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Developing Ideas: Writer Wednesday

“I have an idea for you to write.”

I’ve heard this many times, and my answer is always the same. “Thanks for thinking of me, but I already have a ton of my own ideas and not enough time to write them all.”

Getting an idea is not the same as developing it into a book.


Developing Ideas


So how do writers develop ideas?

The tear-your-hair-out answer? There are countless ways.

I have friends who get the teeniest idea, and they sit down and start writing. I am not that person! My ideas always develop in my head long before I ever begin writing.

Here’s how I develop ideas:

  1. First, I have a kernel of an idea. It might be a possible plot. It might be a character. Either way I ask questions and spend a lot of time just thinking. Who is the main character? What does she want? Why does she want it? What will happen if she can’t have it?
  2. Once I have a few basics (by the way, many of you will recognize the above as Debra Dixon’s classic GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict–she’s a genius), I expand the questions. Will anyone care about these characters? Can I raise the stakes? How does the story start? Do I know the ending yet?
  3. I should be getting an idea of setting–where and when the story takes place–by this point. I wonder if a different setting would fit the idea better. If not, I research the setting.
  4. I have enough now to spend a day plotting. I fill out a few worksheets to help me determine the story elements and plot development.
  5. Research is a must. I do most of my research in the plotting stage and in the writing phase.
  6. It’s at this point I’ll write a short synopsis.
  7. And I’m ready to write. Yay!!

There is no right or wrong way to develop an idea. I use a variety of tools to expand my ideas. Sometimes, I’ll record voice memos about the story. If I’m out of the house and get a great idea, I’ll send myself a quick email on my phone. Pinterest is great for getting visuals, especially when trying to picture my hero and heroine. Occasionally, I brainstorm with a friend or two. It really depends on the project.

I’d love to hear how you develop ideas! Please share! And if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer.

I’m thrilled to be Dani Pettrey’s guest today! Please stop by her blog (Linked HERE) for my advice on being flexible when asked for revisions!

Have a terrific day!

The Inside Scoop with Tammy L. Gray

My Hope Next Door

Today Tammy L. Gray is  graciously answering questions about her writing life. Tammy’s new book, Her Hope Next Door, released last week! I have all the links and book info below.

Let’s get to it.


1. How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I honestly never expected to become a writer, and the way this whole career has played out is none other than God’s mighty hand. When I decided to write my debut novel, Shattered Rose, it came after a very hard weekend for me mentally and emotionally. I was struggling with a sin that I just couldn’t seem to overcome and was broken over my failure.

I sat down that next Monday and started writing a book with one goal in mind. I wanted to show an analogy between the freedom in Christ and the temptation of sin. How even when we know it’s wrong, we are pulled back in over and over. Eight weeks later, I had a novel. I sent it to a few friends and they adamantly said I needed to publish it. My brother said he’d make me a cover, build me a website and set up my social media. So, with the beauty of independent publishing, my story found its way into the world.

Since then, writing has become more than a one book anthem. It’s about offering high quality fiction that is culturally relevant and includes messages of hope and healing. I believe fiction can inspire us if the message is authentic, which is what I try to be.


2. What is unique about your process?

Unlike when I first began, my story process is now very collaborative. I am extremely blessed to be surrounded by several writing friends who not only help me plot, but also take the time to critique my writing along the way. This has made the first/second draft process longer and sometimes more exhaustive, but I feel every one of my books are better because of their honesty and input.


3. What inspired your book?

I am one of those Christians who had a very rocky path to Christ, and that means Satan uses shame and regret to consistently make me feel less than. Even years after redemption.

At the same time, I’m now a pastor’s wife, so I’ve seen more masks in the Church than I care to count. The thing is, behind each one of those plastered on smiles is a story. Usually a story of heartbreak, struggle, failure and victory. In Christian circles, we tend to only show people our shiny parts, not the ugly, rusted sin that mars all of us.

I also find that we tend to judge people less when we see things from their point of view. So introducing Katie, a “bad” girl, and pairing her with a man who grew up in the Church allowed me to show how in so many ways we all fight the same battles, but do so with different weapons.

And above all, I wanted to show the amazing healing power of God. So often in Christianity, we only talk about what everyone else shouldn’t be doing, and we have this perception of being judgmental, elitist, and disconnected. What we fail to show is how amazing God is in our life. Because to show His glory, we have to first admit we’re flawed and broken.

My hope is that someone can identify with one of my characters and then desire that same peace each of them find at the end of their journey. A peace that is only possible with Christ.


4. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Honestly, the best advice I’ve been given came from two different amazing authors. First, Lynne Gentry was gracious enough to invite me into her writing circles and encouraged me to use other authors to help elevate my work. Second, my dear friend and writing partner, Nicole Deese, told me that no matter how many books we have out, we should always work on improving our craft. She encouraged me to take Margie Lawson’s immersion class, and that’s when I truly felt like I transitioned from being a story teller, to be a career writer.


Tammy, I love your story. I think we can all relate to struggling with sin, pain and regret. I know I certainly do! And what a blessing to have writers you can plot with and who will critique your work. I agree with you that great Christian books help us focus less on what we shouldn’t be doing and more on what God IS doing in us. Thank you so much for being my guest!


My Hope Next Door

My Hope Next Door ~

Can love grow in the shadow of a broken past?

Former bad girl Katie Stone can feel the weight of her reputation settle over her as she drives home for the first time in years. Feeling deeply guilty about her past mistakes, Katie wants to do the right thing for once. But the small town where she grew up is not nearly as forgiving as she’d hoped. Despite it all, she’s determined to help her parents cope with her mother’s recent illness, and Katie finds a surprise ally in the man next door.

Asher Powell never minded being the son of a small-town pastor until a recent breakup leaves him wounded by lifelong members of his church. He remembers his new neighbor as a mean-spirited high school troublemaker, but he senses that her newfound faith and desire for forgiveness are sincere.

Through an unexpected friendship, two people from different worlds find peace, hope, and a second chance they never dreamed was possible.


Purchase My Hope Next Door HERE!


Tammy L. Gray

About Tammy L. Gray ~

Tammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.

When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.


Has a book ever helped deepen your faith in God?

Have a wonderful day!

Friday Round-Up

This week was short but busy. Tuesday was not my favorite. Let’s just say it involved the dentist, my email account being hacked, groceries and food prep and putting all that stuff away, and a missing license plate sticker from the vehicle registration I just ordered. How does the sticker go missing before I even take the registration out of the envelope? I’m scratching my head at that one. But, hey, I survived that day and moved on.




The rest of the week was spent in deep, deep thought as I plotted more than one book and wrote synopses. Yes, that’s plural. I really feel I deserve a large iced coffee from McDonald’s! Actually, I can’t complain because I love plotting and thinking about stories. I accomplished what I wanted to this week, and tomorrow is the weekend with time to relax! Yay!

In between the errands, chores, synopses and what-not, I found a few things I thought you might enjoy.

  1. Becky Wade shares a terrific article over at Dani Pettrey’s blog about using Buffer to streamline social media. You can read the article here, “Writerly Wednesday – My Favorite Social Media Tool.”
  2. The fall colors won’t arrive for a while, but if you want to get into the spirit, here’s a gorgeous slideshow on Midwest Living by Hannah Agren, “25 Ultimate Fall Drives.”
  3. My youngest had a birthday yesterday, and I talked about birthday traditions over at Thoughts on Plot. Stop by and share yours, “Birthday Traditions – Heartwarming Thursday.”

Did you find anything interesting this week? I’d love to hear about it!

Have a great weekend!

Too Intimidated to Write? Writer Wednesday

You tell yourself you’re writing 500 words today. No matter what. But it’s been a week since you opened your manuscript, and when you sit down with your laptop, you can’t bring yourself to actually open the file.What begins as hesitation turns into full-blown dread. You remember a chore you forgot to do, and it becomes vital to do it right this minute. When it’s done, you find another “necessary” task until the day is done and you’ve completely avoided your work-in-progress. You’re filled with a mixture of relief and self-loathing. It’s not that you don’t want to write–you love writing–it’s just really intimidating sometimes. Okay, all the time.




I’ve done this many times over the years. Those vital chores? The necessary tasks? I’ve done just about anything to avoid writing. Cleaned cupboards? Check. Rolled quarters? Check. I wish I was kidding!

But I realized a long time ago this scenario can be avoided.

  1. Know your away-from-manuscript limit. Personally, I can go about three days, maybe four, without writing before the untouched file becomes scary.
  2. Work within the above limit. If I’m writing a first draft, I NEVER let more than three days pass without adding to it.
  3. Daydream about where the story is heading. I get excited to write when I know what’s happening next. Daydreaming is essential!
  4. Jot down details of the next scene in a notebook right after each writing session. I snagged this tip from a fantastic (and short) book for writers called 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing What You Love by Rachel Aaron. For $0.99 on Kindle, you can’t beat it! It’s full of great tips to add to your word count every day.
  5. Plan your weekly writing sessions. I’ve been doing this for six years. It works. Take a quick look at your upcoming week and schedule a word count for each day. Then add these goals for a weekly total. Mondays are horrible for me, so I usually set an extremely low word count. But Tuesday might be wide open. I make that a high word count day. It’s very motivating to know if I make my daily word counts, my weekly tally will be high. If you’re interested in another terrific book on this topic, try Allie Pleiter’s The Chunky Method Handbook.
  6. Remember why you’re writing in the first place. Isn’t it because you have a story to tell? Because you love pouring your heart out onto the pages? Because these characters won’t leave you alone?

Do you ever get too intimidated to write? How do you combat it?

Have a lovely day!


How Exercise and Spiritual Growth are Similar

Yesterday I took a nice long walk in the morning. The temperatures had slid from the low 90s to low 70s. The humidity? Almost unnoticeable–a nice change from the muggy air we’ve had all summer. In other words, the conditions were just about perfect for a walk.

Exercise and Spiritual Growth
I took this picture last year at the botanical garden. Gorgeous!


I felt so much joy as I left our subdivision. I started thinking of all the things I’m grateful for, and as usual, the walk became a prayer walk.

  • I thanked God for the muscles in my legs, moving me forward, keeping me from pain, supporting my bones and joints and the rest of my body.
  • I’ve always been blessed with a strong core. The abdominal and back muscles provide much needed balance to keep me upright.
  • My arms allow me to write, shop, cook and hug my loved ones.
  • My brain–always spinning, always coming up with new ideas, solving problems–thinking, thinking, thinking!

As I walked past corn fields and pretty trees, I thought about my spiritual growth over the past few years. A large part of this growth has been from setting aside time every weekday to study God’s word, to ponder a chapter of a Christian living book, but most of all to be still and be with the Lord. To pray. To journal my prayers.



With every walk, every yoga session, every 7-minute workout down via an app on my phone, my body gets stronger. I get leaner. The fluffy parts are crowded out by the firmer ones. Yes, it takes a commitment, but I love how I feel after a good yoga session, and I always enjoy walking.

With every chapter read of the Bible, with every journal session, every prayer session, my heart gets closer to Jesus. I get leaner, my life becomes less about myself and more about Him. This summer, I woke up to a very deep truth in my life. I didn’t even realize I’d been struggling with this. But here is the truth:

I get my freedom from God.


I get my identity from God.


I get my security from God.

Too often, I’ve bought into the concept that money, a career, respect from my peers, being a good mom/wife/daughter/friend would give me freedom, identity or security. But none of these things do. Only God does.

Sounds so simple, right?

I know! I’ve paid the concept lip service for years. I’ve always said and thought God alone matters, but the prayers I’d been praying proved me wrong. The prayers I kept repeating convicted me. I realized I’d never really, truly believed God was the only way to my freedom, identity and security.

I do now.

I attended the ACFW conference in Nashville last week. For the first time, I felt so much peace about not holding back. My personality can be a lot to take! But I know God loves my personality, and if He does, I shouldn’t worry about what anyone else thinks. It was so wonderful to just be myself–my out-there, loud, dancing, hugging everyone self. I’m thankful for this peace.

Phillipians 4:4-7 (NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Peace is promised by Jesus. I hope you’ll make Bible study and prayer a priority if you don’t already. Just like exercising, it’s good for your body, good for your soul.

Have you ever struggled with thinking your freedom, identity or security comes from something outside of God?

I’m firing it up on the group blogs this week!

Check out yesterday’s Craftie Ladies of Love Inspired Romance post, “September Means Autumn!” and today’s Pink Heart Society post, “Friday Fun: Football Season–Love It or Hate It?”

Have a terrific weekend!!


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