I believe in less enlightened times we writers probably would all have been in trouble. You know what happened to women who heard voices in their heads and went around muttering to themselves.

So, how I write. First, I have a day job, and I find it concentrates the mind wonderfully. By the time I get home, refreshed from napping and/or reading on the metro, I am of course ready to sink into a slothful heap in front of the tv. But no. I must cook dinner and write. Dinner is optional. On a good night I’ll write ten pages. On a normal night I’ll do five. Or thereabouts. On the weekends I’ll do a lot more unless I actually have to do anything.

My secret? Many nice cups of tea. Solitude. I write at one end of the living room and I made a folding screen specifically to block out my nearest and dearest. I play music. It doesn’t stop anyone from reading aloud from the newspaper, asking me if I’ve bought groceries yet, or complaining about the state of the house, but it helps.

So how do I actually do it. Hmm. I don’t know. I’m afraid that if I analyze too much I’ll lose it. I don’t always enjoy writing, except for those euphoric moments when everything just flows and you realize hours have passed. Those moments of creativity are rather rare, I find, if you’re thinking of page counts and deadlines.

I usually start with an opening scene and go from there. Quite often it’s a journey or an arrival (oops. I didn’t realize I’d get extra points for originality). This opening scene is something I can see quite clearly in my mind. I’m usually fairly clear on where my characters will go initially and where they will end up and I work out the details as I go. I keep in my mind, or jot down somewhere, pivotal moments, and I’m usually aware of those well in advance. Those moments can be scenes, sentences, or an odd snippet of conversation, but they’re the bones of the plot.

I know we’re always talking about tortured heroes etc and they bore me to death, but I do think it’s important to write characters who have some pain in their past and show how they’re coping with it now. I’m not always sure of what that pain will be until I’m well into the book and start getting distracted by their backstory (and I love backstory and flashbacks. Bring them on). I also occasionally use a character questionnaire–one Diane Chamberlain hands out at her character-creation workshop is excellent–it’s short and it works for historical characters. I base my plots very loosely on the steps of the Hero’s Journey–that is, at some point I attempt to analyze what I’ve done as a reality check. I find Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict very hard to handle although I know some people swear by it.

And that’s about it.

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