Creative Process and Brainstorming

by Mary Jo 

Cat_243_dover_5There is no one right way to write.  Which is a real bummer—it would be so much easier if there were clear and distinct Right Ways and Wrong Ways.  But the more I hang out with writers, the more I realize how much our approaches vary. 

This was most graphically illustrated at a lovely Romantic Times conference in Beaver Creek, Colorado some years ago.  I was one of nine authors on a panel about characterization.  I prepared a short presentation, as did one of the other nine.  (She and I later became good friends, since we clearly shared certain compulsive traits. <G>) 

But after we two gave our presentations, the panel still had almost two hours to fill.  The program organizer had said all we had to do was answer questions.  For two hours?  Not likely! 

One of the panelists was Judith McNaught, already a superstar.  After a silence, someone asked her a question.  She answered.  More silence.  Someone asked her another question.

Burne_jones_angel At which point, inspiration struck and I said, “Let’s have everyone answer every question!”  Since we were all a little desperate, we did—and it turned into a great, educational panel as it became clear that we had highly individual ways of working.

Some start with plot, others with character.  Some used critique groups, others abhorred the idea.  Some wrote swift first drafts, then edited; others wrote slowly, polishing as they went so the book was basically done when they got through once.  The audience was delighted, and I’m sure that many left happy to know that they weren’t “doing it wrong.” 

Most of us who have been writing for any length of time have figured out what our personal writing process is.  I’m inclined to think that whatever that process is, it’s hardwired into our brains and can’t be changed except in minor ways.  I’m a plodder, condemned to inchworm my way through my books one word at a time.  When it’s done, it’s done, except for minor tweaking.  Which is good, since I’m always slammed up against a deadline.  But I’m convinced that plungers have more fun!

Bbookstackcoffee I have a friend who hates deadlines, so she finishes her books months in advance and lets them mulch for a while, then edits them again before she hands them in.  I’ll bet her college papers were always done early, too,  but I like her anyway.  <g>  Another friend works on one book for a while.  Then when she feels stalled, she works on another.   Still another friend gets only one idea at a time—but when that idea shows up, it’s great. 

These differences in creative process are clearly on display when we do things like brainstorm.  Pat Rice mentioned earlier in the week that she, Susan Sarah, and I were having our annual brainstorming session at my house.  We’ve done this for several years now, and we all benefit. 

But we do work very differently even though we’re all historical writers.  One of us might use emotional turning points, another the hero’s journey, a third will advocate more historical research to create the skeleton of a plot. 

Quill_and_ink We’ve never really defined brainstorming rules, but it’s a given that we respect each other’s work.  The story belongs to the author who is tossing it out, and her judgment is ultimately the only one that counts.  I’m pretty much an intuitive writer, and analytic approaches generally roll off my back.  Yet I’ve gotten really valuable ideas from these brainstorming sessions over the years. 

This time, just a few minutes’ discussion helped me go from the merest wisp of a story idea to a solid sense of the book that I hope I’ll write next.  Last week, this story was the merest gleam in my eye; today I could sit down and write a synopsis.

We rotate through each other’s books, choosing what ever project the author who is up wants to work on.  After we’ve whacked one story around for a while, we move onto another.

Of course, we also need breaks.  We go out to lunch or dinner, walk a labyrinth or stroll in the park, maybe settle down and do some beadwork.  My cats, especially Grady, hang around and look intellectual.  After three days, we disperse back to our caves, well armed for the new projects. 

Ultimately, of course, what matters is not process but results.  Readers aren’t Labyrinth_1 interested in whether a story went smoothly or if it fought tooth and nail.  Actually, writers can’t usually tell which books will work best for readers—we just string the words together and hope for the best.  And now and then, we yearn for a different process that will be better/easier/more fun than the one we have!

Of course, everyone uses creative process even if not a writer.  How do you come up with your ideas?  How do you bring your projects to completion?  And do you ever wish you could do it differently?!

Faery_magic_amazonBefore I forget: I don’t believe I’ve given away a copy of Faery Magic, an anthology that includes me and Jo, along with Barbara Samuel and Karen Harbaugh.  Leave a comment for this post between now and midnight Sunday, PDT, and you may win a free copy!

Dscn0042_2Mary Jo, with a gray cat sitting by the keyboard, looking intellectual.

78 thoughts on “Creative Process and Brainstorming”

  1. After dipping in various author blogs and listening to published writers speak, I find one of the biggest differences between ‘starting out’ writers and the ones that do it for a living seems to be that people who have been doing for a while successfully are much more relaxed about tossing ideas back and forth, confident that this will benefit everyone, whereas we insecure newbies seem to spend much of our precious mental energy consumed with worry that someone will ‘steal’ our brilliant idea. Maybe because we’re still so new to the ‘having a brilliant idea’ feeling, and are worried the idea cupboard will be bare next time we go back ?

    Reply
  2. After dipping in various author blogs and listening to published writers speak, I find one of the biggest differences between ‘starting out’ writers and the ones that do it for a living seems to be that people who have been doing for a while successfully are much more relaxed about tossing ideas back and forth, confident that this will benefit everyone, whereas we insecure newbies seem to spend much of our precious mental energy consumed with worry that someone will ‘steal’ our brilliant idea. Maybe because we’re still so new to the ‘having a brilliant idea’ feeling, and are worried the idea cupboard will be bare next time we go back ?

    Reply
  3. After dipping in various author blogs and listening to published writers speak, I find one of the biggest differences between ‘starting out’ writers and the ones that do it for a living seems to be that people who have been doing for a while successfully are much more relaxed about tossing ideas back and forth, confident that this will benefit everyone, whereas we insecure newbies seem to spend much of our precious mental energy consumed with worry that someone will ‘steal’ our brilliant idea. Maybe because we’re still so new to the ‘having a brilliant idea’ feeling, and are worried the idea cupboard will be bare next time we go back ?

    Reply
  4. Me again. Forgot to add my P.S. – looking forward to hearing your thoughts in two weeks at the Toronto chapter annual meeting, M.J. ! Bring your woolies; it dipped to almost freezing last night. Days are gorgeous to make up for the chill but you’ll enjoy it more if your teeth don’t chatter.

    Reply
  5. Me again. Forgot to add my P.S. – looking forward to hearing your thoughts in two weeks at the Toronto chapter annual meeting, M.J. ! Bring your woolies; it dipped to almost freezing last night. Days are gorgeous to make up for the chill but you’ll enjoy it more if your teeth don’t chatter.

    Reply
  6. Me again. Forgot to add my P.S. – looking forward to hearing your thoughts in two weeks at the Toronto chapter annual meeting, M.J. ! Bring your woolies; it dipped to almost freezing last night. Days are gorgeous to make up for the chill but you’ll enjoy it more if your teeth don’t chatter.

    Reply
  7. From MJP:
    Maya–I think you’re right that
    experienced writers worry a lot less about having our ideas stolen. With our brainstorming troika, we have a high level of trust, but it’s also true that we write very differently. The three of us could take the same plot synopsis and we’d come out with three totally different stories. We’ve learned that ideas are plentiful–it’s execution that matters.
    Thanks for the weather tip! We’re really looking forward to coming to Toronto. I love that it will be a relaxed, Q&A format. I’m happy to answer just about anything to the best of my ability, so don’t be afraid to ask ANYthing.
    As for the woolies–since I grew up near Buffalo, I remember what October can be! I’ll come well supplied with layers. 🙂
    See you soon–
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  8. From MJP:
    Maya–I think you’re right that
    experienced writers worry a lot less about having our ideas stolen. With our brainstorming troika, we have a high level of trust, but it’s also true that we write very differently. The three of us could take the same plot synopsis and we’d come out with three totally different stories. We’ve learned that ideas are plentiful–it’s execution that matters.
    Thanks for the weather tip! We’re really looking forward to coming to Toronto. I love that it will be a relaxed, Q&A format. I’m happy to answer just about anything to the best of my ability, so don’t be afraid to ask ANYthing.
    As for the woolies–since I grew up near Buffalo, I remember what October can be! I’ll come well supplied with layers. 🙂
    See you soon–
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  9. From MJP:
    Maya–I think you’re right that
    experienced writers worry a lot less about having our ideas stolen. With our brainstorming troika, we have a high level of trust, but it’s also true that we write very differently. The three of us could take the same plot synopsis and we’d come out with three totally different stories. We’ve learned that ideas are plentiful–it’s execution that matters.
    Thanks for the weather tip! We’re really looking forward to coming to Toronto. I love that it will be a relaxed, Q&A format. I’m happy to answer just about anything to the best of my ability, so don’t be afraid to ask ANYthing.
    As for the woolies–since I grew up near Buffalo, I remember what October can be! I’ll come well supplied with layers. 🙂
    See you soon–
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  10. Oh, to be a mouse sitting in the corner while all that power was flying about the room. On second thought, Grady may have had a thing or two to say about that.
    Thanks for sharing your processes with us, MJ. I’m still in flux as to what mine is, exactly. Sort of like being half human and half mouse. There’s advantages to each but neither is getting me what I want. But the last three days have seen the birth of a new story in my brain. A miracle in of itself. Must have been all that energy you, Pat and Susan/Sarah were generating a few miles down the road from me. *g*
    I do love brainstorming. My daughter and I do it together all the time. She has helped me get unstuck more than once. Her ability to see through the scene and pick out the character’s true ‘why’ is amazing. Especially since she is only 11. And, she makes a great counterpart when I’m working through an action scene. We’ve clashed swords (yardsticks), worked through fist fights and organized chase scenes, pretending to be on horse back.
    Critique groups… they are a challenge for me. Keeping weekly or monthly appointments is very hard.
    Someday, I think it would be fun to come together for a few days, face to face, as a Wench and wenchling community, and bat around the joys and sorrows of building a story. Sort of like the Greats mentoring the next generation of greats who would in turn do the same, keeping the dream of the HEA alive.
    Nina, brainstorming when she should be doing research at the library.

    Reply
  11. Oh, to be a mouse sitting in the corner while all that power was flying about the room. On second thought, Grady may have had a thing or two to say about that.
    Thanks for sharing your processes with us, MJ. I’m still in flux as to what mine is, exactly. Sort of like being half human and half mouse. There’s advantages to each but neither is getting me what I want. But the last three days have seen the birth of a new story in my brain. A miracle in of itself. Must have been all that energy you, Pat and Susan/Sarah were generating a few miles down the road from me. *g*
    I do love brainstorming. My daughter and I do it together all the time. She has helped me get unstuck more than once. Her ability to see through the scene and pick out the character’s true ‘why’ is amazing. Especially since she is only 11. And, she makes a great counterpart when I’m working through an action scene. We’ve clashed swords (yardsticks), worked through fist fights and organized chase scenes, pretending to be on horse back.
    Critique groups… they are a challenge for me. Keeping weekly or monthly appointments is very hard.
    Someday, I think it would be fun to come together for a few days, face to face, as a Wench and wenchling community, and bat around the joys and sorrows of building a story. Sort of like the Greats mentoring the next generation of greats who would in turn do the same, keeping the dream of the HEA alive.
    Nina, brainstorming when she should be doing research at the library.

    Reply
  12. Oh, to be a mouse sitting in the corner while all that power was flying about the room. On second thought, Grady may have had a thing or two to say about that.
    Thanks for sharing your processes with us, MJ. I’m still in flux as to what mine is, exactly. Sort of like being half human and half mouse. There’s advantages to each but neither is getting me what I want. But the last three days have seen the birth of a new story in my brain. A miracle in of itself. Must have been all that energy you, Pat and Susan/Sarah were generating a few miles down the road from me. *g*
    I do love brainstorming. My daughter and I do it together all the time. She has helped me get unstuck more than once. Her ability to see through the scene and pick out the character’s true ‘why’ is amazing. Especially since she is only 11. And, she makes a great counterpart when I’m working through an action scene. We’ve clashed swords (yardsticks), worked through fist fights and organized chase scenes, pretending to be on horse back.
    Critique groups… they are a challenge for me. Keeping weekly or monthly appointments is very hard.
    Someday, I think it would be fun to come together for a few days, face to face, as a Wench and wenchling community, and bat around the joys and sorrows of building a story. Sort of like the Greats mentoring the next generation of greats who would in turn do the same, keeping the dream of the HEA alive.
    Nina, brainstorming when she should be doing research at the library.

    Reply
  13. Though I’m not a writer, I’m the same way with writing papers. I have my own way of doing things. Most people think my way sounds crazy but it works for me.
    By the way, that’s a gorgeous cat.

    Reply
  14. Though I’m not a writer, I’m the same way with writing papers. I have my own way of doing things. Most people think my way sounds crazy but it works for me.
    By the way, that’s a gorgeous cat.

    Reply
  15. Though I’m not a writer, I’m the same way with writing papers. I have my own way of doing things. Most people think my way sounds crazy but it works for me.
    By the way, that’s a gorgeous cat.

    Reply
  16. Hi MJP–
    I was delighted to stumble across your blog a few weeks ago–so many authors that I enjoy are here!
    As a newbie myself, interested in writing historical romance set in Regency/Victorian Britain, I find that the bits and pieces of writing time that I manage to cobble together between work and the kiddios can quickly be consumed by historical research projects. I’ll be working on a scene and then I need to know how much something cost in 1825 and, before I know it, I’ll have spent the rest of my precious hour on a web-based boondoggle where I’ve learned all kinds of fascinating things (including, possibly, how much that thing did in fact cost in 1825). In order to improve my own writing process in this respect, I am trying to build a library of key reference books for romance set in 19th c. Britain. Would you or some of the other Word Wenches be willing to share your “must have” reference tools?
    I actually lived near Buffalo (Lewiston to be exact) until I was eight. : )

    Reply
  17. Hi MJP–
    I was delighted to stumble across your blog a few weeks ago–so many authors that I enjoy are here!
    As a newbie myself, interested in writing historical romance set in Regency/Victorian Britain, I find that the bits and pieces of writing time that I manage to cobble together between work and the kiddios can quickly be consumed by historical research projects. I’ll be working on a scene and then I need to know how much something cost in 1825 and, before I know it, I’ll have spent the rest of my precious hour on a web-based boondoggle where I’ve learned all kinds of fascinating things (including, possibly, how much that thing did in fact cost in 1825). In order to improve my own writing process in this respect, I am trying to build a library of key reference books for romance set in 19th c. Britain. Would you or some of the other Word Wenches be willing to share your “must have” reference tools?
    I actually lived near Buffalo (Lewiston to be exact) until I was eight. : )

    Reply
  18. Hi MJP–
    I was delighted to stumble across your blog a few weeks ago–so many authors that I enjoy are here!
    As a newbie myself, interested in writing historical romance set in Regency/Victorian Britain, I find that the bits and pieces of writing time that I manage to cobble together between work and the kiddios can quickly be consumed by historical research projects. I’ll be working on a scene and then I need to know how much something cost in 1825 and, before I know it, I’ll have spent the rest of my precious hour on a web-based boondoggle where I’ve learned all kinds of fascinating things (including, possibly, how much that thing did in fact cost in 1825). In order to improve my own writing process in this respect, I am trying to build a library of key reference books for romance set in 19th c. Britain. Would you or some of the other Word Wenches be willing to share your “must have” reference tools?
    I actually lived near Buffalo (Lewiston to be exact) until I was eight. : )

    Reply
  19. Melissa–
    Not a Wench, just another struggling unpubbed writer, but one thing I do that keeps me from getting so bogged down in research that I never actually write is just make a bold, all-caps note in the manuscript so I’ll know to look it up before submitting. And then I just keep writing. It doesn’t work for big picture, major plot elements, but for things like an 1825 price, it’s perfect. My first drafts are full of sentences like, “They sat down to a simple dinner of [LOOK UP APPROPRIATE FOODS].” or, “The captain looked splendid in the [LOOK UP DETAILS OF HIS REGIMENT’S UNIFORM].”
    Then part of my first editing pass is to write down all my questions and do the focused research needed. Often I’ll have happened across the information in the meantime anyway.

    Reply
  20. Melissa–
    Not a Wench, just another struggling unpubbed writer, but one thing I do that keeps me from getting so bogged down in research that I never actually write is just make a bold, all-caps note in the manuscript so I’ll know to look it up before submitting. And then I just keep writing. It doesn’t work for big picture, major plot elements, but for things like an 1825 price, it’s perfect. My first drafts are full of sentences like, “They sat down to a simple dinner of [LOOK UP APPROPRIATE FOODS].” or, “The captain looked splendid in the [LOOK UP DETAILS OF HIS REGIMENT’S UNIFORM].”
    Then part of my first editing pass is to write down all my questions and do the focused research needed. Often I’ll have happened across the information in the meantime anyway.

    Reply
  21. Melissa–
    Not a Wench, just another struggling unpubbed writer, but one thing I do that keeps me from getting so bogged down in research that I never actually write is just make a bold, all-caps note in the manuscript so I’ll know to look it up before submitting. And then I just keep writing. It doesn’t work for big picture, major plot elements, but for things like an 1825 price, it’s perfect. My first drafts are full of sentences like, “They sat down to a simple dinner of [LOOK UP APPROPRIATE FOODS].” or, “The captain looked splendid in the [LOOK UP DETAILS OF HIS REGIMENT’S UNIFORM].”
    Then part of my first editing pass is to write down all my questions and do the focused research needed. Often I’ll have happened across the information in the meantime anyway.

    Reply
  22. Thanks for the fascinating post, Mary Jo. Always interesting to hear how other writers write — we’re like snowflakes, no two of us alike (and I’ll just ignore the flake-part of that analogy.)
    I’m in the solitary-pursuit camp. Everything’s just a jumbled mess packed into my head — I don’t think I COULD share ideas with other writers for discussion. Fortunately, it all straightens out when I’m at the keyboard, but whoa, not before that.
    Melissab, I know exactly what you mean about getting sucked into the black hole of internet research. I just squandered about an hour bouncing from site to site, looking for illustrations of St. Paul’s Cathedral during the 30 year period between Inigo Jones’s additions and the Great Fire of London, which destroyed it — all because I needed to know what St. Paul’s looked like to my characters in 1658. Arrgghhh! (and yes, I found it.)

    Reply
  23. Thanks for the fascinating post, Mary Jo. Always interesting to hear how other writers write — we’re like snowflakes, no two of us alike (and I’ll just ignore the flake-part of that analogy.)
    I’m in the solitary-pursuit camp. Everything’s just a jumbled mess packed into my head — I don’t think I COULD share ideas with other writers for discussion. Fortunately, it all straightens out when I’m at the keyboard, but whoa, not before that.
    Melissab, I know exactly what you mean about getting sucked into the black hole of internet research. I just squandered about an hour bouncing from site to site, looking for illustrations of St. Paul’s Cathedral during the 30 year period between Inigo Jones’s additions and the Great Fire of London, which destroyed it — all because I needed to know what St. Paul’s looked like to my characters in 1658. Arrgghhh! (and yes, I found it.)

    Reply
  24. Thanks for the fascinating post, Mary Jo. Always interesting to hear how other writers write — we’re like snowflakes, no two of us alike (and I’ll just ignore the flake-part of that analogy.)
    I’m in the solitary-pursuit camp. Everything’s just a jumbled mess packed into my head — I don’t think I COULD share ideas with other writers for discussion. Fortunately, it all straightens out when I’m at the keyboard, but whoa, not before that.
    Melissab, I know exactly what you mean about getting sucked into the black hole of internet research. I just squandered about an hour bouncing from site to site, looking for illustrations of St. Paul’s Cathedral during the 30 year period between Inigo Jones’s additions and the Great Fire of London, which destroyed it — all because I needed to know what St. Paul’s looked like to my characters in 1658. Arrgghhh! (and yes, I found it.)

    Reply
  25. It is not surprising that authors write in such varied ways. To me it is a form of art and you wouldn’t be surprised that two sculptors had very different approaches or two painters.

    Reply
  26. It is not surprising that authors write in such varied ways. To me it is a form of art and you wouldn’t be surprised that two sculptors had very different approaches or two painters.

    Reply
  27. It is not surprising that authors write in such varied ways. To me it is a form of art and you wouldn’t be surprised that two sculptors had very different approaches or two painters.

    Reply
  28. I have a group of brainstorming partners, all multi-published authors in a variety of romance subgenres, and I couldn’t get along without them. We meet at least once a month and sometimes more, and we brainstorm anything from a whole new plot idea to one short scene someone is having trouble with.
    In terms of actual writing process, none of us are the same. Half are outliners, half are seat-of-the-pants writers. Some are very fast writers, some of us plod. And none of us are going to change. As Mary Jo said, it’s part of the hard-wiring. But I love that diversity, and I still get fired up and re-energized with each meeting. Even brainstorming for someone else helps me with my own stories. It helps me to think in new ways, to consider options I hadn’t thought possible, etc. Maybe it’s like exercise. All that brainstorming keeps the old thinkbox in good shape. 🙂
    Maya mentioned that seasoned writers seem more comfortable with tossing ideas back and forth, and she’s right. But there’s another thing that comes with experience, too, I think. And that is letting go of ideas that simply aren’t working, no matter how much you love them. There was a great article in the RWR a few months ago by Bettina Krahn about the necessity of sometimes letting go of those favorite ideas. Im my group, we are pretty ruthless about that. None of us has time to waste on an ill-conceived idea.
    Candice, HWW

    Reply
  29. I have a group of brainstorming partners, all multi-published authors in a variety of romance subgenres, and I couldn’t get along without them. We meet at least once a month and sometimes more, and we brainstorm anything from a whole new plot idea to one short scene someone is having trouble with.
    In terms of actual writing process, none of us are the same. Half are outliners, half are seat-of-the-pants writers. Some are very fast writers, some of us plod. And none of us are going to change. As Mary Jo said, it’s part of the hard-wiring. But I love that diversity, and I still get fired up and re-energized with each meeting. Even brainstorming for someone else helps me with my own stories. It helps me to think in new ways, to consider options I hadn’t thought possible, etc. Maybe it’s like exercise. All that brainstorming keeps the old thinkbox in good shape. 🙂
    Maya mentioned that seasoned writers seem more comfortable with tossing ideas back and forth, and she’s right. But there’s another thing that comes with experience, too, I think. And that is letting go of ideas that simply aren’t working, no matter how much you love them. There was a great article in the RWR a few months ago by Bettina Krahn about the necessity of sometimes letting go of those favorite ideas. Im my group, we are pretty ruthless about that. None of us has time to waste on an ill-conceived idea.
    Candice, HWW

    Reply
  30. I have a group of brainstorming partners, all multi-published authors in a variety of romance subgenres, and I couldn’t get along without them. We meet at least once a month and sometimes more, and we brainstorm anything from a whole new plot idea to one short scene someone is having trouble with.
    In terms of actual writing process, none of us are the same. Half are outliners, half are seat-of-the-pants writers. Some are very fast writers, some of us plod. And none of us are going to change. As Mary Jo said, it’s part of the hard-wiring. But I love that diversity, and I still get fired up and re-energized with each meeting. Even brainstorming for someone else helps me with my own stories. It helps me to think in new ways, to consider options I hadn’t thought possible, etc. Maybe it’s like exercise. All that brainstorming keeps the old thinkbox in good shape. 🙂
    Maya mentioned that seasoned writers seem more comfortable with tossing ideas back and forth, and she’s right. But there’s another thing that comes with experience, too, I think. And that is letting go of ideas that simply aren’t working, no matter how much you love them. There was a great article in the RWR a few months ago by Bettina Krahn about the necessity of sometimes letting go of those favorite ideas. Im my group, we are pretty ruthless about that. None of us has time to waste on an ill-conceived idea.
    Candice, HWW

    Reply
  31. Melissab wrote:
    “In order to improve my own writing process in this respect, I am trying to build a library of key reference books for romance set in 19th c. Britain. Would you or some of the other Word Wenches be willing to share your “must have” reference tools?”
    Look for this as a blog next week — we’re compiling our favorites now. 🙂
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  32. Melissab wrote:
    “In order to improve my own writing process in this respect, I am trying to build a library of key reference books for romance set in 19th c. Britain. Would you or some of the other Word Wenches be willing to share your “must have” reference tools?”
    Look for this as a blog next week — we’re compiling our favorites now. 🙂
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  33. Melissab wrote:
    “In order to improve my own writing process in this respect, I am trying to build a library of key reference books for romance set in 19th c. Britain. Would you or some of the other Word Wenches be willing to share your “must have” reference tools?”
    Look for this as a blog next week — we’re compiling our favorites now. 🙂
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  34. I’m a visual artist, not a writer. Often my ispiration is another artist’s subject or style-as in, how would I interpret that scene? Or, what if I try using that style on a different subject? I suspect the same thing occasionally happens in writing. There are so many “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella”inspired books- but I never get tired of them, because every author adds their own twist.Gretchen

    Reply
  35. I’m a visual artist, not a writer. Often my ispiration is another artist’s subject or style-as in, how would I interpret that scene? Or, what if I try using that style on a different subject? I suspect the same thing occasionally happens in writing. There are so many “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella”inspired books- but I never get tired of them, because every author adds their own twist.Gretchen

    Reply
  36. I’m a visual artist, not a writer. Often my ispiration is another artist’s subject or style-as in, how would I interpret that scene? Or, what if I try using that style on a different subject? I suspect the same thing occasionally happens in writing. There are so many “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella”inspired books- but I never get tired of them, because every author adds their own twist.Gretchen

    Reply
  37. Gorgeous cat! I love it when they tuck their legs in like that and just look like a furry roll with a head!
    I am very wary of people who lay down too many ‘rules’ about how to write, because, of course, everyone does it differently. At the same time, hearing about methods that work well for others can be illuminating. It sounds as though your brainstorming sessions are an ideal approach.

    Reply
  38. Gorgeous cat! I love it when they tuck their legs in like that and just look like a furry roll with a head!
    I am very wary of people who lay down too many ‘rules’ about how to write, because, of course, everyone does it differently. At the same time, hearing about methods that work well for others can be illuminating. It sounds as though your brainstorming sessions are an ideal approach.

    Reply
  39. Gorgeous cat! I love it when they tuck their legs in like that and just look like a furry roll with a head!
    I am very wary of people who lay down too many ‘rules’ about how to write, because, of course, everyone does it differently. At the same time, hearing about methods that work well for others can be illuminating. It sounds as though your brainstorming sessions are an ideal approach.

    Reply
  40. MJ – this is a great post, and one I would call required reading for all new writers. I remember it took me quite a while to realize that I wasn’t doing it “all wrong” because my style didn’t mesh with those of the writers I saw posting online in the early days of the RWA listserv.
    Love the sound of your plotters weekends! I’m hoping to institute something similar with my CPs, once we get our house built some time next year.

    Reply
  41. MJ – this is a great post, and one I would call required reading for all new writers. I remember it took me quite a while to realize that I wasn’t doing it “all wrong” because my style didn’t mesh with those of the writers I saw posting online in the early days of the RWA listserv.
    Love the sound of your plotters weekends! I’m hoping to institute something similar with my CPs, once we get our house built some time next year.

    Reply
  42. MJ – this is a great post, and one I would call required reading for all new writers. I remember it took me quite a while to realize that I wasn’t doing it “all wrong” because my style didn’t mesh with those of the writers I saw posting online in the early days of the RWA listserv.
    Love the sound of your plotters weekends! I’m hoping to institute something similar with my CPs, once we get our house built some time next year.

    Reply
  43. From MJP:
    Nina–as you progress with your writing, you’ll find your own version of a wenchly cohort. I’ve observed that a lot of my closest friends are people who have been writing more or less as long as I have, so we’ve grown up together and have gone through many of the same challenges. (And many other writers have fallen by the wayside, but that’s another story.)
    Mina and AgTigress, Grady thanks you, regally accepting your admiration as his due. He’s a fine, friendly fellow.
    MelissaB, as Sue Scott has said, your request has sparked a flurry of wenchly activity. A suggested research list will be showing up as a post early next week.
    But in the meantime, Susan Wilbanks is dead right when she suggests just typing yourself a note (DID THEY HAVE RUBBER DUCKIES THEN??) to find the facts later is much better than wasting precious writing time in research than can be done later.
    Candice is also right that in time, we get better at letting go of ideas that just won’t work. If they’re really good, they can probably be recycled into another story later.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  44. From MJP:
    Nina–as you progress with your writing, you’ll find your own version of a wenchly cohort. I’ve observed that a lot of my closest friends are people who have been writing more or less as long as I have, so we’ve grown up together and have gone through many of the same challenges. (And many other writers have fallen by the wayside, but that’s another story.)
    Mina and AgTigress, Grady thanks you, regally accepting your admiration as his due. He’s a fine, friendly fellow.
    MelissaB, as Sue Scott has said, your request has sparked a flurry of wenchly activity. A suggested research list will be showing up as a post early next week.
    But in the meantime, Susan Wilbanks is dead right when she suggests just typing yourself a note (DID THEY HAVE RUBBER DUCKIES THEN??) to find the facts later is much better than wasting precious writing time in research than can be done later.
    Candice is also right that in time, we get better at letting go of ideas that just won’t work. If they’re really good, they can probably be recycled into another story later.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  45. From MJP:
    Nina–as you progress with your writing, you’ll find your own version of a wenchly cohort. I’ve observed that a lot of my closest friends are people who have been writing more or less as long as I have, so we’ve grown up together and have gone through many of the same challenges. (And many other writers have fallen by the wayside, but that’s another story.)
    Mina and AgTigress, Grady thanks you, regally accepting your admiration as his due. He’s a fine, friendly fellow.
    MelissaB, as Sue Scott has said, your request has sparked a flurry of wenchly activity. A suggested research list will be showing up as a post early next week.
    But in the meantime, Susan Wilbanks is dead right when she suggests just typing yourself a note (DID THEY HAVE RUBBER DUCKIES THEN??) to find the facts later is much better than wasting precious writing time in research than can be done later.
    Candice is also right that in time, we get better at letting go of ideas that just won’t work. If they’re really good, they can probably be recycled into another story later.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  46. Great topic, Mary Jo. When I first started writing, I didn’t need to brainstorm. I was awash in ideas–because I hadn’t written about anything yet. Now, more than a few years later, I often find myself staring into a vast emptiness–no idea in sight, even with a telescope. So I brainstorm, but mostly with civilians, like my spouse and my sister. I don’t know what to call my writing method except Slow.

    Reply
  47. Great topic, Mary Jo. When I first started writing, I didn’t need to brainstorm. I was awash in ideas–because I hadn’t written about anything yet. Now, more than a few years later, I often find myself staring into a vast emptiness–no idea in sight, even with a telescope. So I brainstorm, but mostly with civilians, like my spouse and my sister. I don’t know what to call my writing method except Slow.

    Reply
  48. Great topic, Mary Jo. When I first started writing, I didn’t need to brainstorm. I was awash in ideas–because I hadn’t written about anything yet. Now, more than a few years later, I often find myself staring into a vast emptiness–no idea in sight, even with a telescope. So I brainstorm, but mostly with civilians, like my spouse and my sister. I don’t know what to call my writing method except Slow.

    Reply
  49. Nice to hear about your brainstorming parties!
    I, too, am an unpub. But not for long. ;-j
    I belong to a Secret Society of Soon to be Published Authors. We’re a splinter group off of our regular critique group, which frankly lacks the, ahem, dedication.
    So we meet in back alleys, hold the occasional emergency, post-it note plot-ectomy, and keep ourselves going with pizza and Ben & Jerry. Each of us eagerly tries to kick the others off the edge and into publication.
    Thanks for your post, and how lovely to have put in a labyrinth!
    Jane George

    Reply
  50. Nice to hear about your brainstorming parties!
    I, too, am an unpub. But not for long. ;-j
    I belong to a Secret Society of Soon to be Published Authors. We’re a splinter group off of our regular critique group, which frankly lacks the, ahem, dedication.
    So we meet in back alleys, hold the occasional emergency, post-it note plot-ectomy, and keep ourselves going with pizza and Ben & Jerry. Each of us eagerly tries to kick the others off the edge and into publication.
    Thanks for your post, and how lovely to have put in a labyrinth!
    Jane George

    Reply
  51. Nice to hear about your brainstorming parties!
    I, too, am an unpub. But not for long. ;-j
    I belong to a Secret Society of Soon to be Published Authors. We’re a splinter group off of our regular critique group, which frankly lacks the, ahem, dedication.
    So we meet in back alleys, hold the occasional emergency, post-it note plot-ectomy, and keep ourselves going with pizza and Ben & Jerry. Each of us eagerly tries to kick the others off the edge and into publication.
    Thanks for your post, and how lovely to have put in a labyrinth!
    Jane George

    Reply
  52. I cannot write a synopsis until I’ve written at least 100 pages. I have an idea which way the story is going, but sometimes it gets better, so I wait.
    I do a little prodding and flying, depending on how inspired I feel.
    When I feel truly inspired and my fingers are flying across the keyboard, I expect my work to be stellar. When I’m plodding, fighting with every paragraph to construct the scene, I expect my writing to show that. It doesn’t. My voice is there. The inspired parts get typed quicker, that’s all.

    Reply
  53. I cannot write a synopsis until I’ve written at least 100 pages. I have an idea which way the story is going, but sometimes it gets better, so I wait.
    I do a little prodding and flying, depending on how inspired I feel.
    When I feel truly inspired and my fingers are flying across the keyboard, I expect my work to be stellar. When I’m plodding, fighting with every paragraph to construct the scene, I expect my writing to show that. It doesn’t. My voice is there. The inspired parts get typed quicker, that’s all.

    Reply
  54. I cannot write a synopsis until I’ve written at least 100 pages. I have an idea which way the story is going, but sometimes it gets better, so I wait.
    I do a little prodding and flying, depending on how inspired I feel.
    When I feel truly inspired and my fingers are flying across the keyboard, I expect my work to be stellar. When I’m plodding, fighting with every paragraph to construct the scene, I expect my writing to show that. It doesn’t. My voice is there. The inspired parts get typed quicker, that’s all.

    Reply
  55. Melissab, are you interested in a particular part of the 19th century, and/or a particular part of Britain? It migtt make a difference to the favorite books I pick.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  56. Melissab, are you interested in a particular part of the 19th century, and/or a particular part of Britain? It migtt make a difference to the favorite books I pick.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  57. Melissab, are you interested in a particular part of the 19th century, and/or a particular part of Britain? It migtt make a difference to the favorite books I pick.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  58. I’m delighted that my request to pick the Word Wench brains has been met with so much enthusiasm, and I can’t wait for next week’s blog. Thank you!
    Susan Wilbanks and MJP, what an excellent suggestion to simply note and then skip over the research bits. (I’ll endeavor to utilize this technique to overcome my Type A urges to make it all perfect as I go along.) And Kalen, thank you for directing me to Emily Hendrickson’s site.
    Jo–In terms of locale, I’m most interested in London and England, and my projects fall squarely within the timeframes of 1800-25 and then 1870-1895. I’ve had a longtime love affair with fashion history, and my personal aversion to mid-century costume seems to spill over into my choice of setting. 🙂

    Reply
  59. I’m delighted that my request to pick the Word Wench brains has been met with so much enthusiasm, and I can’t wait for next week’s blog. Thank you!
    Susan Wilbanks and MJP, what an excellent suggestion to simply note and then skip over the research bits. (I’ll endeavor to utilize this technique to overcome my Type A urges to make it all perfect as I go along.) And Kalen, thank you for directing me to Emily Hendrickson’s site.
    Jo–In terms of locale, I’m most interested in London and England, and my projects fall squarely within the timeframes of 1800-25 and then 1870-1895. I’ve had a longtime love affair with fashion history, and my personal aversion to mid-century costume seems to spill over into my choice of setting. 🙂

    Reply
  60. I’m delighted that my request to pick the Word Wench brains has been met with so much enthusiasm, and I can’t wait for next week’s blog. Thank you!
    Susan Wilbanks and MJP, what an excellent suggestion to simply note and then skip over the research bits. (I’ll endeavor to utilize this technique to overcome my Type A urges to make it all perfect as I go along.) And Kalen, thank you for directing me to Emily Hendrickson’s site.
    Jo–In terms of locale, I’m most interested in London and England, and my projects fall squarely within the timeframes of 1800-25 and then 1870-1895. I’ve had a longtime love affair with fashion history, and my personal aversion to mid-century costume seems to spill over into my choice of setting. 🙂

    Reply
  61. How true! Everyone has a highly individualistic approach to work, as your blog post proved. As long as it works for you… hey, that’s the whole point, right? 🙂

    Reply
  62. How true! Everyone has a highly individualistic approach to work, as your blog post proved. As long as it works for you… hey, that’s the whole point, right? 🙂

    Reply
  63. How true! Everyone has a highly individualistic approach to work, as your blog post proved. As long as it works for you… hey, that’s the whole point, right? 🙂

    Reply
  64. Jane, one can usually tell the aspiring writers who are really, really serious, and clearly you’re one of them! You’re clearly discovered The Secret of Success: pizza and ice cream. 🙂
    Tonda, thanks for posting the link for Dee Hendrickson’s reference book. I wasn’t organized enough to come up with it.
    Cathy, you have much company in your approach to synopses–I know Rita winning authors who can’t write a synopsis until the book is finished. Doesn’t matter as long as the book is good.
    Right on, Sanjay. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  65. Jane, one can usually tell the aspiring writers who are really, really serious, and clearly you’re one of them! You’re clearly discovered The Secret of Success: pizza and ice cream. 🙂
    Tonda, thanks for posting the link for Dee Hendrickson’s reference book. I wasn’t organized enough to come up with it.
    Cathy, you have much company in your approach to synopses–I know Rita winning authors who can’t write a synopsis until the book is finished. Doesn’t matter as long as the book is good.
    Right on, Sanjay. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  66. Jane, one can usually tell the aspiring writers who are really, really serious, and clearly you’re one of them! You’re clearly discovered The Secret of Success: pizza and ice cream. 🙂
    Tonda, thanks for posting the link for Dee Hendrickson’s reference book. I wasn’t organized enough to come up with it.
    Cathy, you have much company in your approach to synopses–I know Rita winning authors who can’t write a synopsis until the book is finished. Doesn’t matter as long as the book is good.
    Right on, Sanjay. 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  67. I don’t know about others, but I think writing synopses more difficult than writing the book. It’s like trying to summarize a life in a sentence. Possible, I suppose, but infinitely painful.

    Reply
  68. I don’t know about others, but I think writing synopses more difficult than writing the book. It’s like trying to summarize a life in a sentence. Possible, I suppose, but infinitely painful.

    Reply
  69. I don’t know about others, but I think writing synopses more difficult than writing the book. It’s like trying to summarize a life in a sentence. Possible, I suppose, but infinitely painful.

    Reply
  70. It’s 11:15 in Ontario, I got in just in time for the draw!! I’d love to write, but as of yet I haven’t taken the plunge… I’m scared is what I am, not just of rejections, but of finding out that I’m just plain borrrring and I haven’t anything interesting to add to the publishing world! All I want to do is start a story and submitting plot lines or synopses or whatever is scaring me from starting even more

    Reply
  71. It’s 11:15 in Ontario, I got in just in time for the draw!! I’d love to write, but as of yet I haven’t taken the plunge… I’m scared is what I am, not just of rejections, but of finding out that I’m just plain borrrring and I haven’t anything interesting to add to the publishing world! All I want to do is start a story and submitting plot lines or synopses or whatever is scaring me from starting even more

    Reply
  72. It’s 11:15 in Ontario, I got in just in time for the draw!! I’d love to write, but as of yet I haven’t taken the plunge… I’m scared is what I am, not just of rejections, but of finding out that I’m just plain borrrring and I haven’t anything interesting to add to the publishing world! All I want to do is start a story and submitting plot lines or synopses or whatever is scaring me from starting even more

    Reply
  73. << I'm scared is what I am, not just of rejections, but of finding out that I'm just plain borrrring and I haven't anything interesting to add to the publishing world! All I want to do is start a story and submitting plot lines or synopses or whatever is scaring me from starting even more<< Jaclyne--yes, it's scary to start a book, but don't worry about synopses at this point. Think about the story you want to tell, then sit down and start writing. You don't have to write a synopsis--or show anyone what you've done--until you're ready. Close the door to the world, and settle down with your story to see what happens. And good luck! MJP

    Reply
  74. << I'm scared is what I am, not just of rejections, but of finding out that I'm just plain borrrring and I haven't anything interesting to add to the publishing world! All I want to do is start a story and submitting plot lines or synopses or whatever is scaring me from starting even more<< Jaclyne--yes, it's scary to start a book, but don't worry about synopses at this point. Think about the story you want to tell, then sit down and start writing. You don't have to write a synopsis--or show anyone what you've done--until you're ready. Close the door to the world, and settle down with your story to see what happens. And good luck! MJP

    Reply
  75. << I'm scared is what I am, not just of rejections, but of finding out that I'm just plain borrrring and I haven't anything interesting to add to the publishing world! All I want to do is start a story and submitting plot lines or synopses or whatever is scaring me from starting even more<< Jaclyne--yes, it's scary to start a book, but don't worry about synopses at this point. Think about the story you want to tell, then sit down and start writing. You don't have to write a synopsis--or show anyone what you've done--until you're ready. Close the door to the world, and settle down with your story to see what happens. And good luck! MJP

    Reply

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