In response to questions regarding the creative process, this series of installments entitled "The Writer's Process" will invite the reader to follow me on a journey from the beginning to THE END of my current novel.

As a writer, the question I am most often asked is where I find story ideas.

Maybe it’s a genetic anomaly or some odd gearing as a result of my upbringing, but I have to confess that I have never experienced a shortage of ideas. They are everywhere, in the people I meet, the situations I encounter and the places I see.

The difficulty has never been in garnering ideas. Rather, my greatest challenge lies in sifting and sorting, allowing the chaff to fall from the wheat, so to speak. A writer must be able to separate and discard hundreds of seemingly worthy ideas and hold onto only those that are most unique, most original, and those which possess the strength of vision.

I’ve heard other writers say that they rarely work on only one book at any given time. Most novelists perform a literary juggling act, struggling to polish and market their latest finished manuscript while constructing their current story and simultaneously nurturing fledgling themes and concepts for their next work.

That’s certainly the method I’ve found myself following. In early February I completed the re-writes on my latest mystery. Since then I’ve been continuing to edit while initiating the arduous marketing process. At the same time, I’ve broken ground on the outline for my next book.

Throughout those long months of finishing the last book, as the tale spun itself into something roughly resembling a novel, each twist and turn sparked ideas for my next book. Most of those new ideas had no place in the current story, so I was able to shelve them for future reference.

A few of those ideas survived, possessing sufficient scope to hold my fancy while others did not. It is those ‘surviving’ notions that will lay down the groundwork of the new book.

For me, any new work springs first from a theme. Out of the general theme there will usually arise one or two characters who represent the concepts that I want to express. These characters shape-shift and grow in my mind until I am able to envision them in various circumstances. Then the writing process begins.

I am a fan of outlines, so long as they are not cast in stone. However, for me, every story really begins at the end….

That’s right, I said at the end. After all, the point of every story is to achieve that necessary climax, that resolution, to crescendo to that place of inevitability. In order for me to focus on the tale, I must know how it ends.

Once the ending is in place, I can begin to fashion a loose outline, the ragged path that will take me to that finale.

Naturally, once the process begins, it will trigger new ideas that will hopefully find their way into the next book. And so the creative process continues. This week I started writing the end of my current novel.

Wish me luck!
Donna Carrick, February 29, 2008

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