Right now, I'm working on four books at once. I don't normally do this; once I've worked my way through the initial chapters of a book and am plowing toward my deadline, I'm focused on nothing but that manuscript (ask my husband, who often must forage for his dinner.) But when I'm in the plotting/early drafting stages, it's actually easier for me to work on multiple stories. As I brainstorm ideas for one book, I often get a flash of brilliance on a point that's stymied me on another story. I fill pages with notes--character traits, plot twists, possible scenes, even descriptions--as I go, flipping back and forth between my stories.
One thing I love doing at this stage of writing is scouring the neighborhoods where I want to set my book, looking at online photos, newspaper articles, and real estate listings. It gives me a sense of the types of homes my characters might inhabit, how far students might have to travel for school, and what their economic situation might be. Every so often, I come across a photo that triggers an idea for a scene, or that helps me focus on a particular character trait.
For instance, doesn't THIS photo, which I found on a real estate site, generate a zillion story questions?
Yep, that's a big bathroom. It's also extremely pink. While the color caught my attention--there are any number of jokes you can put in a manuscript about a pink marble bathroom--it what's above the tub made me say, "Oh, yeah! Story time!"
What kind of person collects porcelain heads? What kind of person puts them in the bathroom? Would YOU want to sit in a bathtub with a bunch of porcelain heads staring down at you?
I'm not sure how, but in 2010, this bathroom will be written into a book.