Monday, 28 March 2016

Where to Start???


By Karen M. Davis

This is a question I've been asked a lot since my first book was published in 2013: where did you start?   

 If you ask ten authors how they start a manuscript you'll probably get ten different answers. As we all know, sometimes ideas pop into our head when we least expect it. For me this is usually in the form of a memory that comes out of nowhere in the middle of the night (which is why I now keep a notepad and pen next to my bed so I can jot it down before I forget it). I started Sinister Intent , which took four years to write, with two characters and no story. I had a young policewoman and a bikie who was going to be her "unlikely alliance" - which was the first title of the book.

My story ideas mostly come from an incident or situation I have experienced during my police career and it builds from there. Many scenes in my books are very close to the truth. I like to turn reality into fiction because in my experience real life is stranger than fiction, and I feel more confident writing about something that I know actually did happen, so if someone said, ''That's a bit far-fetched; that wouldn't happen'', I can assure them that it can and did. I start with a real criminal incident, change the facts, the location, the characters, and start typing.... I don't start making notes until the story starts to develop. That is when I start plotting chapters.

            
My friend Anna Romer (author of Thornwood House and Lyrebird Hill) is much more creative. She starts a manuscript with a new notebook she fills with articles, timelines and maps. She  creates detailed dossiers of her characters and builds histories around them. The bones of her stories come from her favourite themes - forbidden love, obsession, scandal and family secrets. She also takes a fairy tale and weaves it through the plot. When she is finished brainstorming, she has told me that her pile of notes is bigger than a telephone directory. Amazing and exhausting...

My mother (the late Lynne Wilding, author of thirteen best sellers) used to have a file where she kept newspaper clippings and magazine articles that caught her interest. She would use them for ideas and was always looking ahead to her next story. I remember her telling me the plot for her next book while she was still working on her present manuscript. I wish I was that organised. I don't start thinking of the next book until the one I'm working on is finished.

As I said different authors have different ways of starting a manuscript. Where do you start?

I love to love  Meerkats, they are so cute.

I love to laugh as much as possible, especially at our Breathless meetings.
I love to learn how other authors do things.

               

15 comments:

  1. Really enjoyed this post, Karen. Every book is different for me but, like your mum, I collect newspaper and magazine clippings of things that have, for whatever reason, caught my eye. My folder is ENORMOUS.

    I also have multiple ideas on the go. If something pops up I just make notes and set it aside. Then I keep a list of all the books I want to write. The order I do them in changes depending on how well the plot is developing in my brain or how much the characters are exciting me and then when it comes time to write the next one, I pick.

    I envy Anna Romer her process, it sounds wonderfully creative. A little tiring, as you say, but fascinating. Speaking of which, I wonder when her next book will be out. Must investigate!

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    1. Wow, Cathryn, that's wonderful! I'd love to take a peek inside your head to see all those ideas whizzing around! (I think I have 'idea envy';) ).

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    2. Hi Cathryn, you sound incredibly organised and creative yourself. As I said I concentrate on one book at a time. I think that is all my mind can handle... To have a list of potential books at the ready is fantastic. Though it must be hard to decide which to start first. Anna's next book is out in September I think.

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  2. Hi Karen. Having a background in policing really makes for authenticity in your Lexie books. For me, there's a lot of research that has to go into writing books about the outback (although I must admit I do enjoy the research aspect :D). My books always start with characters. Once I've worked out their internal and external conflicts I come up with the particular outback setting for their story. It's worked so far.

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    1. Hi Marilyn, it certainly has worked for The farmers perfect match. I find it fascinating to find out how different authors do things. I don't think about their internal or external conflicts until the story is developing. But as you say writing crime is a bit different. You have given me food for thought for my next book. I may try to figure out more of the depth of the characters before I start to see how that goes...Always good to try something different.

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  3. Hi Karen. Fascinating topic how each writer starts, thank you. I am insanely inquisitive so I'm always checking out magazines and newspapers for all kinds of information, be it about history, other cultures, interesting jobs. I collect pictures of possible settings and heroes and heroines too. Funny, how the mind works, though. My stories have started, not from anything I've read and kept, but from a character that suddenly appears in a snippet of a scene that just grabs my attention and all I want to do is find out all about him/her.

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    1. Hi Enisa, your mind is certainly interesting... ha ha. I love that you are so inquisitive and able to develop a new character from something that has inspired you. And then to want to get to know them as they grow in your mind is amazing. I often have names pop into my head and then put a character to the name. You wonder where it all comes from sometimes???

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  4. Hi Karen, this is a great topic to reflect upon. I start with either the hero or heroine unexpectedly finding themselves in a confronting situation. I concept map this character's strengths, weaknesses, relationships, present life and past. I envisage my other main character (concept map them in a similar way) and create a circumstance for my protagonists to meet - something to raise the stakes.
    Next I start writing and watch what happens.
    Writing is so much fun.

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  5. Hi Sharon, writing is so much fun... you sound very organised with developing your characters and the story, including how the protagonist will be introduced well before you start writing. It must be interesting to see how much your characters and story changes from your initial ideas as it develops...

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  6. I love the way different people think and begin their stories. Music, photos, scenery and people watching kick me off. Things like watching people at airports, meeting or leaving...

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    1. Hi Malvina, it is very interesting how we all think isn't it. I suppose that's why we are individuals. People watching is always fascinating. I often wonder what people's stories are when you see them, as you say, at airports etc. I wonder how they met, how they got together, are they family... You could write a story about it...

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  7. I love this post Karen. I have got my ideas from lyrics of songs or a line of poetry, pictures and articles. Once I get the spark of an idea to start my story I usually do a rough overview figuring out if what kind of story line will work (I write Regency so it has to fit the time period as well). Sometimes I get an idea about a character first and build the story around them. Where ever the idea comes from I always do several overviews before starting. I usually write the first chapter several times (sometimes it feels like 100 times) before I feel it has the right elements and gives the rest of the story the right lift off platform.

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  8. Hi Cassandra, how you get started is really interesting. I do a rough overview also but it changes constantly as the story starts to develop. Like you I also go over the first few chapters to get the beginning right. And I agree, it sometimes feels like you are getting nowhere but just going over the start over and over again. But once you have that right it sets up the rest of the book as you say. Thanks for your insights.

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  9. Love this post Karen M. Davis! Thank you!

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