Writing is a solitary endeavor. We sit alone with our computers, locked away from reality for hours on end crafting (and re-crafting, and tossing out, then crafting again) page-turning, award-winning prose. We instruct our children not to disturb us unless there's blood. We plead with our husbands to pick up pizza because we just need five more minutes (okay, forty-five minutes) to finish our chapter. We become experts at pushing people out of our writing world, at least I do.
On the other hand, anyone who has published a book can tell you that creating a saleable product takes an entire team of people working together. Editors, cover designers, marketing specialists, sales directors, retailers, and most important of all, readers. Out of necessity, professional authors learn how to allow numerous cooks into their kitchen during the production stage, but like a chef whipping up a batch of secret sauce, we tend to shut the door on outsiders while we're perfecting the recipe of our manuscript.
The control freak in me resists letting anyone else in on my creative process. I'm not one of those authors that have dozens of ideas floating around in their heads or stored in their filing cabinets. I'm a rather odd duck. I search for one viable idea then grab on with both hands, not letting go until the manuscript is finished. I'm very quick to throw ideas out and very slow to commit to the one. (Hmm… sounds like some romance heroes I know.) So brainstorming is hard for me. However, when tight deadlines offer little wiggle room, and my current creative well is running dangerously low, I don't have time to sit around and wait for a flash flood of creativity. I have to woman up and ask for help.
That's what happened to me with this latest novella. I had already completed the manuscript for the first book in the Ladies of Harper's Station series, No Other Will Do, and I needed to get rolling on the sequel novella.
|Worth the Wait $1.99 for Kindle.|
I knew the characters: Shopkeeper Victoria Adams – single mother and determined never to let a man close; Freighter Benjamin Porter – has delivered Tori's supplies to the women's colony for a year and sells their goods to outside vendors. He's determined to woo the shopkeeper into a partnership that goes beyond business.
I knew the starting plot point – Tori and Ben start up a new business delivering goods directly to area farmers and ranchers. They set out on a day-long run to drum up business for their new venture.
What I didn't know was what was going to happen on this trip to draw them together. Everything idea I had, I'd used before. I needed something fresh. Different. But I had nothing.
It also happened to be time for me to write a blog post for Inspired by Life and Fiction, a group Christian fiction blog I'm a part of, and I had nothing to write for that, either. Pitiful.
You know how your mama always told you that two wrongs don't make a right? Well, this time she was WRONG! I threw those two wrongs together and came up with something exactly right. I wrote a blog post asking readers to help me plot my next story. I gave them the bare bones of what I knew then begged them for help. The result was better than I could have hoped.
Comments poured in. So many ideas. Some I liked, some that weren't quite right, but all of them stirred my creative juices and got them flowing in new and exciting directions. Four in particular made a meaningful enough impact on me that by the end of the day, I pretty much had my entire story plotted.
Those four readers saved my bacon, and in appreciation, I dedicated my novella to them. Be sure to look for their names if you download a copy of Worth the Wait.
Readers have help me out before. One day we were chatting about character names on Facebook and one lady mentioned that she'd recently had a daughter and named her Charlotte because it was such a beautiful, old-fashioned name and suggested I consider it when naming my next heroine. I did, and a new Charlotte was born – Charlotte Atherton, my heroine from A Worthy Pursuit, the novel that won the ACFW Carol Award this past year.
|A Worthy Pursuit|
A year and a half ago, I had the honor of doing a book tour with my Dutch publisher in The Netherlands. So many of the readers there jokingly asked me to write a story with a Dutch hero. A few random ideas started percolating, and by the end of the trip, I had decided I would do just that. The Ladies of Harper's Station series alternates between two novels and two shorter novellas. The last novella, which I turned in a couple months ago, will feature that Dutch hero. In America, of course, coming to Harper's Station, TX. It took a little finagling to get him there, but I had already introduced a runaway mail order bride in the first book who was Irish, so it didn't take too long to piece together a way for these two immigrants to have known each other back east.
The best inspiration I receive from readers, though, are the notes they write. Hearing how my stories touched them, made them laugh, or helped them get through a hard time makes all the work worthwhile. Without readers, I would have no reason to write. So I look for ways to honor them whenever I can.
|No Other Will Do|
Question for you:
- If you were to give me a plot point to use in my next book, what would you suggest? The only parameter is that it must fit into a late 1800's time frame. Other than that, anything goes. Have fun! The crazier the better.
One lucky commenter will win an autographed copy of the book that started the Ladies of Harper's Station series – No Other Will Do. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
Men are optional. That's the credo Emma Chandler's suffragette aunts preached and why she started a successful women's colony in Harper's Station, Texas. But when an unknown assailant tries repeatedly to drive them out, Emma admits they might need a man after all. A man who can fight--and she knows just the one.
Malachi Shaw finally earned the respect he craved by becoming an explosives expert for the railroad. Yet when Emma's plea arrives, he bolts to Harper's Station to repay the girl who once saved his life. Only she's not a girl any longer. She's a woman with a mind of her own and a smile that makes a man imagine a future he doesn't deserve.
As the danger intensifies, old feelings grow and deepen, but Emma and Mal will need more than love to survive.
Christy Award finalist and winner of the ACFW Carol Award, National Reader's Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, CBA bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes Christian historical romance for Bethany House, believing the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.