by Mindy Obenhaus
In the beginning…
Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place…
No, no, no.
How about this? I’m writing a new book. I have a hero and heroine and a three-paragraph blurb. How do I turn that into a 200+ page book?
Every writer has their own process. Mine has changed over time. Multi-book contracts have forced this pantser to become a plotter.
I wrote the blurb for this book two and half years ago when I first proposed my Rocky Mountain Heroes series to Love Inspired Books. Now it’s time to write the proposal for this final book in the series. That means it's time to figure this story out.
Theme and Scripture – The first thing I try to come up with in any story is a theme and scripture passage. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Often, there are things that don’t come to me until I’m almost finished with the book. Or, I choose something only to have it change by the end. That’s okay. At this point, all I’m looking for is a general guide.
Goals and Motivation – Next, it’s on to my hero and heroine. I need to know what their story goals are. What is it they want when the story opens? Why? What’s their motivation? Actually, these things are in my original blurb, but now I have to develop them.
Stakes – Hand-in-hand with their story goals are the stakes. What will happen if they don’t achieve their goal? Example: In my April 2019 release, the hero wants his soon-to-be-open rodeo school to be a success. Why? So he can use it as an avenue to help troubled kids. But what if it isn’t a success? Then he loses his life savings that he sank into the school. What’s at stake drives the goal.
Greatest Dream – Okay, once I’ve got all of that figured out, I need to determine their greatest dream. What does their heart long for? Love? Acceptance? A family? This is more than just a job or a promotion, we’re talking about their heart’s desire. Something they’ve, possibly, never told another soul.
Greatest Fear – Finally, I need to know their greatest fear. No, not spiders or snakes. Well, unless you’re writing an Indiana-Jones-type story, then snakes will work.
In my book, Falling for the Hometown Hero, the hero’s greatest fear is coming face-to-face with the families of the men who were with him the night he was driving their Humvee and hit a trip wire. The blast killed his four buddies and he believes the families will blame him for their deaths just the way he blames himself.
Fear is a great motivator and will cause us to do/prevent us from doing a lot of things.
Now that I have all of this information, I have to come up with a plot that will put my characters in situations that will challenge their goals, up the stakes and cause them to question their dreams and face their fears.
Some writers go straight to the synopsis. Me, I use a plotting chart. A writer friend turned me onto this a number of years ago and it’s helped me discover that this pantser really can plot.
Basically, it’s a chart with chapter numbers in one column and a box for the hero and heroine’s POV for each chapter. There, I’ll write a brief thought on what happens in the scene and the POV character’s GMC. Or I’ll have snippets of conversations. I give myself permission to write here. Sometimes the entire scene. Whatever pops into my head gets typed in. Something that appeases the pantser in me.
Once all or most of the scenes are filled in on my chart, then it’s onto the synopsis. I cut and paste everything from my chart then delete, add… Basically pretty things up until the synopsis sounds like an actual story.
Finally, it’s on to the chapters. And, because each scene is already plotted, I can write the book much faster. And when we’re talking deadlines, faster is always better.
There you have it, a glimpse into the steps this writer goes through at the beginning of each and every book. Now it’s your turn. How do you get started on a new book? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do deadlines affect your process? Readers, have you ever closed a book and thought you might like to write a story, but didn't know where to start? Remember, you'll never know until you give it a try.
Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com