"Don't Be 'a Writer.' Be Writing" - William Faulkner
Although I do have a home office, I don’t have a specific spot where I write. Whether it’s at my desk, on the sofa with a TV show in the background, or in bed when everyone else is asleep, I write wherever and whenever I can; which is the reason for notebooks.
A spiral notebook is portable and one has accompanied me everywhere from long vacations to day trips to the beach. I’ve brought them on cruises, airplanes, even to Disney World, because I never know when my characters will talk to me.
Start From the Very Beginning: Chapter One
Aside from pen and book, I do have a few other “must haves” to bring my stories to life. Every story that I’ve ever written has started with “Chapter One” on the first page. There have been times that I’ve changed it to “Prologue” during the course of development, and I’ve even backtracked and written a new “Chapter One” deciding that the story actually began earlier; but they all start out the same way.
"The Difference Between Something Good and Something Great is Attention to Detail" - Charles R. Swindoll
I write out a complete biography for all main characters that includes a physical description, birthday, education, job history, you name it. I’ve also drawn up family trees, when necessary (I never would have been able to keep up with the Sullivan clan in “Every Grain of Sand” without a family tree!). This habit dates way back to my teen years when I was reading a novel (can’t remember the name of it), but the author described a character’s “dreamy chocolate brown eyes”, when in the beginning of the book he had “bright blue eyes” that reminded her of the morning sky. Yeah, cheesy, I know. But that always stuck with me and I couldn’t believe the author didn’t remember the color of her main character’s eyes (or that editors didn’t catch that – and it was in the days before - long before - self-publishing!)
“Being a Reporter is As Much a Diagnosis as a Job Description” - Anna Quindlan
Another key ingredient for every story is research. If my characters are walking down the street in Paris, I want to know what they see, what they feel, what the weather is for that time of year. Whenever possible, I travel to the setting to really become one with the atmosphere; but sometimes that isn’t in the cards and I rely on the Internet. I’ve used it to research medical conditions (including the questionable medical procedures in The Strong Armed series). Perhaps it’s my background as a professional reporter, but I like to have the facts and not rely on poetic license. But, sometimes poetic license is needed to take the story in a whole new direction. And with my newest series, The Chosen, to be released this spring, I’ve had to let it go and accept that when writing in a supernatural genre, anything goes.
“To Get The True Value of Joy You Must Have Someone to Divide It With” - Mark Twain
The most recent addition to my list of “must haves” is a Swarovski crystal pen that my husband gave me as a gift two Christmases ago. It means a lot because, to me, it shows he values my work as a writer. Writers spend do much time writing, at the expense of a lot, and when those around you view it as more than a hobby, it’s important.
Of course, I’m not completely old school. The longhand version of my stories are my first drafts and a lot gets eliminated from paper to laptop. But I hold onto the ink-covered pages and always will, because they represent my original inspiration.