Tossing Things into a Hat

If we could order up ideas the way we order from Amazon, all writers would be deliriously happy. But ideas have their own agendas. They need to be coaxed to fly into your head.

Here’s one method that worked for me. After my first mystery novel, Put on the Armour of Light, was on its way to publication, I was searching for inspiration for the second book in the series. I already knew that my characters from the first book: Charles Lauchlan, his fiancé Maggie Skene, and their friend Sergeant Andrew Setter would be at the centre of the action. But the rest of the who, what and where of the story was a complete blank. 

Without having any idea of what would happen, I tossed three “items” into an imaginary hat, shook them up, and dumped them out onto my desk. All three were things that interested me and that I would enjoy exploring further. The first two items were: Scotland and bicycling. The third “item” was actually a twosome: two amazing Scottish sisters that I’d read about who formed their own expedition in the late 19th century to cross the Sinai desert and explore the manuscripts in the ancient library of St. Catherine’s Monastery. So, Scotland, bicycling and two adventurous Scottish sisters. The jumbling together of these three began to suggest a story that my existing characters could take part in. After that I worked on the elaboration of that initial idea by adding characters and actions as they came into my head.  A simple method, but the devil really is in the details. And also in the maxim, “bum in the chair” as one of my favourite professors used to say.

I failed take his advice more often than I care to admit, but what eventually came out of this process was my new book, So Many Windings.

Every writer is different and every book that every writer writes is different from the previous book. You can read advice from all sorts of successful writers but ultimately you have to find your own way of working. The toss-it-in-the hat trick worked for me as an idea generator for So Many Windings.

Don’t forget to register for the zoom launch of So Many Windings on May 27, 2021 at 7pm CDT. And remember that I’ll be signing books at Whodunit Bookstore, 163 Lilac St. in Winnipeg on May 30 from 3pm to 5pm.

Register for the zoom here