I received a few questions lately from a couple places. Thought I'd share the answers here. This is the first two questions.
Both, I think.
Way back at the start, first thing, I dream up my characters. I get a sense of the story I want to tell about them.
Then I write a 'plot outline' that says what happens.
Then I sit down to do the long, discursive, inefficient, stiff, stupid, misspelled, repetitive rough draft.
This 'plotting' is sketchy. Think of those three-line blurbs you get from the TV guide.
What the plot outline looks like:
Scene: The Bad Guys fire through the windows in Meeks Street and run away. Nobody gets hurt.
Scene: Annique and Grey go walking along the Dover Road. Something exciting happens.
Couple of scenes: Annique gets away from Grey and goes to England.
So first I have the Story in my head. 'Annique grows up. Annique must make a choice.'
Then I come up with a plot. The plot is the set of actions I use to tell that Story. The plot is how I pace the action and set it in logical sequences. The plot gives me a structure where problems get presented one-by-one and then solved one-by-one or stored up to get solved at the end.
Then, when I have a plot, I sit down and tell the Story inside the plot structure.
So I would 'plot' a set of scenes of Annique and Grey walking the Dover Road. I know this has to be an 'on stage' journey because the action is there to give me space to do Relationship Stuff. Also, I need to give the reader a sense of time and space passing.
I plot that, 'something exciting happens,' because the hero and heroine can't go all that distance all smooth and easy like a couple of UPS packages.
But I don't know that somebody takes a shot at Annique till I sit down to write the rough draft.
I don't go into the rough draft cold. Even while I'm writing along, I'll be using my leisure time when I'm washing the dishes and chopping onions to think about the scenes that lie ahead. I remind myself of the practical stuff I have to accomplish and the pacing needs. I shuffle possible places and characters back and forth in my head.
By the time I sit down to write the first rough draft of the scene, I have pictures and dialog. I can drop into the scene. I can go in there and throw words down.
But the rough draft continually tosses up stuff I didn't plan. I never saw it coming. Stuff that surprises the heck out of me.
2) Did the idea for THE SPYMASTER'S LADY arise from your love of the time period or did you research as you wrote?
I was familiar with the time and place. Writing gave me an excuse to learn even more.
I knew I wanted to write genre Romance in the Napoleonic time period.
(Such sexy clothes.)
What I love about this era . . .
This two or three decades when the Eighteenth Century turned into the Nineteenth is the great watershed in how people in the Western World think about human rights and freedoms, about the importance of the individual.
There is a tremendous philosophical battle going on in this period. When the Declaration of Independence says -- "We hold these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal." -- this is a New and Exciting Idea.