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seedlingI often wonder where authors get their ideas from. Where did that first seed originate and how long did it grow before taking shape as a novella, full-length novel, or even a series?

My first attempt at writing a novel actually started as a short story that was sparked while riding home from a family dinner. It was dark outside and as we drove through town, I spotted a small diner and through the front windows saw a waitress wiping off a table. She didn’t look young enough to be in high school nor old enough to be in a second career. Who was she and why was she working at a diner? By the time we reached home, I knew she was a single mother with a special-needs child who would find welcome support from the diner staff and regulars.

That seed of an idea became a short story and then my first full-length manuscript. In a massive rewrite, Amanda’s story then wound itself into a women’s fiction novel telling the stories of three diner waitresses in different stages of life. And then in 2014, I separated out one of those other waitresses to create my Genesis winning novel, Serving Up Love.

What about my contracted novel, Catch of a Lifetime? That story actually started with a dream. You know the kind of dream where you wake up still engulfed in a story and are reluctant to let it go so you can start your day? I felt the emotion of a young woman trying to be incognito around a college football team but coming face to face with her high school crush. I remember writing down as many notes as I could to capture the moment … and then revisiting the idea several times over the years until I’d figured out a way to make it logical. A high school crush seemed too coincidental, but I could have her meet a handsome hunk she doesn’t want to like. But why doesn’t she like football players? She has a very good reason but you’ll have to read the book to find out more about the bitter tutor and the rookie coach. 😉

And that brings me to the idea that is currently taking shape in my brain. This story also started as a dream scene. A scene where a woman is freezing cold after doing a good deed and the hero is hurrying back to help her. I actually fleshed the idea out into a complete outline, but the setting felt wrong. So I let the idea simmer for awhile, relocated the action to Estes Park, Colorado, and then had my story derailed again when a massive flood washed through the real town and canyon. But now I think I’ve got the pieces into proper place and am ready to tell the story of the burned-out caregiver and the self-reliant handyman

Meanwhile, I have a folder of story snippets just waiting to grow into books of their own.

What about you? Do you ever wake up dreaming a story? Did it make sense in the light of day? Where else do you get your best ideas? And how to do you keep track of them while they grow?

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