Janet asked in the comments: Knowing that you are expected to produce several books a year must be quite daunting. How do you make sure you you are never stumped for a story idea? Do you maybe collect ideas for unwritten stories? Keep a file of newspaper and magazine clippings? Or maybe plan out a series of very brief outlines for future stories, then pick the one that is calling to you? Or maybe you don't even think about the next story until it is time to write it.
Well, Janet, here's the plain old truth.
Writing multiple books in a year can be daunting, only because you actually have to PRODUCE that volume of words. Really. And what makes it hard is that once you're published, you have so much more going on than the actual writing - or at least I do. I know some authors keep a low profile and at times I'll be honest I wish I did...but the truth is I love just about everything about this business with the exception of reading my contract (YAWN!).
But do I have trouble coming up with ideas?
It's very funny and I think it's just simply because after so many years writing my brain is now "trained" to see new ideas. I used to finish a manuscript and be worried I wouldn't find another idea and then I'd take a few days off and the ideas would start coming. Now...there's not enough hours in the day to write everything bouncing around in my brain.
But not all ideas will work, and sometimes part will work and another part you save for another story and set of characters. And I don't really keep an "ideas" file...though I do have spare synopses/proposals that I pull out as needed. For example, we did a brainstorming exercise in groups at a workshop I was at recently. I asked the two people I was with if I could then use our idea because I really really liked it. So I have those notes.
This really started after I sold Hired By The Cowboy to Harlequin and I'd been working on another ms (which has been buried on my hard drive ever since and that one day I really want to resurrect). I had ALWAYS had another Romance in the hopper in case I got rejected so I could send another one right away, lol. But then I sold and I had NOTHING when my editor said "What else have you got?" The book I'd been writing was not right for the Romance line and we both knew it.
So I came up with 3 proposals....two fairly detailed and one a little more sketchy.
Guess which one she picked?
Yep - the sketchy one. Which became Marriage at Circle M. And one of the other proposals became The Soldier's Homecoming, which is out in March.
Then I wrote Maggie and Nate's story because it is related to Hired and MCM and I didn't want to have more time between them.
And while I was waiting on that one, I wrote the first in a duet about an Italian brother and sister in Canada.
So here's case in point....for various reasons (all of which I happen to agree with), the Italian got put on the shelf for now and I was asked to write another cowboy. So....I still have the Italian's sister's story begging to be written, another book that's going to get a start in January and that pesky one from back in 2006 still sitting on my hard drive patiently waiting for its turn.
So like I said, coming up with the ideas isn't that hard...it's finding the time to get them all down in the midst of the business part of writing, families, and other parts of my life.
And to repeat myself again...I really do think it's a matter of practice. I'm definitely coming up with ideas and characters faster than I did when I started.
Hope that helps!