~ By Nan Reinhardt

Not long ago, Husband and I were driving up to the lake and I was telling him about the event I’d attended the previous day. My chapter of Romance Writers of America sponsored a mini-conference with Bob Mayer, who presented hisWrite It Forward workshop. I still couldn’t find the words to describe all that I’d learned, but what came through loud and clear was how inspired I was by what Mayer had to say about writing and the process of writing.

As I was sharing, Husband asked me about my process, how do I start a new book? All books begin with an idea, as Mayer told us. That’s “the heart of your story.” For me, sometimes it’s an event in my life. That was the case with my most recent book.  The fun we had in a pub in Cork, Ireland when Son got to pull his own pint of Guinness inspired a scene that became my hero and heroine’s love story.

Sometimes it’s a film I’ve seen that sparks an idea that turns into a story. The seeds of my first novel were sown with one scene from a movie that I saw over thirty years ago. That one scene stayed with me and eventually ignited the creative process that became the novel that my agent signed me on.

The third novel came from one of my secondary characters who cried out for her own story, and the fourth started as a simple romance between two colleagues, but then turned into a story of suspense when a walk along the shores of Lake Michigan made me think about shipwrecks and lost treasure.

So as I was telling Husband about my process, I tried to think of an example and suddenly, here was the kernel of my next book. “What if…?” I said and proceeded to set up a situation. He immediately got into it, making suggestions, offering different paths to take, “Or how about if the heroine is…” and “What if she…?”  By the time we arrived at the cottage, I had the rough outline of my next story.

The creative embers that I’d deliberately banked for the last month and a half to work on the paying gigs flared into a small fire that is already filling my mind so quickly I’m overwhelmed with ideas. All through the weekend, I scratched notes on scraps of paper—words, characters, scenes, choices, movies or programs that I might want to check out, things I need to research—what Lani and Alastair at StoryWonk call discovery. Late Monday night, I sat down at my little netbook and at least got everything put into a Word doc instead of carrying around the bits of paper.

When we got ready to head back home yesterday, we stopped by the neighbors to say goodbye and one of the guys asked if  I was writing this week. I mentioned briefly that I’d had a new idea and was playing around with it, making notes, and figuring it out. He grinned and said, “See? That’s the difference between a writer and the rest of us. When you daydream, you write it down. I daydream all the time, but I never think to write it down.”

Well, maybe that’s not the whole difference, but it’s probably the beginning…

* How do your story ideas come to you? What starts your creative process? Leave a comment and let us know! *

Nan Reinhardt is a romance writer and an incurable romantic. She’s also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. She’s been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, has earned her living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. But writing is her first and most enduring passion. Rule Number One is her debut novel. Two other novels are currently with her agent, Maureen Walters, of Curtis Brown Literary Agency in New York. Like Jo March, she writes at night, after the work is done and her household is asleep. Talk to her at

6 thoughts on “Discovery”

  1. Jeff, thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience! How cool that you did a “what if” from noticing your neighbors’ habits and that turned into a novel! I wish you all the best with it!

  2. Nan, a lot of your processes resonate with many of my own.
    My 3rd complete novel ms. for example, was initially ‘born’ out of noticing that many of the elderly condo residents in a rather remote upscale complex … kept their garage doors open about one foot during hot & warm days.
    I got to thinking: This neighborhood would provide easy multiple targets for a small band of robbers with a young, slender boy in tow.
    And from that, I wrote about 137,000 words.

  3. Hey Cheryl, thanks for stopping by! My treasure story is on its way soon–as soon as I get done working on the paying gigs. Seems like they’re coming fast and furious…probably because I want to write!! 😉

  4. My ideas come to me in pretty much the same way, and it can happen anywhere, anytime. All I have to do is tuck a new idea away in my head and my brain works on it while I’m off doing other things. Eventually, it spits out the results.
    And now, my dear critique partner, when are you going to finish that shipwreck and treasure story??? I’m waiting for the next chapter!

  5. Hey Liz, thanks for stopping by! Your stories are so great, I think process is good word for how you create them. They’re beautifully told!

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