WIP-Why Can't I Ever Write a Simple Story??

You know, I start out with a nice simple premise: “A boy becomes an unlikely hero when he rescues teens from a fire . . .until the finger of suspicion begins pointing in his direction.” Then suddenly I’ve got subplots all over the place, characters begging to be given bigger roles, and twists and turns that spell r-e-s-e-a-r-c-h. It’s never simple. If you’re writer, you know what I mean. If you’re a reader, take a long look at the book you’re reading right now and think of all the steps the writer went through to create characters, settings, and the subplots that need to enhance the main story as well as be integrated seemlessly into it. Then think about all the research that went into the book you’re reading. (You have my permission to also think about how much the writer loved writing the book no matter how much he or she complained during the process!)
So that’s what I’m up to. Toying with subplots, making sure everyone’s motivation is on target, and thinking about what will go in those awkward spaces between the beginning, middle and end. After all this time, I still haven’t started writing! Maybe some writers can dive right in, but I have to do all this pre-writing first. I’ve typed about fifty pages of my handwritten notes into a document that will soon be cut apart and reodered; that’s when I can really see what’s missing. And I’m incredibly excited about my upcoming visit to Topsail Island next week! I read a book about it today which really helped me picture the areas where I want to set certain scenes. I’ll be sure to take my camera with me and share my pictures with you.
ANd now, after several hours of paying bills, watching HGTV, and answering email, I’m off to bed. G’night.


  1. Margo on September 28, 2006 at 10:06 am

    I’m currently reading SWEETGRASS and am learning so much about South Carolina…lots of research went into this book about the making of sweetgrass baskets and is interwoven with a great story and I am always amazed at how writers can come up with such great, detailed plots! Such a talent to be a writer.
    Diane, I love HGTV too but reading my book before sleep is a must with me.

  2. Diane Chamberlain on September 28, 2006 at 10:27 am

    Mary Alice (Monroe–the author of SWEETGRASS) is a terrific writer and thorough researcher. We became friends when she lived in the D.C. area. When she moved to the Isle of Palms in S.C., she really found her writing niche in the setting and flora and fauna. We caught up last year at a writers’ event in Topsail Beach, my first visit to the Island. Topsail has a major turtle hospital, and turtles are Mary Alice’s THING. So we decided right then that I could have Topsail Island (to write about) but I’d keep my mitts off her turtles. LOL. I’m glad you’re enjoying her books.

  3. Margo on September 28, 2006 at 10:53 am

    Diane, I also read THE BEACH HOUSE by her which was all about the turtles…I learned SO MUCH from that book!…read recently that she is writing a turtle sequal coming out next year called SWIMMING LESSONS…can’t wait to read more about the plight of the loggerheads…I’m a HUGE nature lover myself so love reading anything about wildlife or extinction.

  4. Brenda on September 28, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    I love her books especially THE BOOK CLUB…

  5. Brenda on September 28, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    Is HGTV the house channel???Sometimes in the middle of the night when I don’t sleep (miss those hormone patches) or read, I watch that channel. Also-don’t you love the one where they show houses??? I am always amazed at folks who buy houses for the following reasons, “Their dogs or for entertaining.” I love my dog…I adore her-all the dogs we have had…I love entertaining (when I am not working AND in grad school at the same time) but all of my houses (and apartments) were bought with me (or my family at the time) in mind FIRST and foremost-comfort….
    I also love watching the ones who are buy houses that are so fancy that I can’t imagine living there…I love my house-country style in Yuppyville…but very nice…formal living room, etc…

  6. Margo on September 28, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    Haven’t read THE BOOK CLUB, Brenda but I’ll check on it…and yes HGTV is the house channel…my sis got me hooked on it!…like you, LOVE, LOVE LOVE all of our doggies we’ve had and our ‘Kramer’ now…most important, comfort for them in the home, then us!

  7. Diane Chamberlain on September 28, 2006 at 7:01 pm

    When we moved in together, John refused to watch HGTV. Now he watches, though he still complains about it, so that’s progress. We’ve gotten lots of ideas from it. Did you watch DesignStar? What fun that was!
    By the way, the enormous red leather sectional is now in the living room! it arrived way early, so nothing else is done in there–no painting, area rug, lighting etc. plus (you dog people will laugh at this) we have the sectional covered with blankets! we’re just not ready to let the dogs scratch and drool on it yet.

  8. Cheryl on September 28, 2006 at 7:51 pm

    First, I want to say I appreciate all the research and time spent on the books you and any writer does, because that is what makes a qulaity book. I also like complex stories with sub plots etc. Diane, I think you are a great writer and this is one of the reasons.
    Second, I have read ” The Book Club” and really enjoyed it. YOu should check it out. I am going to check out her books about turtles. i too like turtles and have read other books on them. We visited a turtle farm in Grand Caymen on our honeymoon and I really found it interesting and loved them ever since.
    As for people buying houses for dogs, I can understand. A lot of the things that I do for my dog are partly for me. I would never buy a house that didn’t have fenced in back yard because of my dog. This is so she has a place to run, but also because I’m too lazy, especially during the winter, to go out there with her. We also put a wall up in our basement so she could have her own room when we’re not home, to keep her out of the nice part of the house. (We learned this from our addiction to HGTV and design shows on TLC.) She still has a lot of puppy in her so she’s not allowed to roam free when we’re not home.
    Diane, we have a blanket on our couch too. its now a permanent fixture. I got one to match the room! Our dog knows that’s where she sits. It has saved our couch from many dog fluids!

  9. Margo on September 29, 2006 at 8:51 am

    Congrat’s on the new sectional Diane!…I bet it looks gorgeous…didn’t watch DesignStar (not sure what show that was)…Cheryl and Brenda I think I’ll have to buy THE BOOK CLUB next time at the bookstore…sounds like a good one…if you haven’t read THE BEACH HOUSE I really recommend it and of course SWEETGRASS which is so very, very good…

  10. Kathleen on September 29, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for the fun blog today Diane!!
    I’m going to have to check out THE BOOK CLUB!

  11. Diane Chamberlain on September 29, 2006 at 6:47 pm

    Kathleen, that WAS fun! (I did an online chat today and Kathleen was there. Everyone asked great questions).
    THE BOOK CLUB is one of Mary Alice (Monroe’s) earlier books, before she discovered turtles and birds and sweetgrass! It’s excellent. I’ll drop her a line and see if she can pop in here to say hi to you all.

  12. Diane Chamberlain on September 29, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    Cheryl, my ex and I bought a fence, an SUV, and finally a beach house for the dogs. LOL. That’s what happens when you don’t have kids.
    I hate to think that the blankets will become permanent fixtures on the sectional, but it may just happen.

  13. Ann on September 29, 2006 at 7:53 pm

    Blankets become part of the decor if you have dogs!!! We went to visit our granddog today as our son and daughter in law are out of town. Next door neighbor actually feeds, walks and looks after the dog but we VISIT! We were instructed to “wave goodbye” when we leave as the dog always jumps up on the couch under the window when anyone leaves and watches until the car leaves the driveway. We are adoring granddogparents. Is that a word???

  14. Diane Chamberlain on September 29, 2006 at 8:28 pm

    i definitely think it’s a word, ann. i have two granddogs and one granddogger. LOL.

  15. Lorene on September 30, 2006 at 8:33 am

    I use several big towels for the sofa rather than a blanket. I wash all the towels while he is being groomed but I can just remove one if we have a spot dirtier than the rest.
    I don’t think it is possible to read Sweetgrass and not want to buy one of those baskets 🙂 I don’t have one……yet.

  16. Mary Alice Monroe on September 30, 2006 at 10:07 am

    Hi Diane, Margo, Kathleen, Lorene and all!
    Diane is a dear friend and I’ve been a fan of her books for years–too many to count, or admit to. 🙂 Thanks to you all for the kind words about my books.
    You had questions about research. As Diane knows, research is a major aspect of my work. In fact, I think research is what makes my job as a writer so great. With each new book I get to learn something new! And when I volunteer, it opens whole new worlds, which I share with my readers. For example, in my new novel, SWIMMING LESSONS, I worked with rehabilitation of injured sea turtles. I wanted to do a sequel to THE BEACH HOUSE, and the turtle hospital gave me the new setting with turtles. But the bottom line is, I am a story teller. All research and setting augments the emotional relationships in the novel, they should never overpower them.
    Still, it’s cool that Lorene wants to buy a sweetgrass basket after reading the novel! And I hope after reading my other books, people learn something new as well. Perhaps even get inspired to support, say, the local turtle hospital. This planet is our home, after all. We’re all in this together!
    Love to all,
    Mary Alice
    Hey Diane, as you know, Topsail Beach has the fabulous Karen Beasely Sea Turtle Hospital! They’re in my book, too.

  17. Diane Chamberlain on September 30, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    >>Hey Diane, as you know, Topsail Beach has the fabulous Karen Beasely Sea Turtle Hospital! They’re in my book, too.

  18. Diane Chamberlain on September 30, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    >>I use several big towels for the sofa rather than a blanket. I wash all the towels while he is being groomed but I can just remove one if we have a spot dirtier than the rest.

  19. Lorene on September 30, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    how little is your dog?
    He’s a cocker spaniel and weighs around forty pounds or so. Name’s Roscoe

  20. Krysia on September 30, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    I haven’t done much research on my story since it is set in a time of while I was in High School and what I endured, only my main character is male (contemplating changing characters). Well not all what I endured but a lot of it was.
    We regretfully have to get rid of Winston. We no longer are allowed to have him in our apartment and I just lost my other job so we can’t afford to get a place where we can have a dog. 🙁 It makes me sad but he’s on a farm now where he can run run run. We used to give him free reign of the futon since no one ever sat on it anyways since it’s falling apart. He loved it, it became his bed when his crate was put away.
    Anyways I like all the updates on the book. I can’t wait for it to come out so I can read it.

  21. Diane Chamberlain on September 30, 2006 at 10:22 pm

    Lorene, your pup is about the size of mine. only two of mine equal 80 pounds. they don’t seem to know they’re only supposed to use one little part of the sofa.
    oh, krysia, i’m sorry about winston! i remember that link to his picture that you put in my blog. he looked like such a doll. now, is he REALLY on a farm, or is it that kind of farm parents used to tell their kids they’d taken the dog to?? (bad sentence structure, but i’m tired).
    your book sounds interesting. how are you going to decide whether or not to change genders? i’ve thought of making andy a girl, but he came to me as a boy, and i think i’ll keep him that way. for now, anyhow.

  22. Krysia on September 30, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    no he’s on my dad’s farm. then he’s going to another farm after that unless i move to another town. my dad isn’t home much and works for a grainery and with harvest season here he’s never home til mid november. my dad’s pretty straight forward and doesn’t take much to get anything out of him, especially if he’s been drinking.
    my 2 main characters are twins, boy (max) and girl (sarah), with a younger brother (sam). I’d only have to change around 4 characters to do it (the boyfriend and girlfriend or the twins) and of coarse change the twins around also. I’ve toyed around a lot with it and only have 2 1/2 chapters typed since i didn’t have a whole lot of time (which is pretty sad for a story in the making for the last 8 years). I don’t know yet. I’ve only let people read the first chapter and ask for ideas and they just say more more…then about 3 people have read the second. So i’ll have to see how the rest of the story pans out before I decide on gender change.

  23. Brenda on October 1, 2006 at 7:57 am

    Glad you settled on a couch…Ironically, when my friends took me to THE CASTLE-yes–a man here in this little house built a MANSION (After a chateau) but they call it a castle and rent parts for weddings, etc., my friends and I settled (after a delicious meal of treats) in the “resting lounge” on BROWN LEATHER COUCHES…I laughed…but they were comfortable just “cold” for us but lovely…I will be doing a column on the CASTLE soon and will send you part of it…
    The rest of the house had gorgeous furniture too.
    As to the dogs, we have been lucky. OUrs have been easily trained…the ones we had when I was married before and had the kids–they stayed in the family room with us and had a room attached to it (mudroom.)They received much attention and were darling.
    Molly Ariel, our Schnauzer at this time) was also easily trained. She stays in the family room-refuses actually to even go in the kitchen-just likes her territory) and on the screened-in porch. She is permitted on one couch-an old one in our family room on which we placed an afghan…)
    I have adored my dogs–very upset when they died-but have lived my life around the dogs-not the other way around. I do have friends who do the other-and I admire them for that…

  24. Brenda on October 1, 2006 at 7:58 am

    Own and have read all Mary Alice Monroe.
    Am on a sabbatical from buying books because of the expense of grad school-but can’t wait to get back. (There are a few exceptions and Diane’s are one…I can’t NOT BUY hers because I reread them…)

  25. Brenda on October 1, 2006 at 8:01 am

    P.P.S. THE BOOKCLUB was THE FIRST (I THINK) book I chose when I started my online bookclub. THat’s how I FOUND DIANE…a friend of mine suggested her books.
    The bookclub is made up of my FRIENDS across the country-and a couple in WV> (What they have in common-they all know me but not each other. Most I met at different Shakespeare workings…(I studied Shakespeare at THE FOLGER’S in D.C. for a month in 1996, in The Berkshires in 2002 (SHAKESPEARE & CO.) and in London this summer. (All Humanities Grants…)

  26. Brenda on October 1, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    Sweetgrass baskets are sold in Charleston, SC at the market in the midst of town. I love them-the prices are horrendous-for my salary-but worth EVERY PENNY for the work that goes into them. My daughter and I use to weave baskets-as a hobby (along with our needlework-back then when she was home and I didn’t teach)…they are not easy to weave-and those people DESERVE every bit of money. THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL…

  27. Brenda on October 1, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    Monroe’s BookCLUB is an example of remembering characters-I want to know more about them.

  28. Diane Chamberlain on October 1, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    i saw a sweetgrass basket at mary alice’s house. wow, so beautiful. incredible craftsmanship.

  29. Margo on October 2, 2006 at 9:36 am

    So wonderful to hear from Mary Alice Monroe! Mary Alice, I’ve only read THE BEACH HOUSE and am in the middle of SWEETGRASS but love them and plan on buying all the others…I’ve learned SO MUCH about the loggerheads and about sweetgrass and appreciate all the research and info given in these books. I have a great love for wildlife and nature and admire everything you do to help protect our environment. I’m anxiously waiting for SWIMMING LESSONS! As for Diane, isn’t she WONDERFUL!…I have been a fan of Diane’s for at least 12 years, have never met her but think of her as my friend…she is truly a phenomenal person and I’m so thankful she has this blog where we can ‘converse’. Mary Alice, your very lucky to know her.

  30. Margo on October 2, 2006 at 9:45 am

    Krysia…I’m so sorry about Winston…I can’t imagine having to give him up )-: take care.

  31. Lorene on October 2, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I just finished my fourth Diane Chanberlain novel,THE BAY AT MIDNIGHT, and I loved all of them. CeeCee still is my favorite but that may be because I read it first. They are all great!

  32. Diane Chamberlain on October 2, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Glad you’re enjoying them, Lorene. I think a lot of readers remain faithful to the first book they read by an author. Many of my readers started with KEEPER OF THE LIGHT and that seems to stay their favorite.

  33. Cheryl on October 2, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    KEEPER OF THE LIGHT is my favorite. The first book I read was KISS RIVER about 2 1/2 years ago and I have read as many as I can get my hands on since.

  34. Diane Chamberlain on October 2, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    soooooooooooooo glad you’re enjoying them, cheryl!

  35. Margo on October 3, 2006 at 8:24 am

    I’ve read all Diane’s books and KEEPER OF THE LIGHT will always be my favorite novel of all time.

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