One day in the summer of ’09 I had a dream. When I woke, all I could remember was a scene. Someone is in a perfectly normal kitchen and fairies start spilling out from the cupboards and such. The image amused me; I thought, I could make a story out of that.
Then, in early September, it occurred to me that NaNoWriMo was on the horizon. I’d tried it a few times before, but never really got anywhere. But all of a sudden I realized: It’s September and I have a story idea.
There is no scene in The Sunshine Line where fairies pour out of kitchen cupboards, but nonetheless that is its origin. When I began to put the novel together, I started in the middle and worked my way outward.
Having so bare a concept to start with made my approach to planning a bit scattered. I had to figure out all the story elements. Basically, though, I said to myself, “What if fairies are real? What if some people know about it? What would happen if some variable of the arrangement was forcibly changed?”
So I put together some basic character roles and then got down to getting to know the characters. For this process I borrowed some of the ideas from the Snowflake Method.
The Sunshine Line was my first book, so I was overly concerned that the novel have a variety of elements (sub-plots, red-herrings, etc) many of which fell by the wayside when I actually sat down to write. It was very much a learning experience. For instance, when writing The Sunshine Line there were 4 or 5 characters that never made it out of the planning stage. In the sequel, there were maybe two. And none in the third book. (I didn’t have extraneous characters in Help Wanted, but as I was writing a mostly true story from memory, it was a different sort of process.)
As for my plot, my outline… I started with a few ideas and added to them as things fell into place. I kept dozens of documents that described various ideas explored in the story. I believe I had roughly 11K words of notes before I started writing The Sunshine Line.
Now, having written several books (that will be published when they are ready), I’ve learned that writing the first draft is the easy part.