwarming survive the cut!
    Ideas are everywhere.  They're the buds on trees in the spring or seeds in the ground.  Some will grow and others - lots!- may not.  All of this brings me back to my own question.  What to write for my November blog post?
    I haven't the faintest idea.

Happy Thanksgiving all!


18 comments:

  1. Now that's a teaser, Janice! I would love to hear what the Heartwarming novel you just finished is about!

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    1. Ah thanks Kate! But since the release date isn't until next Sept. I best not start talking about it too soon!

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  2. Love your take on writing ideas and where they come from. Its so true how something you hear, read or witness becomes a story in your head. Best wishes on finding that new story. It will come. smile Anyway I'm keeping positive thoughts so we'll have these lovely stories to read.

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    1. I was a real daydreamer in school and still tend to do that, especially riding public transit. Think of all the stories we imagine that never make it onto a page! And yes, staying positive as a writer is a must.

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  3. Janice, you clever lady to come up with your blog this way. I have friends who think writing is so much easier for me because I have written a number of books. They don't believe it when I tell them I wrote all of the easy stories and now finding something new, different, fresh (ha ha--does that exist?) is like pulling teeth. I sometimes tell people who ask about ideas that there's a big idea warehouse in the sky. It floats past and a grab one. Now if only that were true. Like Kate, I look forward to your newly finished Heartwarming.

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    1. Thank you Roz and how true it is that some people,think we have these supernatural powers to pull ideas out of thin air. I like the image of a warehouse in the sky and may 'crib' that from you! Thank you for your comments!

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  4. I look forward to it, too, and I want the address for that warehouse in the sky Roz mentioned!

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  5. Hi Janice! I love your post. Ideas are such fickle things. I always get the best ideas in the middle of night, just as I'm trying to go to sleep and I can never remember them in the morning. I guess I need to keep a notepad by my bed, lol.

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    1. LeAnne, I like that word 'fickle' as it applies to ideas because they really are, aren't they? In and out of our heads, disappearing when you rely on them most. Fickle indeed! And I've read somewhere that many writers do keep a notebook handy for middle of the night 'light bulb' moments. Not a bad idea.

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  6. Janice, you summed up my writing process so nicely. It's basically "I have no idea..." No matter how hard I try to stay outlined and organized my books (characters) always seem to take on a life of their own. In the end, I always wonder how I managed to tame the mess into a story. Looking forward to your September Heartwarming!

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    1. Thank you Carol and you're oh so right about the characters and even the plot suddenly veering off into an unforeseen direction. Now if I can only get my hero or heroine to do the actual writing.....

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  7. So feel your pain about wondering why they bought the book in the first place! But like you, I believe edits make a book so much better. I have a notebook by my bed, but the few times I've used it, the words I wrote the night before make absolutely no sense. lol

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    1. You're absolutely right, Patricia. I find that mid- night revelations pale by daybreak. If only we could harness those involuntary brain waves into something coherent!

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  8. Everything you've said is so true. My biggest issue is that I'll get what feels like a brilliant tangent in the middle of plotting, but I never know if it's creative genius or lack of discipline. Let's rent a jet and find that warehouse. Will attach a turret and some guns in case they're reluctant to give them over, and then we'll . . .There I go again. See? I fear genius doesn't figure into it at all. Good stuff, Janice.

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    1. Haha Muriel! You've created a very vivid image there. Can see you sitting high in the turret with target sighted. Like you, I fear genius doesn't factor in either. Nothing like ordinary hard work tossed with a bit of imagination and a love of story. Funny though, how I always notice my house needs sprucing up minutes after I boot up the laptop!

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  9. Hello Janice,

    I enjoyed reading your post about the struggle to write something for a November post and then posting it. Such an elegant description on describing how story telling and developing stories is not for the feint of heart (I love it). And how difficult it is to help others to understand that writing for any genre is a creative process that comes from the author, through perseverance and a desire to write. Oh and don't forget how an editorial eye can help move our stories and words to great levels. Excellent.

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  10. Thank you for your comments Jack and you're oh so right about the editorial eye, which we must all have as writers.

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