Just now I have 3 writing projects percolating around in my brain. One of them is in production, with lots of writers submitting stories for my new anthology, Canada: Brave New World. Exciting. You can tell I know what that book is about. [Click the title to see the details.]
Another idea is a story about the Loyalists who settled in Nova Scotia before Canada was even a country. I’ve written the first chapter in this one but I feel bogged down. That means I need to rethink it. So I’m busy researching and getting the time lines down in my brain. My other Loyalist book series starts during the revolutionary war but I wanted to start this one when the ships carrying Loyalists away from the conflagration in the thirteen colonies arrive in Nova Scotia. Trouble is I need to have the drama of the war in the book. Still thinking and reading and coming up with fab characters.
The third book in my head comes from my need to help other writers. I’ve been the recipient of loads of authors’ wisdom as I’ve travelled this road for real. All those writing conferences, author guest speakers, how-to articles, writing magazines, and in-person answers to my queries have helped me along the way. I really want to help others in the same way. The teacher in me is considering the best road to take with that. It may be a bit of a how-to book but the actual format is eluding me just now. Meanwhile, you can check out my past blog posts on this site or on my earlier ones. My journey is there for all to see. [https://elainecougler.wordpress.com/ and http://beadergirl.blogspot.com/search/label/Writing%20Travails]
So What is My Book About?
This is the most important question for this author to ask herself. We authors need to be bubbling over with enthusiasm about our new books in advance. The plot, the characters, the places we set all of that must all make us anxious to just get writing! If we as authors are emotionally involved that will come out in the writing and will be transferred to readers.
When I told the story in my second book of Lucy’s child falling into a deep hole, I cried as the words went from my typing fingers to the computer screen. The emotion I felt was utter sadness.
As Lucy watched, the earth slipped slowly away but soon began to go faster and faster. “Nooo!” she cried and sprang for the hole but the sergeant held her back. “Let me go,” she cried just as the whole side collapsed and all of them had to jump away. Sergeant Crawford held her against his chest so tightly that she couldn’t see, couldn’t move, but couldn’t help her child either. She struggled and struggled against him until his arms released her and she turned to look.
Earth flew in all directions as shovels dug and tossed, dug and tossed, and the women—Lucy and Nellie both—knelt side by side on the ground raking their bare hands back and forth over the ground and flinging the muck behind them in a desperate drive to open the hole again. But it was no use. Each time they had the hole dug down a short distance, the sides gave way and more earth tumbled in. There was no sound but the shovels scratching on stones, the ragged breathing of the men, and the low moaning sobs of Lucy, and now Nellie, beside her.
They worked and they sweated, not stopping a moment, until the sergeant stepped away from the others. Lucy glanced up but her bloodied hands went right on flinging gobs of earth and stones behind her. The other shovels stopped. And Nellie sat back. The silence was broken only by the soft plops of dirt hitting the ground behind Lucy. She blocked out the others from her thoughts. I must save him. I must, I must, I must. In her desolate world she heard only her own words as she dug and threw, over and over. Her boy’s life depended on her.
From somewhere far off the soft voice broke into her painful prison. Hands stilled her arms and she struggled against them. “Lucy.” A different voice, deeper, the tones ringed with sorrow. “Come away, Lucy.” He pulled her to her feet but she began to fall. Quickly Sergeant Crawford’s arm circled her and he held her to his chest. She dropped her head against him and gave up. [This happens early in The Loyalist’s Luck by Elaine Cougler]
I knew that if I was crying as I wrote this, my readers would be totally engaged as they read it. Their emotions would be awakened and they would feel for Lucy and her child as though they were in this situation themselves with their own child. And just so you know, when I looked this up to read again as I worked on this blog post, the tears came once more.
More Writing Ideas I Use
What is the protagonist’s secret? Develop the protagonist at the beginning. I personally like heroes/heroines who are upright and have characteristics I can admire. They must also have some foibles as perfect people are not realistic. We can identify with a character’s negative characteristics.
Give him/her a reason why he/she does a certain thing. You must know what this reason is even if you do not let your readers know for some time.
Stakes are crucial to your story. Why do I care? Why would anyone care? Readers need to be able to identify with the hero and also with the situation. I care because I can imagine what the hero’s problem would be like or I’ve even experienced it myself.
Develop an opening sentence that draws in the reader and ends with a bit of a hook. I still like the one I used for my second book. “Crossing the gray river seemed such a short journey, only a few hundred feet. But Lucinda Garner was fleeing from all she knew.”
And so we must know what our theme is, what our book is about. Once we know that, finding the plot details, the right characters, and the setting will come naturally and underline the central theme. It’s like picking the outfit we want to wear and emphasizing its attractions with the right chain, the perfect neck tie, the matching shoes.
So for each of those books I’m contemplating I will once again think about the points above. And I hope you will, too.