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Process Questions

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message 1: by John (last edited Aug 26, 2010 07:56AM) (new)

John Cicero | 71 comments Mod
What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life?

What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel?

What is your writing routine?

message 2: by Brigid ✩ (new)

Brigid ✩ What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life?

The idea for Walking Shadow was a combination of two ideas––one about a girl who has strange dreams, can see ghosts, and is doomed to go insane and die; and one about a boy who sells his soul and now kills everything he touches. They started out as separate ideas, although I didn't have enough to work with for either story. So, I waited. Then one day, I'm sitting in English class, and we're reading Macbeth. I read the lines starting with "Life's but a walking shadow …" and they instantly stood out to me. I started to think about how my two ideas both fit the lines, in a way. The girl, Cassandra, is doomed to die at a young age and thus things that life is meaningless. The boy, Jason, is literally a "walking shadow", a ghost of his former self. I started to think that these two characters could help each other somehow, and that's how the idea for the novel started to blossom.

What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel?

As I mentioned above, in this case it started with the characters. Walking Shadow mostly consists of Cassandra and Jason's journey through the Underworld––and I didn't know, at first, that the Underworld would be such a large part of the plot. It's always different for me, though. I usually see the "world" before the characters. I write mostly fantasy and science fiction, so it usually starts when I see an altered version of our universe, and then I start to see the characters that are living in this world.

What is your writing routine?

I usually start with a rough outline. That is, I at least write down the basic premise of the story. Then I start writing. And as I go along, I add more to the outline so I can plan ahead. I don't have a specific writing routine, but I write whenever I have the chance. I'm still in high school plus I have a job, so I can usually squeeze in an hour or two of writing on weekdays. On weekends I like to write early in the morning. I never really know when/where I'll end up writing. Usually it's in my bed, while I'm watching TV, or at the kitchen table.

message 3: by Tracey (new)

Tracey Alley (traceya) For me with the Witchcraft Wars series it actually came out of debate some friends and I were having about whether or not two people with fundamentally different ideologies and principles could ever work together. As a joke I said I'd make it into a RPG setting and see what happened. We ended up role-playing a game around that idea and my imagination went the rest of the way and the Witchcraft Wars was born.

The essence of my novels revolves around the idea of divergent people working together for a greater good and also the question of how far would you go to save someone/thing you loved? But I owe a huge debt to that group of friends who got my 'little grey cells' ticking :)

message 4: by Ottilie (new)

Ottilie (ottilie_weber) | 131 comments What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life?
For End of the Line, I had a nightmare every couple of years since I was little and I really needed to get it out of my head. I had it my junior year of high school I believe and really could not consentrate during school so I got started on this very tale out of fusteration and sort out my ideas, which I did for a couple stories.

For Family Ties, I was home alone and really bored possibly a little hyper. Decided to hang on the stairs with my feet danging and the image of someone in chains came to mine. My family was from Germany and the idea just took off, sometimes it is beest to just let my mind ride out the over active imagination.

What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel?
Mmmmm, what came first the chicken or the egg? For me I guess they kind of come at the same time, part of my process is that the characters are really interwinned into the plot. The plot is mostly about my characters. I usually get more excited about the characters then the stories plots.

What is your writing routine?
Hahaha um wow, yeah routine...about that! I really wish I could say there is a method behind my madness, but nopes! Sometimes I write outlines, notes on them, just randomly write, write the end before I finish chapter one! I write morning, afternoon, and night. I dont think of writing as a job, but something fun to keep me sane.

message 5: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Dunbar | 66 comments John wrote: "What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life? ... What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel? ... What is your writing routine?"


My co-author, Heather Poinsett Dunbar, sparked the novel writing with a dream. I will give her a bit of a nudge so she can address that part of the question.

Well, she wrote a story based on that dream that was half urban fantasy and half historical fantasy. An agent advised her to focus on the historical fantasy elements, so she scrapped most of her novel and asked me to help her with what became our first two books.

I would say that original plot ideas and basic character sketches came first, but the story developed a life of its own, and soon both characters and story evolved as they flowed downriver on our stream of consciousness.

She and I will have creation sessions where I will verbalize a particular scene that I see in my head while she writes it down, though she sometimes offers word changes or other commentary. We will sometimes discuss a character's motivation for a scene, and sometimes that discussion changes what I see in my mind.

Once we have completed a scene or two, Heather types up what she has written and adds more dialog elements, setting, and description. Once we finish with the first pass of the entire manuscript, we revise, fill in gaps, add new scenes, correct continuity, and upgrade and re-arrange scenes as needed.

@Trace - Your fiction books sound pretty cool!


Christopher Dunbar

message 6: by Carolynn (new)

Carolynn (Molly.Groot) Evans  (molly_groot) | 38 comments Our 'middle grade' little witch book was born of a conversation that simply got out of hand... my husband and I co-wrote it, and it began one day at the park, watching our kids play. We tend to just sit and chatter, now that they are old enough to play without hovering parents. It is our version of cheap dates- It is *almost* childless time. ;)

A conversation about books in general and then writing, became something that demanded to be written. A character that insisted on being brought to literary life. Stubborn, our little witch.

As far as how we write? He worked graveyard for several years, and I adapted to his schedule. His job did not demand non-stop attention to work, so we'd write tidbits in and around his work, and email it back and forth. Much of that first book came about via email. The nuts and bolts of our writing style together is that this story is told in his voice, heavily edited and suggested by me. It was a great system, and the book largely seemed to simply appear.

It worked well for us, and to be honest, very little has been co-written since he was laid off. Now that he has a more traditional day job, we've not written together. Separately, yes- I have my non fiction project, and he has his own fantasy WIP, but not together. And the poor little witch has more warts to earn.

Now, I tend to write either first thing in the morning, once the house is quiet, or in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep. I'm still wishing to be on the graveyard shift!


message 7: by Rosa (new)

Rosa Sophia | 5 comments I love answering questions like these!! Here goes...

What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life?

A house. There is an old house right across the creek from where my mother lives, and I used to walk by and wonder who lived there. My mother and grandmother would tell me stories about the people who lived there when my mother was growing up. After that, it wasn't hard digging up history to make the plot for "Taking 1960."

What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel?

For me, it usually comes all at once. Generally, I "see" a scene in the book, or I see my character standing in the town, or the house, or the place where the story is set. With "Taking 1960," the house came first, the character second.

What is your writing routine?

I have none. I try to write as much as possible. Depending on my mood, I like to drink either coffee or have a few shots of whiskey before / while writing. :-) That's "brain juice"!

message 8: by Rosa (new)

Rosa Sophia | 5 comments Carolynn wrote: "Our 'middle grade' little witch book was born of a conversation that simply got out of hand... my husband and I co-wrote it, and it began one day at the park, watching our kids play. We tend to jus..."


Sounds fun! I tend to write better at night. I used to work the graveyard shift, myself. :-)

message 9: by Rosa (new)

Rosa Sophia | 5 comments Ottilie wrote: "What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life?
For End of the Line, I had a nightmare every couple of years since I was little and I really needed to get it ou..."

Ottilie ... You sound like me. :-p A lot of the stories I write are based off dreams or nightmares. I always say I do the best thinking when I'm sleeping. Hehe

message 10: by Delaney (last edited Dec 02, 2010 09:20AM) (new)

Delaney Diamond (delaney_diamond) John, you're always putting forth such great questions. I would love to read your answers to the questions you've asked in this thread. I hope you share your answers with us.

Below are my responses:

What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life?
My novel is a contemporary interracial romance. I read all kinds of romance novels, and I’m a big fan of the Harlequin Presents and Silhouette Desire lines. I wanted to create something similar, and I chose to have an African-American heroine. I enjoy reading reunion stories, and I get caught up in the drama of all the emotional baggage these people usually carry around. It’s always interesting to see how they find their HEA. I wanted to create a similar story.

What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel?
I start with the characters. Usually they’ll come to me, inspired by something I’ve read or seen. The story evolves from there.

What is your writing routine?
I set goals, and I have a great critique partner who I share them with. She shares hers with me, too, and we hold each other accountable. I don’t write every day, but when I’m working on a novel, I write at least five days a week. If I want to finish the novel in a month’s time, I divide the necessary word count by 22 days and the resulting number is my daily goal. If I miss a day or don’t get in all of my words, I make it up another day.
Delaney Diamond

message 11: by Ottilie (new)

Ottilie (ottilie_weber) | 131 comments Rosa wrote: "Ottilie wrote: "What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life?
For End of the Line, I had a nightmare every couple of years since I was little and I really nee..."

I really don't dream much to begin with, so when I do I tend to dwell on them when they are weird. It works though for writing

message 12: by Cerena (new)

Cerena Brown | 24 comments hello everyone

message 13: by Carolynn (new)

Carolynn (Molly.Groot) Evans  (molly_groot) | 38 comments In regards to dreaming, a NaNoWriMo from a few years back is based almost entirely on a recurring nightmare that I've had since I was a child. One day, it may be fit for consumption... but for the moment, it is just there, raw and emotional. I don't even consider it a WIP at this point. It is just there.

Interesting to hear about other people writing from dreams- or not, as the case may be. Interesting topic.


message 14: by Cerena (new)

Cerena Brown | 24 comments interesting topic

message 15: by Ottilie (new)

Ottilie (ottilie_weber) | 131 comments Carolynn yeah that was my problem, I had this dream every couple of years

message 16: by Tracey (new)

Tracey Alley (traceya) It's funny you should talk about dreaming because the next WIP, once I release Slade's Destiny, is actually based on a dream I had. It was quite amazing as it was almost like watching a movie where the whole story just unfolded, characters, everything and when I woke up I had to diagram it out - I think it'll make a great book even if it is a little out of my usual genre. Only time that's ever happened though

message 17: by Cerena (new)

Cerena Brown | 24 comments good morning

message 18: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Shimotakahara (lshimo) A few years ago, my grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and dementia, and I realized that I had very little time left to get to know her and gain insight into her strange behaviour. Throughout my life, she had been a cold, emotionally detached woman who never wanted to talk about the past and in particular my father’s childhood – this irked him to no end. I knew that her inability to connect with the family had to do with the way she’d been scarred by her marriage and my grandfather’s decline, which were in many ways tied to the exclusion and racism suffered by all Japanese-Canadians in the wake of World War Two.

I noticed that as my grandmother’s health declined, my father was becoming obsessively fascinated by his childhood memories. He would often confront my grandmother about painful incidents and try to jog her memory, so as to force her to provide some account of why their family had disintegrated. At the same time, he began visiting all the houses that he had inhabited as a child, and on a couple of occasions I was allowed to accompany him. When we visited the house on St. Clarens, the present owner of the house saw us taking pictures and invited us to come inside. The experience was very moving and inspirational for me – it provided a springboard for me to imagine the events and characters who come to life in my memoir, THE READING LIST: LITERATURE, LOVE, AND BACK AGAIN. More about my book and writing process at

message 19: by Tracey (new)

Tracey Alley (traceya) That's a really amazing story Leslie and one I can empathize with. I was never close to my maternal grandmother - she was a cold, abusive, hostile woman and I always wondered why. As I got older I understood her a little better but never got the chance to really know her. I think she felt slightly thwarted in her life, my grandfather was Scottish aristocracy but also a very bad alcoholic so the life she thought she was getting never materialized and she ended up with a very different, poverty stricken life instead and I think it made her very bitter.

I've often thought of writing her/their story but with so many of my aunts and uncles still alive who would probably be very hurt by the book I've held off. Might do it one day though.

message 20: by Jake (last edited Dec 04, 2010 06:31PM) (new)

Jake Wilson (jakewilson) | 3 comments Of course it's different with every book, sometimes (it seems) with every single sentence . . . but my latest book Chasing Rabbits was certainly an odd and exhausting experience.

Parts of the story are vaguely nonfiction -- as in, imagine imagining the past as if it had occurred in the pages of a novel, then writing it down -- but half the story takes place in footnotes, not only annotative but weaving a second and parallel (if fractured) narrative into the book. Because this second narrator is looking back on the bulk text from 5 years in the future, for me writing it was sort of like standing on a tall hill in the present: looking back, reliving and revising parts of the past, while simultaneously imagining (sometimes worst-case scenario) what the character of the story would become in the future.

Process and inspiration is a bit hard to pinpoint, especially with brevity. Sometimes I'd lock away writing for 12 hours straight, forgetting to eat, other times I'd pick it up 20 minutes here and there for quick edits/additions. The book ultimately went through an 8-month initial process and 3 revisions over the following year. Parts were inspired by everything from simple interactions in coffee shops, to real-life relationships and affairs, to trying to create the visceral feeling of imagery in great films, to infinity and beyond, etc.

If anyone wants more specifics I'd be glad to discuss.
J (

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

My YA fantasy series came as a result of my daughter asking me to write her a story. I was doing historical fiction at the time and when 2 hopeful contracts fell through, I had the time to devote to the switch.

I didn't know where to start and discovered - hidden in a folder of "OLD" story ideas as wrote as a kid (age 16 to be exact) the beginning of a fantasy. I had the map, the character names, even part of a first chapter. Only back then I called it "Shiloh". From that foundation, I branched out to what is now "ALLON".

Book 3 is scheduled for spring 2011 & book 4 a few months later in the summer. Book 3 preview and promotion will start on New Years Day :)

message 22: by Liz (last edited Dec 27, 2010 09:03AM) (new)

Liz Fichera (lizfichera) 1)What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life?
Answer: I'm fascinated by Native American legends and stories told in the American Southwest. My first novel CAPTIVE SPIRIT was about the Hohokam Indians, a tribe that vanished around 1500 AD and no one knows why. My current WIP deals with The Apache Kid. I feel that history hasn't given him a fair shake.

2)What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel?
Answer: It depends. For my current WIP, it's the character. Definitely.

3) What is your writing routine?
Answer: I write every day, usually all afternoon and into the evening, if I'm on a roll.

message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

New Year's day, 2006, I came across a TV documentary on the holy Spear of Destiny in Vienna, and the series of tests and scans that were run on it to determine its authenticity (or lack thereof). By the end of the evening I had the genesis of what became 'Maranatha', and its subsequent prequel/sequels.

Characters and storyline feed off each other, though generally I'll have the cast sorted out long before the plot is even half-way constructed. The labyrinthine, multi-layered storylines I come up with have to grow organically - I never simply run from A to B with a story.

Routine? What is routine? I write only when I have time and am not engaged in other creative projects, unfortunately, though weekends and late evenings tend to be the most common these days.

message 24: by Katie (new)

Katie | 11 comments What sparked the idea for your novel and how did you go about bringing it to life?

I’ve always been a fan of vampires and have read as many books about them as I could. When it came time for me to write my own, I wanted to try and take a slightly different approach. Most books gloss over the actual transition from human to vampire, but I wanted to really focus on that change. for I wanted to try and depict the actual hardship involved in the transition.

How could a regular person, who for all intents and purposes is “good," be able to kill another human being for sustenance? Would hunger alone do it? Many might just starve themselves at the idea. From there I had to ask what might motivate a person to finally make that kill? What would the bloodlust be like and how would that kill ultimately affect my main character?

For every question that came up, I found an answer and the scenes began to play out. Over time, Immortalis Carpe Noctem took shape and with it, the reader gets to experience Alyssa’s journey through the transition to this frightening new world, first hand.

What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel?

The idea came first, then the characters. Once I had the characters, they dictated the direction of the story.

What is your writing routine?

Grab a redbull and sit at the computer. I'm a bit of a pantser and just like to let the muse direct me. It's not always the easiest process, and often involves a lot of rewriting, but that's the only way I can do it.

message 25: by K. (new)

K. Dzr | 2 comments What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel?

For me, it depends on the story. For my epic fantasy Legends Born, I came up with the idea of the story first. It started as a comic book concept and quickly evolved into something bigger than thought bubbles and POW! Once I had the idea penciled in, I formed the characters and let them show me how the story would unfold. I like to think that I simply create the characters, place them in a situation and I just have to write down what happens.

For 'Mustard' the process was similar, except I came up with the character first, someone unique and flawed and fully developed long before I wrote a single word, then threw her into an impossible situation to see what she'd do. This one isn't quite finished yet, so I guess I'll have to wait and see if she makes it.

What is your writing routine?
That's a tricky question. I don't have a routine so much as I just write when it suits me. Sometimes I go months without touching it, sometimes I'll write and write and write until it's the next day and I'm about to be late to work. When I write though, I write in layers. First building the foundation, quickly jotting down what happens, then I go back and add the things that make the characters real: their feelings, thoughts, then the little details that make the environment real: the smells and sights and feels. Finally I go back and cut all the superfluous crap out. It's a lengthy process, but it seems to work for me.

message 26: by P.J. (new)

P.J. Johns (PJJohns) | 16 comments Hmmm, well, the idea for Liberator's Ruin came about during an idle writing session. I had the first 5,000 words, and realised there was a story there, so from that beginning, planned out the rest of the novel. I went through numerous changes before I had the final story.

What comes first? The character(s) or the idea for the novel?
The novel. Most of the time. It'll start with an idea, and the book is extrapolated from that. The characters also gestate whilst the book is being planned. This way, my mind has time to flesh them out by the time I start writing.

What is your writing routine?
That's a tough question. I don't have much of a routine at the moment, simply because I have to work a day job. I do most of my writing during my lunch break, and sometimes when I'm at home, if the mood strikes.
when I actually start working on a book, I do have a routine, building the structure of the plot, then planning the scenes by noting what happens, what certain characters say, etc. Then I write the book, and finally edit it, sometimes rearranging it if I'm not happy with how it flows.

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