Friday, August 12, 2016


Non-writer friends often ask me how I think up all the stuff in my books. I wish I knew. Bobby Terry tells people she gets her ideas from a small factory in Ohio. What really happens is our crazy brains conjure all these characters and situations. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

We’re not really insane, either. Well, most of us aren’t. I’m not naming names, but there are a few people on my Probably Certifiable List.

And there are those (lazy or stupid?) people who say, “I’ll feed you ideas, you write the book, and we’ll split the royalties.” Uh, no. So not happening. The idea is the easy part. In fact, I have more than I can list. Writing a cohesive book with a credible story line is the hard part.

I’m fortunate enough to have great critique partners who help me plot my books. I can plot by myself, of course, but an exchange of ideas spurs creativity. Even if I don’t like their suggestions, hearing them helps me formulate my own choices. And once I’m writing, they help steer me back on course.

Geri Foster at one of
our plotting retreats
Then comes the hard part. Some parts of writing become easier with each book. One part that does not is making basic plots fresh, giving a tried and true idea a new twist. People argue over how many basic plots there are. The number varies from nine to twenty-seven. Supposedly, any book is a variation of one of those basic plots. And the more books and author has written, the harder that new variation becomes. Yeah, bummer.

How to make my feisty, spunky heroine differ from those in my past books? How different is one handsome cowboy from another? You get the idea, right?

Handsome cowboy,
Spunky heroine

Hero and I used to joke about a favorite author who repeated her basic plots. We would say, “This one is plot A.” Or “This one is plot B.” The city and names varied, but little else. At the time, we had no notion of the difficulty of a fresh plot. And, hey, she sold a gazillion books and still is even though she’s passed away.

The main problem I encounter is that life keeps slapping me upside the head. Literally, if you count the fall I had the last week of July and a recent long bout of vertigo. You know there’re always the usual time-killers: dental appointments, doctor visits (or your prescriptions won’t be refilled), and all the errands and social stuff necessary to function--the other stuff that hinders everyone. Then there're the various social media we use to meet fans and promote our books.

Many people think that if you work from home, you can stop and do this or that because, after all, you don’t have a “real” job. Sigh. This is why Debbie Macomber has an office away from her home. If we stop writing, we lose our concentration, our “groove”, and have to reread the last portion we wrote to get back into the zone.  Fortunately, Hero understands this and accommodates my need to hibernate in my pink cave office. He even brings me an occasional cherry Dr Pepper.  

I try to vary settings and events so that my books appear fresh, even though they are always in my style and voice. With a few exceptions, they’re set primarily in Texas and they always end happily. They’re the same, but different. Each main character has a journey, both external and internal. The same, but different. I admit that after twenty-eight books, this isn't easy.

I’m sure you’ve heard that writers are either writing or thinking about writing. It’s true. We can’t help ourselves.  But, I have the best job in the world! Thank you if you've bought my books so I can keep on writing.

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1 comment:

GiniRifkin said...

Hi Caroline: Enjoyed your post, it really reflected many facets of my life too. The challenges are great, the rewards greater, and I have such gratitude for being given the opportunity to write.

Hope you are feeling better, Have had bouts of dizzy, not vertigo, but can empathize with that situation. No fun and hang onto the wall.

Take care
gini Rifkin