The Heart of a Writer

After two weeks of driving and visiting, I’m back at my desk today. A highlight was lunch with old friends from Central Ohio Fiction Writers. It was a joy to catch up on everyone’s work, and share with people who love the craft! One topic of particular interest—approaches to starting a new book. Every writer is different.

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I’ve learned over the years that my process is iterative. I begin with the characters, a main one or two but usually an ensemble of people, almost always family members. i consider the main characters internal conflict and what we now call “issues.” I almost always have the setting in mind. I frequently envision a scene or two, often the beginning sometimes the end. I think “out loud” by brainstorming with friends if I’m lucky, but also by writing. I begin to write the scenes in my head, but writing them down makes the characters more real. Think a little; write a little.

That’s where I am at this moment. This is where I have to take the main character, and, since I plan a series, some of the secondary characters, and dig really deep. There are a number of schemes, forms, and techniques for doing that. I’m not married to one, but I have to get to know my hero and heroine in their marrow so I know what they have to change, how they have to suffer to do it, and how their journey’ s merge. I need to identify the specific points (what one author calls “the mirror moment”) when the individuals decide to change, and where those might fit in the story. If I haven’t already I have to know the end. During this phase I will continue to sketch scenes as they come to me. Think a lot; write a little.

Once the characters wrap themselves around my heart and I know a few key change points and the end, I sit down to write, write, write. I do not plan scene by scene, but periodically I take stock. It becomes a matter of meeting my words per day goal and just getting the story out. Write a lot; think a little.

Of course, that’s just the path to the first draft… So this week? Think a lot; write a little too. But first, coffee.

5 thoughts on “The Heart of a Writer

  1. Welcome home after your travels & thank you for sharing some ‘secrets’ of how you approach writing your stories!
    I love reading them & really feeling
    Involved in your characters’ lives!
    They are ‘so real’!
    Looking forward to this next book!


  2. Caroline, I enjoyed reading how you are beginning a series. I am beginning a new series, too, and am buried in research (12th century Scotland) but it’s the characters that intrigue me, the characters that dictate the title of the first book and the cover. (I usually write to the cover so it comes early). Like you, I build the story (and the series) around the characters. Ah, but it is a laborious process, isn’t it?


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Caroline Warfield, Author

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