February of course is the month that I travel to Wales. I stay at the comfortable Fishguard Bay Hotel and I spend the weekend teaching. Well, that’s what it’s called- and I do spend the weekend with a class of students all of whom have signed up to do my Advanced Romance Writing Course. Butevery year I have so much fun, with discussions, questions and answers, laughter, and so much enjoyment that the time just speeds past and I don’t feel as if I’m working even though the course is very intensive for the 3 days we’re there.
This year I added some new ideas to hope to make the discussions more interesting, new ways to look at similar topics like dialogue or emotion or the one that always seems to cause some difficulty – conflict. One of the discussions was on the actual process of writing and I had a presentation that included a couple of my favourite quotes that talk about that questions - the one that every writer gets asked (often more than once) at every stage of their careers. And the question is:
Where do you get your ideas from?
The answer? Well, here are two very successful writers’ commenting on that topic -
Good story ideas come from anywhere, and it's the writer's job to recognize them. - Stephen King
Waiting for inspiration is like standing at the airport waiting for a train Leigh Michaels
Because the truth is that ideas for stories can be found anywhere, a t any moment. If I’m asked this question, ‘where do you get your ideas?’ then my honest answer is 'Life' - I have often tried to persuade my accountant that life is a claimable expense for a novelist but sadly I haven't yet managed it.
So here are some of the tips and techniques I use when trying to come up with a new idea. Because, believe me, after 61 books, it can be difficult to think of something fresh and interesting - and something I want to write.
TRAINING YOURSELF AS A PLOTTER
Read Read Read – learn the plots that make successful romances in the past and in the present – and the ones that have failed
Think about them – which ones can you still use?
Which ones will need changing to make them work today?
How could you turn a plot on its head?
Have her kidnap her?
She wants the marriage of convenience?
Watch soaps/dramas/films – stop it halfway – or at the end of the episode – ask yourself:
Where is it going?
Who will end up with whom?
What conflict/problem/sudden revelation/black moment is the writer going to bring in?
How could you do it differently?
What twists could you bring in?
Who could they end up with instead?
What if . . .?
Read newspapers/magazines/watch people stories on TV – use them as your characters - see if you can see what will happen – check it against reality
How could you rework a fairy story – Cinderella? Beauty and the Beast? Or a classic ? Jane Eyre? Pride and Prejudice?
With every story you read, watch, hear - think about what was behind it, who is involved, why it happened - and consider what will happen next. Very soon just a phrase or even a name can spark you off.
I know. I once wrote a book (long ago) simply because I was determined to get into the story the line 'I don't know who the hell you are, but you're certainly not my wife!'
Stephen King is right - there are ideas for stories all around you - you just have to train yourself you lookand
then answer the question 'what if' or 'what next. . .'
Titles coming up for me are the reprinting of The Good Greek Wife in a 3 in 1 special collection titles Eligible Greeks: Sizzling Affairs.
My next full length novel will be A Question of Honour (or Honor!) published in M&B Modern and Harlequin Presents in June. The idea for that came from my own family history - but I'll tell you more about that nearer to publication time.