It was seven years ago this month that I sat down at the computer in our family room to see if I could write just one scene of a romance novel. I could, and that was such an exciting discovery that I just kept going. I spent two months fiddling with story ideas, and on Valentine's Day of 2001, I began the novel that would become my first published book, Finding Hope.
I had always been the go-to girl when anyone in my family needed a business letter written, and I pulled straight A's in college composition and even on my physics papers, which, while they might have been a little short on science, were beautifully written. But fiction? No, I had never tried that. When I finally did, I was stunned to discover how deliciously challenging it is to make up characters and situations and work out happily-ever-afters for them.
Seven years later, I continue to find the writing process amazing and mysterious. When people ask where my stories come from and how I put them together, I just smile and say it's magic. That's not me being coy--it's actually the best answer I've got. I may have a knack for writing romance stories, but if I don't understand my own thought processes, how can I explain them to anyone else?
I was thinking about all of that earlier this morning and remembering how, in the beginning, I assumed that just about anyone who could successfully mediate arguments between subjects and verbs was capable of writing a novel. Back then I gave little thought to storytelling, so it's something just short of miraculous that I sold my first completed manuscript without revisions. The next three complete manuscripts were soundly rejected by my editor, and it took me a while to realize why: the stories were weak. Just about everyone who has read my other novels says Finding Hope is still their favorite--but honestly, I wrote that book entirely by instinct. It was not remotely planned or plotted.
In general, writing--and by that I mean narrative and dialogue--is easy for me while storytelling--thinking up the characters, situations, and plots--is hard. I suspect that most romance writers would say the opposite. My friends' heads always seem to be crammed full of stories screaming to be told, while my head is like an empty barrel, the sides of which I must carefully scrape to get sufficient material for my next story.
How easy or difficult is it for you to come up with a story idea? Tell us in the comments.