Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oh, Those Pesky Ideas!

by Janis Patterson

I am a pretty organized kind of person – where work is concerned, that is. We won’t talk about my housekeeping. With my books, however, I am very orderly. I try to write a fair number of words every day – though I don’t always make it every single day. (Life just gets in the way sometimes!) I keep to a schedule and respect deadlines. I have my books blocked out for the next eighteen months – a gothic romance, the first book of my new Rachel Petrie archaeological mysteries, a sweet older-heroine romance… It’s a nice, orderly system.

Except when it isn’t. Unfortunately, creativity has no respect for schedules and orderly systems.

I’ll explain. Last month The Husband and I took a trip to Las Vegas. We had won it some time ago and it had come down to use it or lose it, so of course we used it. We were put up in the Plaza, an older but nicely refurbished hotel/casino at the end of the Fremont Experience. That’s sort of an outdoor mall – it used to be one of the main downtown streets, but they closed it off, put an enormous canopy over it (way over it – 6 or 8 stories!) to keep the worst of that vicious Las Vegas sun off. I personally prefer the funky downtown Fremont Experience to the Strip.

When we left I had just finished the final edits on the new Flora Melkiot mystery – Murder in Death’s Waiting Room – and I had thought she was ready to be retired for a while. After all, I was already doing prep work on my new gothic and even had a couple of chapters written, then had started doing some early prep work on the first book about contract archaeologist Rachel Petrie. I also have two books ready to self-publish, and that takes a lot of work.

Except once in Vegas ideas began pelting me like summer hail in Texas – big and fast. Starchy, proper, elderly Flora and Las Vegas seemed made for each other. The entire story – motive, method, murderer, MacGuffins, clues (sorry – I couldn’t think of a word for clues beginning with ‘m’) – spooled through my head with terrifying cohesiveness. During our wandering around I wore a purse only big enough to hold my credit card, a hanky or two and my phone.

You know, that could be a writer’s vision of Hell – a great idea and no pencil or paper. However, I have adapted well to modern times, so while The Husband fiddled with the slots, I would sit and email ideas to myself on my phone.

It’s still a great idea, and I’ll probably write it just as soon as I finish this current, half-written gothic which has a hard deadline. And it works out well too, as my primary advisor for the Rachel Petrie series has to defend her PhD thesis this summer, so we’ve agreed to start over in the fall.

Schedules? How can they hope to stand up to inspiration?


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Glad you found inspiration in L.V. I ended up writing several stories set in Vegas when we were there.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Funny where ideas come from and how/when/where we find inspiration isn't it.
Great post!
Good luck and God's blessings.

Steven Kuehn said...

Very interesting post, one I can definitely relate to. My pockets are always full of scraps of papers, notes to myself with ideas for characters, possible scenes, descriptions, etc. The problem is trying to decipher these rushed scribbles later on, when I'm actually in my office. And inevitably some of them are lost in the laundry, transformed into little wads of mushed, blank paper. I think it just goes to show that even with our dedication to organization, creative writers can be struck by inspiration anywhere, anytime. So, beware and always have a pen and paper handy!
Intrigued by your forthcoming Rachel Petrie mystery series, and one I will definitely check out. I can't get enough archaeology-based mysteries.
Thank you!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Great post! Las Vegas and all the people are a wealth of ideas.

Susan said...

Jacqueline, isn't Las Vegas a fun town? Such a wealth of inspiration there. Funny how The Husband and I don't gamble (though we did tote up a loss of about $10 on the penny slots - not bad for four days' entertainment) and drink sparingly and still we had a marvelous time!

Pam, that's why I can't understand why some people are incredulous at how we writers get our ideas. There are ideas everywhere - though Las Vegas does seem to produce more than its share. Thanks for commenting.

Steven, I had my share of indecipherable notes and mushed up wet pieces of paper - that's why I now send myself emails though typing on my phone is tiresome. And if you like archaeological mysteries, may I suggest you check out my newest release - A KILLING AT EL KAB - The Husband and I actually got to stay at a dig house in Egypt to research it. If the gods of publishing are in a good mood, the first Rachel Petrie book should come out around the end of the year.

Marilyn, thanks for the comment and for stopping by. I agree Las Vegas is a great place - both for ideas and for fun.

Susan, AKA Janis

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm not as organized as I would like. And yes, when inspiration strikes, it's hard for me to remember unless I write it down somewhere!

Linda Thorne said...

I'm afraid I'd be on a black jack table playing cards. I doubt I'd be inspired to write in Vegas. I have had the same thing happen to me though, and it's interesting how a story can come out of no where, ideas piling up on themselves.