Dealing with Ideas:
I’m the kind of person who can’t wait to get done with my current project so that I can dive into the next one. Ideas for new stories shoot around in my head while I’m writing the story I've committed to. I’m usually so excited when I finish my work in progress, because I get to start a new project…except where to begin?
By the time I finish a book, I usually have anywhere from five to ten ideas jotted down on note cards and carefully stashed away in my idea box, but then I have to pick one to develop. I've discovered that picking more than one never works. I have to commit. But choosing that one idea can be a painful process. Then to complicate matters, some of my favorite stories are those in which the idea struck me just as I was ready to put my fingers to the keyboard--ideas I wrote about it without knowing where I was going. As a plotter, I found this disturbing. It smacked of lack of organization and forethought.
Something like this happened on my first two-book contract. I had some major revisions with book number one. Those revisions ate up a lot of the time that I needed to write my second book. I hurriedly wrote three chapters, following the synopsis like the good little plotter that I am, and sent it to my editor, knowing in my heart that it was not my best work. I figured I could fix it after my editor gave me some feedback, but a week later, I decided I needed to start that story over before my editor read it. So I began.
I started with the same hero, same heroine, same setting, but this time I opened the story with the heroine standing in the doorway of a bar, trying to determine if a man sitting at a table with his friends was the same guy in the old year book photo she held in her hand. I had no idea why she was doing this, but I wrote on, discovering things as I went.
Those three chapters were so much better than the first three I'd submitted, so I emailed my editor and asked her to kindly drop those chapters into the trash. New ones were coming. We were both much happier with the new chapters which had little to do with my original synopsis.
I still make and write from synopses, but in the past I'd thought that because I was a plotter, I needed to plot from the very beginning. The problem with preconceived notions--such as I’m a plotter and I must plot!---is that they’re hard to shake. I've finally realized that I do best when I write a chapter blind, as soon as I get an idea, and then plot the rest of the story.