So, you want to write

by Elizabeth Thornton

So, you want to write. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

How do I start a story? Every novel is different in some ways, although I never start writing the actual novel until I have the characters clearly delineated and the plot worked out. I cover pages and pages and pages of paper working out the plot, taking this turn and then that. What if this happens . . . then following it to an end and saying, no, I don’t like that. Okay, what if . . . and so on. And I don’t start writing until I have the plot worked out to the very ending.

I do plan. I do outline. Yes, I do a lot of work before I start writing. But that is just my way. Not all writers follow the same patterns of writing.

Not that the final novel will follow the outline. The outline is organic and grows and mutates as the novel develops. Sometimes characters just don’t do what you want them to do. A character will say the oddest thing at the oddest time and . . . wham! The book takes a turn I hadn’t expected.

But the initial idea? Well, that’s also different fore very novel. I do a lot of reading in the area of history and biography. I read everything from journals, letters, autobiographies, court cases, trial transcripts – you name it, I read it. I watch a lot of movies (particularly old ones) and get ideas from scenes or characters. I love the movie Target with Gene Hackman. I loved the idea that as the protagonist in the movie he is a quiet, unassuming man, happily married and working as a car salesman. His son thinks he’s a joke – dull, boring, dead from the neck up. But when his wife is kidnapped when on a trip to Paris, Hackman and son go there to find her. And then the tables are turned. Turns out Dad was a CIA operative during the Cold War. Has the connections, the training . . . A variation of that character became the main character in Whisper His Name (April ’99) B under a quiet, gentle, unassuming surface, is someone else entirely. My mother always warned me about the quiet ones__

And because I’m an historical author, I know my history. I grew up in Britain and I still travel extensively in England to research my time period – Georgian and Regency England.

Now to Strangers at Dawn (Nov ’99): I was reading about a Scottish woman in the early 1800’s, Maggie Smith, who was put on trial for murdering her husband. But the body was never found and she was acquitted. That started me off on the Strangers at Dawn story. The trial is over and the woman does not want to be found. But someone wants to find her very badly.

My own feeling is that the best teacher is to read, read, and read — not just for pleasure, but to analyze how the books work. What is the setting? Outline the plot. Examine the overall structure of the plot. How does the writer introduce the characters? How is the conflict dealt with? Is there an intrigue as well as a romance? And also read in the areas that interest you. Read biographies of everyone and anyone. Real lives are rich sources for writers.

And write. Every day. You may want to keep a journal to record your interior journey – your thoughts, your hopes, your prayers, your dreams – think on paper. Learn to shut off that internal editor who says – “What a load of rubbish! How could you write that? – and learn to trust your creative impulses.

Two very helpful books about writing in general are The Screenwriter’s Workbook by Syd Field which, although for movies, I think you will find very helpful with regard to structure and pacing, and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler which deals with the mythic structure for writers. Kathryn Falk of Romantic Times has also written a book about Writing a Romance which has some very helpful sections.

Check your local library for titles. And you might also check the internet. There are several internet sites that deal with writing in general and writing romance in particular.