As a life-long, avid reader of everything from Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss to Stephen King, I always wondered how my favorite writers came up with ideas for their books. In my imagination, the writer always started with a blank page; the first exciting words would be written (through frantic scribbling or vigorous typing) as the ideas began to pour forth.
While I’m sure each writer has their own process, I realize now that few writers sit down, stare at a blank page, and begin to write a novel. In fact, all the books I’ve written took shape months before I put the first word to paper. My books started when an idea or a question lingered in my mind, returned again and again, and made me ask myself: What if so-and-so happened? What kind of person would do that? Has that ever happened before? What would they do next?
The seed of a story can come from almost anywhere: the evening news, an overheard conversation, or just a random observation of life. And when I find myself thinking through possible plot twists while waiting for the light to turn green or for the water to boil, I know the story had intrigued me enough to start outlining the idea to see if has legs, a body, and, most importantly, a heart to work with.
Then, when the idea has taken on a life of its own in my mind, I can sit down and begin to write.
Melinda Woodhall is the author of the page-turning Mercy Harbor Thriller series. She also writes women's contemporary fiction as M.M. Arvin..