Guest Post by Kristan Higgins

When you come up with an idea for a novel, how do you envision it?
Generally, most of my books start with a one-line idea: what if you were left at the altar? What if your ex-fiancé was dating your sister? From there, the idea starts multiplying into scenes, almost like a cell dividing. Initially, I come up with what I call anchor scenes: pivotal scenes that are usually very funny or very sad (or both). Then I start building sections of the book around those scenes.

Secondary characters, time of year and setting also play a big role in forming the book. My books are never just about the hero and heroine, because I like to write realistic love stories. To that end, my characters have jobs and families, friends and community that play heavily into their lives and the blossoming love story. That’s another aspect I think about a lot—who are the other players, and how will their lives weave into the protagonists’? What do they show about the characters? How can they both gum up the works and smooth the way?

In some respects, I’m an insecure writer. Starting a book that will be 400+ pages long is a daunting task! To minimize the flailing I think every writer suffers, I like to outline…a lot. I start with the above, then work into a three-act synopsis, then go to a scene-by-scene outline. Of course, once I start writing the first draft, a lot changes, but the outline is a touchstone. Sometimes it holds up brilliantly; other times, it’s almost unrecognizable from the final product. Either way, it’s a necessary part of the process for me. Sometimes I have to wade through a lot of muck to get where I’m going; sometimes, it’s clear sailing. Obviously, I prefer the easier route, but I don’t always get a say. The story has tremendous power of its own, and sometimes it feels like I’m just along for the ride.