Just today at the ASK THE AUTHOR message boards, Naomi asked about my writing process from idea to publication. My response was this:
It depends on the book, though usually it begins with a really good first sentence/paragraph—one that sets up the entire story inside my head. Or at least, a first sentence/paragraph that gets my creative juices going, which is an individual process and different for everyone.
TIGER EYE: Dela had mysterious dreams the night before she bought the riddle box. A portent, maybe. She did not think much of it. She was used to strange dreams, only a few of which had ever come true.
SHADOW TOUCH: Shortly before being shot in the back with a tranquilizer dart and dumped half-dazed on a stretcher, right before being stolen from the hospital by silent men in white coats, Elena Baxter stood at the end of a dying child�s bed, her hand on a small bare foot, and attempted to perform a miracle.
X-MEN (DARK MIRROR): In her first moment of consciousness, before opening her eyes to the world and discovering such things as floors and walls and straightjackets, Jean Grey imagined she had died and that for all she had suffered in her life, all her terrible sacrifices, the final end would offer nothing but an eternity of suffocation, an unending crushing darkness spent in utter isolation.
For me, a good first sentence sets up the character and the problem. Or at least, that’s what I try to do, and when I get it right (and I know if I don’t), the rest of the story generally flows out from that. I almost never outline, though I have started writing brief descriptions of the stories I’m working on, basically to keep me focused as I plod along.
You can read the rest of my response here, though one thing that I forgot to add is that sometimes (actually, all the time) the only thing that gets me from start to finish is pure unrelenting stubborness (a common theme that you will hear again and again, especially if you hang out at this blog). Writing is fun, but hard work—the mental version of digging ditches, though those ditches are in magical lands filled with knights and princesses, shape-shifters, and dragons.