I thought I’d spend a few weeks on the blog talking about how I write a book. A lot of readers ask me how I come up with ideas, do research, edit, etc., etc., so I thought I’d break up my process into a few readable parts. Today’s topic is how I come up with an idea for a story.
Let me start by saying that I always have a few ideas rattling around in my head, tempting tidbits that, if I sat down and wrote them in sentence form, would become great story-starters. For example, I have an idea about a romance involving a preacher in the Old West. That one has been sitting in my head for about a year. I have a contemporary romantic suspense that takes place near Christmas vying for my attention, too. That one is also a year old. Plus, I have several other half-formulated plots written down on scraps of papers in my desk. Coming up with ideas is never hard for me.
The first step is to choose one of my ideas. Let’s go with my already-published book, The Pirate’s Bride. I wrote that book when Johnny Depp made pirates cool and romantic. What started it all was a prompt about “revenge being a dish best served cold.” The idea of a female pirate tantalized me. We always read about male pirates and damsels in distress; why not have a strong, female lead who gives her love interest a run for his money?
Voilà, the basic plot was born. In fact, I seriously considered making it fan-fiction with the POTC cast, but they didn’t fit. I kept picturing two French pirates, with their home base as New Orleans. So, I started my research. I found out when New Orleans was established, and what it looked like. I read articles and looked at Google Images.
Next, I looked up French pirates. The most well-known French buccaneer is Jean Lafitte, and he is whom I based Captain Andre Dubois upon, only Andre looks suspiciously like Johnny Depp in my mind. But Andre’s personality is all his own, coming out bit by bit the more I fleshed out the plot.
Along with that, I looked up materials and dyes that were used back in that time period, to make sure the clothing was accurate. And when Sophie becomes a pirate, I give her enough vanity to want a huge, feathered hat. She may be dressed like a man, but she still likes her hats. I even carry that trait in the book’s sequel, The Pirate Bride’s Holiday Masquerade, coming out this October 1st.
Next, I wanted to add French words to my book, to lend an air of realism. Unfortunately, I don’t know French, and my first draft of the book showed it. Luckily, I had some willing French readers on the Wattpad site who volunteered to give me the proper words, tenses, and spelling. Since no one criticized my use of French in the published version, I assume they were okay.
Of course, I also had to research pirate ships, right down to how many guns (cannons) they carried, to the types of helms that were used. I looked up nautical terms, like “bells,” as they refer to time. I researched the Caribbean, the island of Formosa (a pirate stronghold of the time), even Venezuela. My search history on my laptop would make you think I was planning a world tour! You name it, I researched it.
So, there you have it: my pre-writing process. I feel I could become even more organized, since many days I don’t accomplish as much as I’d like to. The procedure is fluid; I’m continually trying new methods of organization, until I find the one that helps the most. I just don’t want to become so systematic that I lose the thrill of putting a new idea to paper. If writing becomes like homework, the excitement is gone, and I don’t ever want to lose that. Creativity is what drives me daily, and I love waking up, knowing I will soon enter a world I crafted all on my own.
Next up in the process: writing the story. That will be a fun topic!
Got any questions about any of my books, or what I’m working on right now? Leave me a comment below. I promise to answer. Want to try out one of my pirate books? Click on the cover images.