Girls Write Out
Monday, September 05, 2011
So many aspiring writers ask me where to start when planning a novel. I love to start with brainstorming the idea with friends like we did last week in Brown County, Indiana.

To do this, it's best to have a partner or two or three. Do you have a friend who loves to read, even if they aren't a writer? Or a writer you've met at a conference? If so, then grab them and curl up for some fun. Remember:

1. YOU must have the passion. All the great ideas in the world won't work if it doesn't resonate with you.

2. Anything goes. No idea it too stupid to throw out there because even if it doesn't work, it might ping off into some other idea that does.

3. Chocolate is the necessary brain food. And coffee. Lots of coffee. Though I do feel badly that I didn't think to bring decaf and poor Ami was awake half the night. :(

4. Read some newspapers in the area to see what kinds of things are going on there. Visit the area. See what kind of people live there. To me it does no good to come up with characters first because the people in different areas are so unique. A character from California is totally different from one in Michigan. So figure that out and jot down ideas from travel guides and newspapers. Take a drive around town and watch people. See if some idea catches your interest. Sit in a populated area and listen in. You might catch a snippet of conversation that launches you into a great story. Have those ideas ready when you get together with your friend.

5. Try to make the "hook" as strong as you can by bouncing it around with your brainstorming partner. That's the interesting premise that launches the story. With Lonestar Angel (shipping in about 3 weeks!) I noodled about how a woman might think she was divorced and yet still be married. And what could make her go off with her supposedly ex-husband in spite of everything? I came up with Clay arriving to tell Eden that the child they thought had died in a kidnapping attempt gone wrong was really alive--and he needs her help to find out which of 5 little girls is theirs. Of course, the villain was luring them to the remote Bluebird Ranch. . . I was hooked and I hope you will be too!

6. When you think you've milked an idea and it still isn't right, change tactics and go on to something else. You may even find you need to merge two ideas.

7. If you can, get away on a retreat. Going to a cabin this past week was just what we needed. We came up with some great ideas for the next Smitten story. And I came away charged up and thinking about my next Hope Beach story as well. But if the budget doesn't allow for this, just do the brainstorming in your living room.

8. Let the idea sit a while then look at it again. See if it sparks something even more new and fresh.

9. Think hard about your spiritual thread. A strong story can be created around something you feel strongly about. I was thinking today about a movie I saw when I was a teenager. It was called Imitation of Life and I've often thought about it over the years because it made a social statement about something the writer felt passionately about and it made me look at what I saw around me with fresh eyes. In Tidewater Inn, the first Hope Beach story I just finished, I loved showing how the path to sin is so subtle. The villain takes first one step then another in the pursuit of money until he is willing to commit murder to get what he wants. And at the same time, Libby is learning from Coast Guard officer Kirk that real joy in life is in giving. It was way fun to show that juxtaposition.

I'm on my way to Vermont to take pictures and get ideas for all of us. But there is something about being in the car that stirs my creative juices. I think I have the opening scene and premise for Rosemary Cottage. I was captivated when I found out that rosemary is for remembrance and also means dew of the sea. You'll have to wait to find out where those bits of knowledge led me but it was fun to go at it from that angle. My heroine's name is Kate which means pure. So you might take a drive with your spouse when you want brainstorm even more.

Have you ever brainstormed an idea? What helped you get to the gold nugget you needed for the story?

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Colleen Coble  
posted at 9:29 PM  
  Comments (7)
 
 
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7 Comments:
At 12:30 AM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Friends helped me. I love brainstorming, especially with someone who thinks like I do...you know, people who have sinister thoughts, plan dangerous meetings, see mystery in everyday events. We found out the hard way not to brainstorm romantic suspense novels in public places.

 
At 8:31 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

Great tips, C. Brainstorming is a blast! Not to mention a terrific way to end up with a unique and interesting story.

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

I've found that out too, Cheryl! One time Diann and Denise and I were brainstorming one of my books on a plane. We were talking about poison then turned around and saw horrified faces. LOL

 
At 6:01 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

ROTFL!! Also, when novelists get together, people start listening, even if we're not brainstorming. When several of us got together last month, we ended up signing a lot of autographs and giving away a lot of books to the wait staff. I don't even know what they picked up on, we were just talking normally.

 
At 6:25 PM, Blogger Ruth said...

Thank you for this post, very interesting insights into how stories are born. :)

 
At 10:01 PM, Blogger Anne Love said...

Thanks for the ideas. Jaime and I are psyched for a great brainstorm!! I can't wait to come away energized and jazzed about my WIP. I've got the premise, I'm hoping we can find something to keep my middle (of the story that is) from sagging!!

 
At 10:37 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Here's another one we learned last year about characterization. Diann and I were sitting together when the teacher told us to describe a woman resembling a strong heroine. We both wrote the same person, Colleen. ;-)

 

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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

www.KristinBillerbeck.com

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

www.ColleenCoble.com

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

www.DeniseHunterBooks.com

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

www.DiannHunt.com

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

www.HannahAlexander.com

 
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