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     Where do I get my ideas for my novels? Like any author, artist, musician, comedian, and all the rest, the ideas simply come from my own and others' experiences--with added twists and elaborations, of course. No, I am not a single, Black/Native American lawyer/priest woman with a homosexual lover who molested children and went to prison, but in the varied experiences that our all-knowing and all-wise God has decided to put me through, I have encountered many of these people, several times over. Granted, I've embellished on their stories a bit, but isn't that the fun part of it all?

     I have read and heard that the best way to get started writing a novel is to just start writing. I have found this to be true, but I also find that my schedule tends to war against me in this. As much as I would love to write something every day, I also need to pay the bills and am involved in leadership roles at my church. I suppose I could quit my day job and stop serving, but if you feel this would be beneficial for my writing, I urge you to re-read the above paragraph again.

     I've actually applied several different techniques when writing a first draft. The first few novels I wrote, I simply sat down over time and wrote down what came to mind. The ideas came so quickly I did not have much time to think about them or to worry about gaps. Although that has happened a few times, I do not anticipate writing to come that easily. And the process is not over then anyway.

     When I wrote the first draft of A Fate Worse, I did not put in any chapter breaks; I added these later. I filled in many details throughout Kelly's day, almost as if recording what happened in a journal. Many of these passages were either removed, shortened or rewritten in later drafts. I also wrote until I hit a point where I was not sure what was going to happen next, then skipped over that and began the action at a point later when I knew what was going to happen. Once I reached the end, I went back and filled in these gaps to close the story. Aside from this, the story still progressed fairly well from beginning to end, and the characters developed personalities and quirks along the way.

     When writing A Simple Prejudice, I wrote sections more as if they were like pieces in a puzzle that I would put together later. Once I had large chunks of it finished, I arranged and rearranged the story until it fit together as I felt it should. Of course, once I had the story in its final arrangement, I had to go through and ensure that the story's timeline was consistent; for example, I had to rewrite references to events that occurred from a section that had been later in the story but was now earlier. Writing this way provided quite a bit of freedom but also entailed more rewriting during the first draft.

     Since I reference actual locations of actual cities in my novels, I relied heavily on the Internet to help me research information about these places. It has helped that I have visited each of the cities about which I write, particularly that I have lived in both Seattle and St. Louis. It is amazing, though, how much is now on the Internet that will provide ample information to write a fairly detailed description of a location. Still, I have enjoyed writing the novel set in St. Louis partly because I can go "on site" to do my writing. (I did feel an excitement and an eerie chill as I sat on location at Washington University typing in the initial murder scene in Powers and Principalities.)

     If you are really stuck, you might try some of the exercises in Now Write! This resource has a lot of ideas that can help you start writing shared by many writers and writing teachers and compiled by Sherry Ellis.

     If you are interested in contacting Eric Manske, use the e-mail below or follow the Leave Feedback link.