when work feels like play

September 06, 2018

Writers complain. A lot. Writing is hard, the business is hard, getting the words right is hard, making time to get it all done is hard. We’re supposed to be brainstorming and all we get is a light drizzle.

The remedy?

Hard work isn’t always hard.

One of the great joys of writing is the friends we make in the business. The most generous writing friend and mentor I know is the incomparable Debbie Macomber. She recently hosted lunch+brainstorming for me, Sheila Roberts, and Kate Breslin at her incredible waterfront retreat. Brainstorming our upcoming works with this crew is fun, but it’s also challenging, provocative, hilarious and ultimately inspiring.

I came away as I always do when this gang is in action–with ideas circling my head like air traffic over O’Hare, and a surge of energy to dive into a new project this fall.

Brainstorming a novel can take many paths. We know and trust each other, so the ideas flow freely. Here are a few notes for those interested in getting started.

Brainstorming Checklist:

  • An original and unique idea…or traditional subject matter with an unusual hook or twist.
  • Debbie’s key words :: RELEVANT. PROVOCATIVE. CREATIVE.
  • A story with mass appeal–something no reader can resist.
  • Specific details that set this story apart with color and depth.
  • Explain the idea so the reader can imagine the story unfolding.
  • Boil the pitch down to just a few sentences.
  • Archetypal characters and situations everyone can relate to, only larger than life.
  • A desire or goal on the part of the main character that is compelling, specific, intense, and hard to achieve.
  • Strong, clear opponent or opposing force more powerful than the main character. A real threat that could ultimately defeat her.
  • A deception of some sort. [Nearly every romantic comedy involves a deception–mistaken identity, character(s) pretending to be someone they’re not or misrepresenting themselves in some way…]
  • A vivid story world. A place readers want to go in their imagination.

Categories : books
  • This is a question more than a comment. I am currently reading the whole lakeshore chronicles series. I’ve just read Marrying Daisy Bellamy and noted that Olivia and Connor had a daughter named Zoe. However in Return to Willow Lake which I have just started there is a family tree and it has their child as a boy named Ethan. No mention of Zoe. Have I missed something. Love the books by the way.

    • Oh boy, no, you didn’t miss anything. I did! I made a change somewhere and lost a kid! My bad! Series can be challenging… so sorry. Maybe the publisher will let me correct it in future editions. Thanks for pointing it out!

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