Wednesday, November 02, 2005

BC: My Kingdom for a Plot--Part 1

I wish stories came easier to me. It’s not that I don’t know what to do. I teach plotting, for heaven’s sake. I just don’t do it very fast. By this time stories should pour outta me like melted butter and hot syrup. They pour more like dried cement.

I try to force the process. Doesn’t help. So I sit at my desk and stare out the window, talking to myself. I kick cabinets, I get up and walk around and rail at the skies. Does no good. I pray a lot. God, help me! What is the story You want me to write?

In heaven, I shall not lack for a plot.

My next suspense novel, Web of Lies, releases in January. I had fits writing this book—from day one of plotting. As often happens, I had a contract and little idea what I’d do to fill it. Herein lies the recounting of my ingenious and highly inventive approach to creating this story.


I can only attest to God’s patience with this struggling author, who wants to write suspense novels and somehow serve Him in the process. I am flawed and weak, but God’s strength and perfect plans pull me through every time.

Necessary backstory: My previous suspense series featured Chelsea Adams, a woman who has visions. My current suspense series is Hidden Faces, featuring forensic artist Annie Kingston.

This book I had to write would be the fourth and final story in Hidden Faces. All I knew was that Annie’s forensic challenge would be a skull reconstruction. The manuscript was due February 1, 2005.

Sometime around August of 2004 a thought came to me. Many readers had asked me when I’d write another Chelsea Adams book. I thought—what if I bring Chelsea into this story, combine the two series into one climactic ending?Absolutely brilliant. Except that I still needed a plot.

September came. I tried to come up with the story. Wasn’t happening. I had a writers’ conference to attend in which I had many responsibilities. Some significant things happened at that conference that God would later use to tug at my heart. Then a book tour started—six weekends in a row (Thurs. through Sun.) of flying across the country and signing at megastores with three other authors. This schedule did not help at all. I got zilch accomplished on the plot.

Halfway through the tour, the Zondervan marketing director joined us. And she started buggin’ me: “I need the title of your next book early for marketing purposes.”

Title? I didn’t even have a story yet.

I pride myself on my titles. They’re carefully crafted. They must work rhythmically, be intriguing, and refer both to the main plot and the underlying spiritual thread. Asking me to name a title when I didn’t have a story was totally foreign to me.

“I have no clue,” I said.

Next weekend—“Brandilyn, gotta title yet?”


Weekend three—you guessed it.

This clueless stuff had to stop—and fast.

By the time the tour was over, October was nearly gone. I had one serious talk with God. Told Him if He didn’t want to give me a plot just yet—to stretch my faith and all that—I really did need a title at least. Then He and I would have to work backwards—weaving a story around the title.

Looking back, I think God had Himself a good chuckle. Little did I know what I was getting into.

Tomorrow: Part 2

~ Brandilyn Collins, author of Dead of Night and other “Seatbelt Suspense”


At 10:18 AM, Blogger Domino said...

I love hearing your stories.

I think God chuckles at His kids almost the same way I chuckle at mine.

At 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just thinking the other day that it didn't matter WHAT plot you came up with; it would be suspenseful no matter what. You can make people sit on the edge of their seats with a tale about a trip to the dentist, for heaven's sake! But, I take comfort in knowing that even an accomplished author like you struggles with the same things I do. There is hope!
Thanks for sharing with us. :-)

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Wow, I can get two doses of you at a time, for several days....yipeeee!


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