March 07, 2013

For Writers: Starting A New Book

Every time I start a new novel I buy a new journal, or several journals. I fill it with thoughts and pictures. I write and scribble, cut and paste, ponder and sketch.

I’m starting a novel this week, diving head first into my zany imagination. I’m letting my mind travel around and about, hoping to find creativity in the clouds, crocuses, and Haagen Dazs.

Here are photos of pictures I’ve glued into my ┬ájournal and a few photos I’ve taken that are making me ask questions about my character and the plot…

Mosaics. Broken pieces turned into something lovely An artist? Tortured soul? Happy creator? Why does she like to create? Is her art dark and depressing? Joyful? What is her spirit like? What is she made of when she's all put together?

I'm thinking about flowers. I do love flowers...has anyone ever given her flowers? Does a particular type of flower give her nightmares? Does the scent of honeysuckle make her sick? Does a pink rose bring her back to a cruel time? Do daffodils bring a smile or a laugh? Has she ever smashed flowers with her feet while crying? Why?

Mosaic Man. What can you do with old things to make them pretty? Does my character feel pretty? Is she pretty? Is she tired and frumpy? Why? Does she feel ugly inside, and therefore her actions are not always appropriate? Has anyone ever told her she's pretty? Is being pretty important to her? Is character more important?

Garden Art? Have I done that already? I think Stevie in SUCH A PRETTY FACE had a cool garden, better not repeat it. Must be careful of that...


Nature? Does she love it, fear it, always in it, never in it? Does nature make her think too hard? Does the quiet unnerve her? Does she feel small in the face of a mountain? Or in awe? Does nature make her feel fulfilled or lost?


Where will she live? City or small town? Will she hide in either place? If so, why is she hiding? What will she do when she gets there? How will she fit in? Is fitting in important to her? Has she ever felt like she fit in? Is she broke?


Birds. I like birds. Will they be in the book? Types? Migratory patterns? Wings? How is my character like a bird, or not? Will she spread her wings? Are her wings broken and how? If she could choose her own wings, what would they look like? Rainbow colored? Glittering? Black and broken?


Fishing. Drift Boats. do I work that in? Is fishing a part of her life? Why? Who taught her? Is that person still alive? What was that relationship like?




What are my character's challenges and future roadblocks? What has ripped her apart? What did she do that she regrets? What does she look forward to? Is there anything for her to look forward to? Is she grateful? Ambitious? Focused? Crazy?


Love the image here. Why do I love it? Don't know...I do like shutters, though. How will shutters figure into the book? Are there shutters in her home? Shutters on her heart? Was she hit with a broken piece of shutter when she was a kid? Did she, as an adult, whack someone with a broken shutter? Why?



I love watching leaves change. But I've used leaves and the seasons before as symbols...I need a new symbol.


Escaping down a new road? Why does she need to escape? Is escaping possible?

Will she make a new friend? Will the friend be true, or will she betray her? What does friendship look like to her? Does she have friends? IS SHE LONELY? Is she alone? Is she a loner or does she need people?

How will she find peace? Does she find peace? Is it possible for her to find peace? Should she settle for peace and a little mental chaos now and then? Should we all settle for that?


Flowers. Magic. Premonitions. Picnics. Stargazing. Death. Blood. (I told you my mind travels in strange ways!)

What is she afraid of? Does fear guide her decisions? Does she dare? Does rushing water scare her? Does she want to climb to the top of a mountain? Does she prefer being inside, in front of a fire?

What are the themes for the book? What am I really trying to say underneath it all? What does my character need to say?


Love the image here. Why do I love it? Maybe it's home. Imaginary homes for birds who talk. Bird families. Families. Broken families, loving families. What will she have? Will she have a family at all?

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2 Comments to “For Writers: Starting A New Book”

  1. You are a genius. I never once thought about doing something like this to develop characters. Thanks for this peek into your creative process.

  2. Julie Horner says:

    I am just in AWE of your writing and the way you develop your story/characters.


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Cathy Lamb
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