I get this question a lot. I’m sure other writers do too, probably, but the wide variety of subject matter, themes, and settings I use in my stories probably prompt it quite a bit more often. Let’s face it, I write everything from sweet contemporary romance to sci-fi to BDSM erotica, to Stephen King-esque contemporary horror.
That’s quite a wide swath of territory to cover.
Sometimes it starts, ironically, with a title springing to mind.
Sometimes, as with “Love and Brimstone,” the characters knock on my mental door (or simply burst right through it).
Sometimes, as with the “Good Will Ghost Hunting” series, I see something else that gives me an idea and I run in my own direction with it until the characters take over.
And the characters ALWAYS take over. It’s inevitable. I never truly suffer from “writers block.” Sometimes the characters settle down for a little while and I have to wait them out. Sometimes, as happened with “The Reluctant Dom,” I have to stay with them and write the story until they’re ready to let my attention go.
That book took everything I had for several weeks, and it’s a rarity because it’s the first book in I don’t know how long that I actually wrote totally from start to finish instead of my normal jumping around style. It wouldn’t let me shove it back into its proper place in my mental queue after a few scenes or chapters, it demanded to be completed. It was emotionally draining and cathartic in many ways to write, but frankly, even though I love all the books I’ve written (and am in the process of writing) I have to admit it is my favorite even though I still sob when I read it. Which is amazing, because I wrote the thing, you’d think I’d be over it by now. *LOL*
I guess when people ask how I keep it all straight in my head, besides the mechanical logistics of the process (Supernotecard by Mindola software, NAYY) I LIVE with these stories and “people” in my head. I can keep track of the stories the way you can keep track of what your kids are doing or what you have going on at work. I just…can. I currently have several series I’m working on, and in my head (and to a certain extent in my computer) I have at least the rough plot points sketched out. I know what’s in store for Taz and Matthias all the way out to book seven (and a potential book eight) of the Brimstone series. I know exactly what’s going to happen to Will, Kal, Ryan, and Aidan in the first six books of the Good Will Ghost Hunting series. The next three books of the “Love Slave for Two” series are pretty much written in my head (I’m completing my edits on book two now so I can submit it to my publisher), and ditto the “Deep Space Mission Corps” series. I know the main story arc and next book of the “Triple Trouble” shape-shifter series (the first two are submitted and winding their way through the editing process right now).
Did I forget any? Oh, while not technically a “series,” I know what the next three follow-up books to “Cross Country Chaos” (with related characters) will be. And I have three series that are WIPs, mysteries, each with the first book either written or mostly written, one following a newspaper editor, one following a dive shop owner, one following a PI. Then I have some scattered individual manuscripts, either finished and needing serious rewrites before I consider submitting them, or in various stages of WIP-age.
I’ll admit that Ryan in the “Good Will Ghost Hunting” series and Tyler from “Love Slave for Two” sometimes get their names mixed up. *LOL* Because I really see those two men nearly identically, except for their eye colors. *LOL* So it’s not uncommon for me to bounce things off of the W’sBH(TM) and he’ll look at me and say, “Why is Tyler in Will’s universe?” *ROTF!* Then of course I say, “No, not Tyler, Ryan.” *LOL*
Gotta love that man! At least he usually knows what I mean.
The problem, I guess, isn’t how DID I think of THAT, but how do I NOT think of stories? Everything in my life that I experience or read or see or hear is potential fodder for an idea. Whether it’s a character or a situation or whatever. In some ways, that’s pretty cool. In some ways, it’s a blessing…and a curse. (Shout out to all you Adrian Monk fans!)
In one episode we watched last night, Adrian takes the Captain with him to a football game and the Captian asks Monk, “Don’t you have an off switch? Everyone has an off switch.”
No, we don’t. I don’t. I’d be willing to bet a lot of writers like me don’t have an “off” switch. I go to bed thinking about my stories, and wake up thinking about them. When I’m “wasting” time (ie time I can’t physically engage in the act of writing) I’m thinking about my stories and feeling a nearly physical compulsion to get back to the computer to write. (Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m addicted to writing and don’t you dare try to get me into rehab, either. *LOL* Don’t make me sing Amy Winehouse at you!)
To me, writing is like breathing. I just DO it. It’s automatic. Telling stories has always been part of my psyche. Breathing life into the voices in my head (haha!) is as natural to me as long division is to a math wiz. (And believe me, I am NO math wiz.)
So when people ask me how I think of “that,” it’s not a lie to say, “I just write what the voices in my head tell me to write.” *LOL* I “see” my stories in my head through my characters. I let them tell the story and I just get the hell out of their way and let them do their thing. The worst thing any writer can do is come up with a “plot” and force their characters to stick to that plot if they don’t want to. And I’d be willing to bet a lot of writers block comes from just that problem, when the writer says, “Do THIS!” and the characters stamp their feet and say, “NO!” *LOL* I’ve never gotten so blocked that I couldn’t write a story. Sometimes I need a break emotionally or I get “page blindness” and get tired of looking at a story, or the characters go quiet for a little while, or I have a contract deadline I have to meet so I need to let one drop lower in the mental queue, so I switch to another. But ever since I started adhering to the basic rule of “Let the Characters Tell the Story,” I’ve never, not once, gotten truly “blocked” to the point where I couldn’t continue writing the story.