by Gail Oust
Plotting would top my list of favorite things about the writing process. When I’m about to start a new book, a sense of excitement begins to bubble and brew deep inside me. Some experts insist there are only seven basic plots—overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, and rebirth. Others believe there are nine plots, and yet another is convinced there are twenty. The experts, however, agree that all books and stories are simply variations of a major premise. It’s my belief that every book, regardless of the genre, starts with the same two words: What if…? For example, my heroine goes jogging. What if…? She discovers a dead body under an azalea bush? What if…my heroine receives a frantic call from her ex-mother-in-law? The possibilities are endless, limited only by my imaginations.
Character development would come next. Do any of you remember playing with paper dolls as a young girl? That’s the mind set I use when introducing a character. I have a vague image of him or her in my brain, then I mentally try and discard different personas until the right one clicks into place. I consider physical appearance, personality, background, and values. On occasion I’ve modeled characters loosely based on people I know, those I’ve observed, or even various actors. “Loosely” being the key word. For me, characters simply refuse to come to life without an appropriate moniker. I sometimes refer to the baby name data base on the socialsecurity.gov website. I peruse the obituaries in our local weekly newspaper for unusual names or nicknames. Friends have also volunteered unique names of former teachers or acquaintances.
Coming in at number three would be seeing the artwork for the cover for the very first time. Usually my editor emails the initial sketch done by the publisher’s art department and asks for my comments. Before opening her attachment, I take a deep breath and cross my fingers. It never fails to give me a rush at realizing that page upon page of manuscript is well on its way to becoming an actual book.
Hitting the SEND button is also high on my list of favorite things. I always feel a tremendous surge of relief and sense of accomplishment when I send in a completed manuscript. I have a love/hate relationship with the word “deadline.” It’s an albatross around my neck, a storm cloud over my head, a nudge between my shoulder blades, but, I confess, without a deadline I’d never complete a book. I’m a dyed in the wool procrastinator, pure and simple. It’s all too easy for me to spend time on FaceBook, surfing the net, or checking the weather app. A deadline forces me to focus, to be self-disciplined and to make a strict writing schedule and stick to it. My reward? Hitting the SEND button on or before “D” day.
My final fave probably comes as no surprise. It’s holding my book in my hands for the first time. It’s like holding your longed-for first child, that first precious grandbaby. An intense sense of pride and joy washes over me that’s hard to describe. It’s been that way since day one. May that feeling never change.
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