Where Do Ideas Come From?
January 22, 2019
River of Cattle and Mystery on the Pecos are published. I’m all set to start book three, Palo Duro Mustangs, I thought it would be the easiest of my trilogy to write. Three years ago I went to the West Texas Writing Academy and took a course on plotting. I eagerly pulled out the storyboard I’d done where book three was neatly laid out plot point by plot point, detail by detail, ready to scorch my keyboard with the speed of words pouring from my fingers like water raging over a waterfall. I’d have this book done in no time. Then, I read the plot.
Oh dear! That won’t work.
Oh my! Will would never act like that.
My goodness! Two Feathers would not do that. What was I thinking? Pure panic set in. I have no book three plotted. I’m doomed! I’m stuck! I CAN’T DO THIS!
I took a deep breath, settled down and started trying to think. I walked in circles. I chewed my fingernails. I ran my hands through my hair till it stood on end. Nothing! I really mean—nothing happened. No ideas magically popped into my head. So, I moaned, and I groaned, and I kicked things (not Quigley, of course.) This went on for weeks. Then I slowly I buried it. I reasoned I was thinking too hard. I just put it on the back shelf of my mind and decided to let it ferment for a while.
While it was fermenting, I proceeded to absorb myself in TV and chocolate. That is always a good way to solve problems. Then my old nemesis, guilt, raised his ugly head. You’re letting everyone down—your publisher, your family, your readers! Are you that thick-headed you can’t come up with a single idea? What’s the matter with you? Shape up! Pull yourself together! Get busy!!
Then I realized the story I plotted for Palo Duro Mustangs kept Will and Two Feathers the same young boys they were at the beginning of Mystery on the Pecos. I plotted book three before I wrote book two so, in my mind, the boys stayed the same. I knew what I wanted to happen in book two, but it wasn’t written yet. However, as I wrote book two, the boys grew and changed. They did not stay the same. I had to incorporate that change in my new plot.
With that perspective in mind, my thinking shifted. I stopped trying to make the plot fit a preconceived plan and started fresh. I had an instructor tell me one time that if you like something another author has done, whether it be a particular phrase, or a scene, or plot, strip it down to its bare bones, put your own spin on it and use it.
That’s what I did. I thought back over years of reading the westerns I love, and I created a plot that fits what Will and Two Feathers need to be in book three, Palo Duro Mustangs.
So, that’s one place ideas come from. They come from reading.