When I first start working on a new book, I begin with a simplistic idea of what the story will be about. I know who the main character is and how the book will begin, but I usually don’t have a lot of the other characters figured out. I don’t know the details of the story, etc.

For instance, when I began work on my new time travel book, Not Expecting This, I began writing about the main character hitchhiking with a middle-aged couple, and a within a few pages, I threw in a dog. An Irish Setter. Why? I have no idea. He just appeared. Somehow, my mind knew something I didn’t. It turns out that the dog is a fairly important character.

As I started writing Breadcrumbs and Bombs, I knew that the main character, Lucas, was a psychologist and he was married. I figured he would have a child or two. That’s all I really knew. Then, as I wrote the first few pages, his little girl, Bianca, came to life, as did his wife, Tawny. Bianca is bi-racial. Tawny is black and is originally from South Africa. Why? Again, I didn’t plan this out. It just happened. And this was one of the most important things that I did in this book. It set up the whole story.

In both cases, after I wrote the opening, I went back to my Storyboard (the file where I plan out my book) and started making notes, adding details about characters and plot, etc. Eventually, I put together a synopsis and an outline, but it was the actual writing of the book opening that helped me get to the point to knowing where I wanted to go with the rest of the book.

I think of it as exploratory surgery. I had to delve into it a bit before I knew what I was looking at, so to speak.

The same thing happened when I started working on the sequel to Breadcrumbs and Bombs. In that book, Bloodlines and Barbed Wire, I already had my main characters from the first book. But, then, Lucas and Tawny meet two new characters. Now, I didn’t know much about them, but when I started writing the scene where they meet for the first time, the new characters told me who they were. It was amazing to see these two characters (a teen girl and her great-grandmother) spring to life. The great-grandmother is a hoarder and she’s a hoot.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you want to write your first novel and you’re holding off because you don’t have everything figured out yet, don’t worry about it. Sometimes all it takes is putting some words down and seeing where they lead you . . . .