The story comes first

When all else fails, remember the story comes first and your primary goal should always be to entertain.

What’s the hardest part of writing? For me, it’s research. Or, rather, knowing when to stop researching and start writing.  I research like I’m getting a PhD in a topic and then realize I have no story.

Lisa Gardner addresses this in her essays, Confessions of a Research Geek and Eight Ways Research Can Kill Your Novel. She has a ton of other articles about writing on her site, including an in-depth ten-part series called Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis (in pdf) and an eight-part series called Secrets of Romantic Suspense (also pdf). She says of her writing process:

I like to write first thing in the morning, armed with a giant mug of coffee and a cat to warm my lap. I’m always trying to get a certain number of scenes done each week. Sometimes that means writing a few hours a day. Sometimes that means writing ten hours a day. It depends on how fast the hamster is turning the wheel in my brain. I start with a general outline of each novel. The major plot points, key scenes, research that needs to be incorporated into the story, etc. I change a lot as I write, however, so the end novel may bear little resemblance to my starting idea. Sometimes characters take over. Sometimes I come up with a better idea for a plot point or a plot twist, so I reorient the story to make the new and improved concept work. It usually takes me six months to draft a novel, then three months to polish it to a point where I decide it’s not horrible.

Lisa Gardner’s latest book, Find Her, releases today.

find herTitle: Find Her

Author: Lisa Gardner

Publisher: Dutton

Excerpt:

Flora Dane is a victim.

Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Flora Dane is a survivor.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

Flora Dane is reckless.

. . . or is she? When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.

Buy on Amazon (affiliate link): Find Her

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