While it's been a busy time while in Tucson, that doesn't mean writing isn't on my mind. I keep looking (fruitlessly) for a quote I saw when the Portland Art Museum had a Claude Monet show. The gist was that a neighbor saw Monet sitting in a lawn chair and said-- I see you're not working today. Monet said, no, he was very much working. Later when the neighbor observed him painting, he said, now you are working. Monet said, no, now I'm not.
And that's how a lot of writing is-- the ideas germinate and grow until they are ready to be put down on paper or a computer. I take an idea, in my head, so far down that road and then think, nah, doesn't work because of this or that. I go back to the start, in my head, and try a new direction. Ideas I might try come from many sources-- on the wind, from other people, something in the paper, a discussion, a walk, and maybe the muse standing by wondering how long it'll take to get through to me where I really need to go with this.
For me, as a story comes, it will be in stages. I cannot describe how someone who writes a mystery, sci-fi, or fantasy would progress, but I can give an idea of how my romances do.
Some examples of ideas that I might use would be from the newspaper like the recent tragedy of firefighters being lured to a fire as an ambush, the embassy attack in Libya, a tsunami, big forest fire, political intrigue, etc. There are some stories I wouldn't touch because they hit too close to home, have too much emotional angst attached for me personally like school shootings. When I do find an event intriguing, it won't be it exactly but more the energy of what happened set into some other place and time.
Where it comes to writing romances, the lovers are at the core, the center, the heart. And it's not just one of them but both. Who are they? What are their problems? Why would they be attracted? What keeps them apart? And those obstacles, do they seem believable that they can be overcome-- and if so, how would that happen?
Writing a full length book takes months-- even years. To spend that long, even with fictional characters, I have to like them-- both of them. If I find either weak, mean, detestable, stupid, ridiculous, what are the odds readers will see it otherwise? I have to believe these characters feel real, could exist somewhere-- although none of my hero or heroines have ever been written using people I knew personally.
There are a ton of ideas (ideas are never in short supply) which will be discarded during this ruminating period. They might seem unrealistic or go nowhere. Maybe they never give me a theme. I like to write books that have an underlying structure and theme that goes somewhere. The novella had less responsibility that way as it was more of slice of life. Novels though are stories with meaning. It's not just interesting events that seem unconnected but that in the end, they will be connected-- that's the nirvana of writing.
I've had a lot of dreams that are full movie version, plots, characters, the works but they aren't in an historic period that I want to research, or I just cannot see where they could develop beyond what I saw. I always write those kinds of dreams down in a journal as you never when maybe sometime.
When I start, it's generally with a few thousand words just to see if it has the feel of something I could take all the way. Then I think more on what I have and where it's going. Perhaps an idea requires more research like say a mystical element where I need to know more about how such a thing has impacted others. Once in awhile I have thrown in a mystical element that I don't explain or try to make logical. For those bothered by such, I just want to say-- life does that all the time.
Right now with the business of getting this house ready for the vacation renters, my free-time thinking has been aimed at my second Arizona historical which had been what I thought I'd totally write while here and instead the energy went into A Montana Christmas, the novella that followed up on From Here to There.
The historical western though has not been forgotten as I do some further research and get more ideas from hikes around the valley. Its theme is coming clear to me. I was happy to find a topographical map of this region from 1904 which isn't quite what I wanted with my story set in 1886 but probably not wildly off. Understanding roads is always important in historical books as what we can do today isn't always what was possible back then.
Photos: Harris' hawks at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where they do raptor shows twice a day as viewers watch, learn more about the birds and habitat they require. Quail in our backyard here (a hawk's idea of a great lunch). Finally one of Tucson's wonderful December sunsets.