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Evolution of an Idea

I’m still working on the idea for Leo’s Story. Remember? This is the book attached to the anthology, The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor. Leo is the duke’s illegitimate son and this will be the last book in the series and probably the last about Welbourne Manor. I’ve talked about this story before at Risky Regencies when I blogged about Where Do You Get Your Ideas and here in Hooks. I worked on it a little more here in my blog about Heroines.

Those blogs really involved the genesis of a story idea, the places where you begin. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on The Plot, what really happens in the story. But plots rarely come to me fully formed. They need to evolve.

Some people work on plots by filling out charts or scene cards. I write a synopsis. It is something we authors have to do anyway, to sell our story ideas to the editor and to give her something to show others when planning the publication schedule. The synopsis is a brief summary of the book, hopefully showing all the elements that will make it a compelling story.

When I write a synopsis, I start out with a blurb of what the story is about, much like a TV Guide synopsis of a movie. After that I explain in detail who the hero is and what has happened to him up to this point, what his personality is like and what his conflicts are. Then I do the same for the heroine. Or I reverse the order- heroine first, hero second- whatever seems to work for that particular story. Then I might actually say, “The story begins with….” The plot follows.

This is where I flesh out my story idea. I figure out what happens and how the story will end. Not in a scene by scene, detailed way, but in an overall way. The problem is, this is also where I discover the…problems. I start writing and hit a snag…..

In Leo’s Story, the evolution of the story (tortured hero; heroine left at altar) has taken four turns. I don’t want to give the story away, but I do want to show the way stories evolve.

BrainstormingSynopsis 1: I’ve got the background down pat, but the story I’ve come up with lacks complexity. The story problem could be solved by a really good conversation between the hero and heroine. It also sounds like a bunch of other Regency Historicals I’ve read. Time to talk about it to my critique group, Helen and Julie.

(Parenthetical Note: I have two critique groups. The first, with Helen and Julie and Virginia, has been going on since I started writing. I met Julie in a Creative Writing class, and Helen and Virginia were friends I knew through my husband. They are all avid readers and lovers of books, although they may or may not be writing themselves, depending on what else is going on in their lives. The second group, with Lisa Dyson (see her New Voices entry!!) and Darlene Gardner, whose latest Superromance, That Runaway Summer, is out in October. This is my serious-about-a-writing-career group. Both groups are wonderful!)

Synopsis 2: Helen and Julie (Virginia couldn’t come that night) agreed my plot had problems so we brainstormed. What if this? What if that? Finally we come up with a really unique idea, totally different, different than any Regency romance any of us has read. This idea is outrageous! I return home and work on it, but I can’t figure out how to bring it from beginning to middle to end. There’s not enough happening, but, never fear! I’m scheduled to see Critique Group number two.

Synopsis 3:  Group 2 thinks the idea is too outrageous. My hero is too weak and too unheroic. I can’t have that! We brainstorm and make the hero stronger. We come up with a new idea. The hero is strong and the story problem is intensified so that it cannot be solved by a conversation.

I’m loving the idea, but I can’t think of enough action to give it an exciting fast pace. I just run out of ideas to flesh out the plot, but I’m going out to lunch with Mary Blayney and Elaine Fox and I’ve brainstormed with them before. Maybe they can help me.

Synopsis 4: I tell Elaine and Mary about Synopses 1, 2, and 3. We discuss the problems in each of them, then Mary and Elaine tell what they like about each of the versions. We start picking elements of each one. We figure out a way to give the story more action. I think I’ve got it this time!

Brainstorming is a fascinating process. Pieces of my friends’ ideas seem to swim around in my brain, not quite right for me, but somehow sparking the idea that does seem to work. It might ultimately be my idea, but it is one I couldn’t come up with on my own.

I'm_a_mammal!Today I work on writing Synopsis 4 — I already worked on it last night, which is why this blog is late–It may or may not be the final one. There could be a 5 or a 6. Undoubtedly as I write the book, things also will change.

Because things are always evolving……

What’s evolving in your life? What started as one thing and grew and changed and got better?

Don’t forget! I still have a contest on my website with a choice of prizes. Enter now.

15 Comments

  1. Wow – it takes a village lol. So much for the lonely writer. I think it’s fascinating how all the different interaction works.

    For myself I think it’s my involvement in the American Legion. My husband has always been a member but because of the many activities and through his leadership roles, I’ve been getting involved too any volunteering quite a bit. So what started out as just fun (still is) has evolved into what I feel is paying it forward.

    1. That’s a wonderful example, jeanne! How often is it that something we start out doing for fun becomes more meaningful. That’s terrific evolution!

      I am very lucky to have my “village” of friends. I often say that the real gift my writing has brought me is a world of friends (including my blog commenters!).

      Not every writer works this way. Many authors do much better slogging through the writing process alone – Nora Roberts, for one! Me, I love my “village!”

  2. One thing that is evolving is I keep hitting the TAB key by mistake!

    My life is going to be changing next year. I have been working since I was 15 even working full time while I was in college and taking classes at night (which was difficult to do back in the 1960’s). The only time I took off of work was from the time my first son was born in 1972 until my son born in 1974 was 3 months old.

    I’m facing a big change now as I just informed and got permission from my boss to cut back my hours at work from 40-50 hours per week to 22 1/2 hours per week starting in January. I started collecting Social Security this year and suddenly realized that working full time I only make $1200 more a year than working shorter hours and just 3 days per week.

    I’m excited about finally having time to do more baking and things around the house and my husband is thrilled that I won’t be working so hard (he’s a little younger than I am so he still has another year to work before he can collect his SS). I’m especially thrilled because I’ll finally have time to read at my leisure and not just 15 -20 minutes while I’m eating lunch at work!

    I’m sure it will take me a while to adjust next year but there are so many things that I kept saying I’d do when I had “free time” that I don’t think I’ll have time to get bored!

  3. You will come out with a wonderful story to share with us!
    Things evolving… well my nephew that I have been watching every weekday since he was 3 months old is just over 2 years old now… everyday we are trying new things. He is amazing at tossing a ball around, loves to color and dance… trying to start with alphabet and numbers… 😀

  4. First, I saw LOTR in movie form. Found other people who loved it as much as I do, online. Started writing bits about LOTR to share with said people. Made friends. Visited friends, all over the country. Edited short story about LOTR for one of those friends. Started writing to fill in gaps in the short story. Wrote more. Story is now around 250,000 words, and it isn’t done yet. Another friend suggested I write an Inspirational Harlequin Historical. Rejected. Couldn’t stop writing. Joined local RWA chapter. Kept writing, but not as sure of myself. Started a contemporary inspirational, but struggled with it. Counselor suggested I write a self-help book. Can’t turn off the brain. Books run my life, and I’m okay with that. My work pays for the books, and anything else that’s left over. 🙂

    1. Judy, your evolution reminds me so much of my own. What started as a personal interest evolved into a whole new life for myself, with new friends and new passions.

      What’s great is that we’re both still evolving. The trick is not to stop, not to give up. If we keep going who knows what we’ll turn into!

  5. Hi Diane, Thanks for that post, I found it *really* useful.

    I’ve just entered the New Voices competition with the first ch of a book I’d been working on for ages – and had eventually shelved because I just couldn’t sort it out. I dusted it down anyway, and had to dramatically reduce the word count of my first part (prologue) and I put it in anyway, hoping to learn something. Which I did! I realised that what I’d focused on was all wrong, because when I’d created the story, I started with the place – I am hugely inspired by place – and let that just take over. Then I did the plot, which I wrestled and wrestled with, and some rather flat characters evolved on their own! My main downfall.

    I find it really interesting that you only write a blurb sized summary of the plot, before creating your character, which you do in detail, and only then go on to a detailed plot. I think I might reapproach my story using your method. When do you decide on place/exact time period by the way?

    Will also mention while I’m here, that when doing some pre-comp research, I decided to go through about 30 M&B historicals from my shelf, read all the first chapters, and see which ones appealed & hooked me in, and try to work out why. My top first chapter was in Scandalising the Ton – characters are so intriguing, esp Lady Wexford, you SO want to find out her story, and I just think it’s fab to have a love scene in the first chapter. I remember when I read this book a couple of years ago, I couldn’t put it down! Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady was also in my top 5, another fab one. Rescue scenes are a bit of a weakness of mine, they get me loving a hero every time. I only have those two of your books, but shall definitely be on the look out for more. Thank you for the inspiration – and some fantastic reads!

    1. Wow, Sohia, thank YOU for those lovely comments about Scandalizing the Ton and Gallant Officer. (I did love writing that first chapter love scene! I mean, why would two strangers make love after first meeting?)

      I actually do a lot of thinking before I ever write that first blurb. And usually I start with characters. You can see some of the pre-synopsis phases by following the links about “Heroine” and “Hooks” in the blog.

      The exact time of my books is dictated by the years of the Regency and what is happening in history and, if it is a connected book, when the previous book took place. For Leo’s story, I have to go a bit out of the Regency, because he was too young to be a good hero when the anthology took place. The exact place, I suppose, is also dictated by history and the needs of the story. Mostly the story winds up in London! I use a map to decide exactly where the houses are and I know from research a bit about the areas of London I need to use.

      I usually have my characters and a bit of the plot before I think about setting, but that’s just me.

      All the writing you did may just be how you get into your story. If setting inspires you, write all about the setting. Just know that’s your way of discovering the story and the characters. Don’t think of it as your first chapter.

      In forming characters, by the way, I found the book Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon to be the most useful!

      Good luck in the New Voices contest!!

  6. Thanks for the great reply – I was wondering what book I could get to help me with characters so I shall certainly follow up your recommendation.

    London is a fantastic place to set stories. I worked there when I was in my late 20s (and my husband still does, coming home at weekends). I particularly love it around the Russell Square area – you can just imagine what it must have been like there in the Regency period.

    Thanks so much for your tips x

  7. I am very slowly digging through the mess that is my house. Some how we have ended up with 4 households worth if stuff and now I am trying to decide what we are keeping and which charities the rest of the stuff is going to. It doesn’t help that I have been buying books for years and since we were working on our house (gutting it and renovating) most ended up in boxes piles everywhere. Now the house is almost finished, bookcases are built and I am putting books away. Problem is, I have at least twice as many books as I have space for them. If I had more time to read, I could start getting rid of some. The whole process is going much slower than I had hoped.

    I want to see this lovely old Victorian farm house finished and finally set up with no stray piles of books or boxes to spoil things. You get used to living with a mess out of necessity and it sort of takes over.

  8. Evolution of a house!! There is nothing so disruptive to everything as renovations.

    As to giving things away. Do what is easiest. Give away the items in whatever way is easiest. And when I needed to get rid of books, I was ruthless. I asked myself if I was realistically going to read this book, if I hadn’t found time for it in a year.

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