I recently started using a bullet journal to track my novel projects, book sales, web stats, and writing tools and information. A couple of weeks ago, I made a video showing the section that included my NaNoWriMo prep. That video has had quite a few views, so I thought I’d share the rest of my writing bullet journal. It offers a behind the scenes view to writing and being an author.
One of the most common questions asked of writers is, “Where do you get your story ideas?” Most authors I know answer this question with a shrug and say, “They come from everywhere.” Before I was a publishing writer, I hated that answer. Surely there was a better way to get ideas without waiting for the universe to present them.
In reality, they’re right; story ideas are everywhere. But finding them isn’t a matter of waiting for them to present themselves. Instead, it’s in noticing them because they’re always there. When asked where he got his ideas for his quirky characters and odd-ball situations, Carl Hiaasen said they were from the local newspaper. Stephan King said he got the idea for Mr. Mercedes after reading about someone driving their Mercedes into a crowded McDonalds. Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games fame got the idea for her series from reality TV. These authors where reading the newspaper, watching the news or reality TV and from that ideas formed.
My ideas come from unique places as well. I just figured out the idea for book three in a cozy series I’m working on while searching Google on the equivalents between fresh and ground nutmeg. I got hooked on the show Airplane Repo and knew I had to have a character that was an airplane repo man. Recently, I had an entire short story come to me in a dream, but I think the trigger was a Facebook question about romantic Christmas gifts.
Sometimes I already have a kernel of an idea or I know I need to come up with the next idea for a series, but I don’t have the important details needed to create a full-fledged story. For example, in the Valentine series, I know each book needs a murder mystery that takes place in Tess and Jack’s circle of acquaintances. Using my cast of characters, I pick one for each book and try to figure out a plot. The idea about who’s murdered and why often comes from things I see or read in the world. I linked Tess’ first engagement ring to the Hope Diamond right around the time it was revealed that the blue stone was first the French Blue. This was helpful because at the time, I didn’t have a compelling reason for the ring to be so valuable that the bad guys would seek it out and kill to have it.
In the second Valentine book, Old Flames Never Die, I was stuck on how to make the crime work until I saw an episode of a forensic show on ID TV. Thank goodness I saw it, because it was the idea that made the whole plot work.
The idea for book four of the Valentine series (‘Til Death Do Us Part), came from the fascination fans have in the love lives of celebrities, especially those who have great on-screen chemistry. Luckily, I’d mentioned a celebrity friend of Jack’s in the first book, so I had a way to use this idea.
I’m fascinated by the prohibition era and have an idea of a cozy series set during that period. Interestingly enough, that idea started as a romance featuring a different couple set in contemporary times. Over time, it has morphed from the influence of watching Miss Fisher and Boardwalk Empire.
While some ideas show up while you’re busy living your life, some arrive while you’re writing. I have an idea for a vampire story, but the unique details of my vampire world came from my research on Romanian folklore. That research also helped me create a character for a new cozy I’m working on who loves fairy tales and folklore.
The point is, that while stories are developed, that initial spark of idea often comes from unusual and unexpected places. The unique plot twists and turns in stories often come the same way. If you’re a writer, the trick is to recognize and remember these ideas. That’s where keeping a notebook or having a note taking app on your phone can help. After that, it’s about asking questions to see where the idea can lead so you can flesh it out into a story or fit it into a book you’re already working on.
I love talking about books and writing, so I thought it would be fun to start a little video blog discussion books, writing and life. The theme of this first episode of Read, Write, Live with Harte is “second chance at love,” and in it I share my all time favorite second chance at love book, tidbits on writing second chance at love stories, and give real life examples of people who took a second chance on love. I hope you enjoy it:
Mentioned in the show:
Persuasion by Jane Austen (book)
Persuasion by Jane Austen (movie)
Meant to Be by Jenna Harte
Disclosure: Affiliate links are used for the above items.
There is a writing adage to “Write what you know.” While this is faster and easier, it’s also limiting. If I wrote only what I knew, Tess would wear plain old undergarments instead of expensive French couture lingerie. Jack would drive an old Honda instead of a Tesla. The only thing that I know is chocolate.
The challenge of making things up when you write is being as accurate as possible. To that end, sometimes I need to do research. While research in school was tedious and boring, research for writing fiction can be very interesting. Here are a few cool things I’ve learned when doing research for my books:
- You can’t poison someone quickly with mistletoe, which is why Santa was stabbed in Death Under the Mistletoe.
- Stabbing someone in the mid-back on the side can still be fatal. I had to figure out where to stab someone in the back to avoid a fatal injury for Meant to Be: Southern Heat Book Two.
- Chocolate with nibs is yummy. Scharffen Berger’s chocolate with nibs makes an appearance in for Deadly Valentine.
- There’s such a thing as Moonpie Moonshine, although I haven’t been able to taste it yet. Moonshine shows up in Meant to Be: Southern Heat Book Two.
- I hate to fly (like Jack Valentine), but I learned how to fly a Cessna through a Youtube video for a new cozy mystery I’m writing.
- I have learned how to make a chocolate martini. You can find the recipe in ‘Til Death Do Us Part: A Valentine Mystery Book 4.
- I knew the French Blue eventually became the Hope Diamond, but learned that when the original stone was cut into the French Blue, there weren’t enough cuttings to make more jewelry. The French Blue shows up in With This Ring, I Thee Kill: A Valentine Mystery Book 3. I also take some liberties with the cuttings.
- The Grimms were disturbed brothers. I have a new character who likes fairy tales, so I’m reading Grimm’s’ stories and others.
- The southern accent is the most similar to the English of our forefathers than the accent in other parts of the U.S. I used this plus other cool stuff I learned about the southern accent in a free ebook How to Speak Southern.
- There’s a mystery surrounding the Confederate treasury and gold. I have been thinking of using it in a Delecoeur novella, but I might save it for something else.
- It’s legal to make beer and wine at home for personal consumption in Virginia, but not moonshine.
- Franklin County, Virginia is the “Capital of Moonshine.”
I’ll be on a romance writing panel with fellow authors Ellen Butler and Kelly Eadon at the Virginia Writers Club annual symposium. While romance doesn’t get much respect in the writing field, it’s the most popular genre fiction. Why? I think it’s because it’s loaded with emotion. But many might argue it’s sex, even though not all romances have, or even allude to, sex.
However, while many romance readers like intimate scenes, sometimes kinky ones even, they don’t want them just for sex sake. If that was the case, they’d read erotica or watch porn. Good love scenes in romance aren’t just there for the titillation; they serve a purpose to the plot and character development. Love scenes shouldn’t be written as a play-by-play of a technical manual: Touch here, insert there.
After studying my favorite romance authors, I’ve learned that what makes a great love scene isn’t so much the mechanics, as much as it is the emotions and sensuality. Some of the best love scenes in books don’t mention body parts hardly at all, and yet, they’re sexy and sensual.
Today, when I write love scenes, I start with the frame of mind of the characters. Are they making up? Are they feeling sad and lonely? Are they playful? Are they needing connection? In Worth the Risk (free novella with my newsletter subscription or membership in my street team), Max and Madeleine have several love scenes. The first is about discovery and finally giving in to the attraction. The second reveals deeper feelings, and yet, a fear of sharing them. The reunion scene is all about reconnecting and filling the void at the loss they felt when they separated. So not only are their bodies touching, caressing etc, but their minds are at work as well. We can feel the longing and the desire, which increases the sensuality of the mechanics. At least that’s now I see it.
With the release of Fifty Shades of Gray, we’ve seen the popularity of highly explicit romances rise. Having read a few of these, I find my concept of a good love scene holds true. Yes, these books show more sexy details, provide a greater diversity of positions, and use courser language, but ultimately, what makes them sexy and romantic is what’s going on in the characters’ heads and hearts, not just what’s happening between their bodies.
What do you think? What aspects do you like best about a great love scene?