Pre-writing. What works for you? When you’re chewing on a story idea, how do you work it all out? Where do you begin?

I spend a lot of time just worrying the idea in my mind, like a dog gnawing on a bone. And I do a lot of reading – books and internet. I might read more in the genre, or maybe do some historical research, or just surf the internet looking for little real life gems that I can incorporate into the plot.

Do you have a character in mind? I did, this time, but it wasn’t the main character. I could clearly see his love interest (who also happens to be an antagonist in this case) but my main character was pretty shadowy. I didn’t know his problems, his goals, his backstory, and I especially didn’t know his name. (I threw a couple at him, but he rejected them.)

My idea also involves playing around with the laws of electricity and magnetism. I am absolutely clueless on both subjects, but luckily, I have an in-house expert. I’ve been bugging my husband for weeks on this subject. He’s drawn diagrams, used analogies, and recently dragged out Gabbey’s old circuit kit as demonstration. He’s been extraordinarily patient – anybody who knows me, knows I’m mechanically disinclined.

On Saturday, during a day trip to Philadelphia, I chewed his ear off in the car the whole way there – bouncing ideas off his head, and he didn’t even ducked them. By the time we reached the city, I had an idea that just might work for a setting – but setting is only a backdrop, of course. I still had no idea who the heck my nameless main character was. I had no story.

We were pretty busy all afternoon, but conversation resumed on the car ride home. This time, Bob came up with a brilliant idea for a setting that was possibly even better. We were only 20 minutes from home when I finally realized how this new setting connected to my main character. Suddenly, I knew what he was going to do – and I knew why he was going to do it – and how he was going to redeem himself afterwards. I had a story!

Am I ready to write? No way. I still have a TON of reading to do – historical and scientific research. My character has to develop some more … and he still needs a name … but I’m on my way now!

What’s your process?