A Unusual Process?

January 16, 2021

When it comes to how writers write, their processes are as different and unique as their voices. Some authors are quite prolific, able to crank out book after book. Some map out their stories from start to finish and then methodically fill in the gaps. Others use popular formulas, beats, or tropes (e.g, friends to lovers or secret baby) as a framework on which to build their masterpieces.

I don’t do any of that. Yeah, I’m a rebel, breakin’ rules and making up names.

So what do I do? I start with something small, like an object, an idea, a conversation, and build outward from there. I imagine who saw/said/did the thing and why, and that gives me the basis for my characters. Then I imagine how others react, and that’s where I find relationships and conflicts.

For example: When driving the northeast extension of PA turnpike, I wondered what someone from out of state would think of the scenery and the tunnel through the mountain and the deer crossing signs with red noses. That was the seed for the storyline of Having Faith.

Another example: I was jamming out to Alice Cooper’s Poison, and started to imagine a story where a powerful alpha hero could be brought to his knees by a simple kiss. Hello, Faerie Godmother.

You get the idea. Crazy, right? But that’s how a new book starts for me. I don’t know what’s going to happen along the way, only that it will end with happiness.

The story begins when I sit down and type out a possible scene based on that one, totally random thing.

The next day, I re-read what I’ve written and try to envision what happens next, then jot that down and repeat the process. Over. And over. When I get stuck, I know something isn’t working and I’ve got to make some changes to the characters or the situations they get themselves into.  

As the story develops, so do the characters. They’re vague acquaintances at first, but eventually become “real” enough for me to picture them in my mind, hear their voices, feel what they feel, learn their mannerisms and behaviors. Each time I go back and re-read a section, I weave in more layers until everything “fits.” By the time a story makes it out to an editor, I’ve probably been over it a dozen times or more.

That takes serious time, especially since I’m not a fast writer. It doesn’t help that I tend to write & rewrite every sentence, every paragraph, multiple times.

But Abbie,” you may say, “how did you manage to put out so many books (like the Callaghans) so quickly?” Well, because I had the first 8 books written before I published Dangerous Secrets. All I had to do was make some edits to an already-written story to publish the next one. Believe me, it took me years to write that series. These last two years, nearly all of my published books have been brand new stories, so it’s taking longer to get them out there. To all of you out there waiting for the next [insert your personal preference here], please, be patient with me. I’m working on it, I promise.