Starting From Scratch--Part I

Part One
Along with some of my Passionate Kisses boxed set sisters, I will be doing #HoNoMo in the month of July. That means HOliday NOvel in a MOnth. In my case, it's a novella not a full-length novel. In order to meet my deadline and not get backed up on my other projects, I need to write the entire first draft in July. I thought you might find it interesting to follow my progress. I will post an update when I have progress.

Speaking of serial killers...this one sits on my desk.
Not much in this world is both more terrifying and exciting than starting a new story from scratch. (Well…serial killers, spiders and clowns are more terrifying to me, but they’re not the point of this post.)

I have a Christmas novella to write in July for a boxed set (anthology) with nine other writers that comes out in October. All I have for it is the premise I’ve come up with: “A divorcing couple pretends to be happily married when they go home for Christmas.” I also know Francesca is the heroine and the title of her story is Christmas in Stilettos. (She was a minor character in Dancing in Stilettos, my novella that releases in late July if the sun, moon and stars align.)

That’s pretty much all I know. I am not a plotter. I am not a pantser (someone who writes by the “seat of her pants” without a plan). My process is somewhere in between and it ain’t pretty. Every time I sit down to write a new book, I think it’ll be easier, especially if I’m “just” writing a novella or short story. But it’s not. Every book is harder than the last one to write. Every new book convinces me that I’ve forgotten how to write and will never, ever, EVER figure it out again.
My messy process.
If I was a big drinker, I’d be swigging tequila about now. But I’m not. I am a chocolater—and chocolate does nothing for my creativity and only makes my bum bigger. But it does make me happy.  I’m eating a Linder ball as I type this.

Back to the point of this post… Starting a project from scratch. The first thing I do when starting a new story is jot down everything I know, everything that’s been flitting around my head. In this case, it’s not much. I know the heroine’s husband has been deployed in Afghanistan and they decided before he left to split up. I know they have twin toddlers. I don’t know where they’re going “home” for Christmas or why they have to pretend to be happily married.

In my files, I have a bunch of forms I’ve saved over the years from various plotting and character classes I’ve taken. I also have a bazillion books on plotting and characterization (because reading about writing is WAY easier and much more fun than actually writing the damn book). At this point in the process, I use Story Safari and Discovering Story Magic to start figuring out who my characters are. I can’t start writing until I know their basic GMC (goal, motivation, conflict). The problem for me is that I can’t figure out the characters until I’ve written some of the story. See my dilemma? My process is a mess!
The basket I carry my process in...

But it’s my process and I’ll cry if I want to.

The goal is to get to the point where I feel I must begin to write. Once I “see” that opening scene in my head, I’ll start. I’m not there yet, but I hope to be soon, because my calendar says: July—write draft of Christmas in Stilettos.

Anyway… that’s where I am right now. I spend a lot of time staring into space, thinking about my characters.  A lot of time walking my dog, ignoring my neighbors and thinking about my story.  One of these days—I hope!!!—I’ll be ready to start the actual writing because the clock is ticking.

What’s your process? I will love you forever if it’s messier than mine, because it will make me feel slightly superior.


  1. I am a plotter who has learned to embrace the pantser side of her :) I have to have a pretty good idea of my plot, characters, and general conflict when I start, but then I've also learned to take it in short increments and let each chapter unfold (have you read the writing book "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott? it's a good one). I've just started a new story too and am trying not to be overwhelmed by it!!

  2. Hey Allie! Oh, man. I wish your plotter-ness would rub off on me!!!! I have read Bird by Bird, but it's been awhile. Maybe I should pull it out and read it again. I just need to accept that my beginning process is a MESS and I can't force it. Dammit.