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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Writing Prep Zone

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian market. Her most popular series (that started with Always the Baker Never the Bride from Abingdon Press) will conclude this spring with Always the Baker FINALLY the Bride, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.Connect with the author on her website or on Facebook.

My name is Sandra D. Bricker, and I’m a serial prepper. Okay. Let me explain.

Every few months, I schedule a Skype session with a favorite girlfriend of mine. The other morning, we had coffee together across the miles between Southern California and Central Florida, and – as usual – one of the first things she asked me: “So how’s the writing going?”

“I’m in the Prep Zone,” I replied.

Because she’s known me for a couple of hundred years, she understood exactly what this meant. Ever since my college days, I’ve referred to the hours before an important date as The Prep Zone. If you’re a woman, you’ll understand. These are the hours burgeoning with activities like a fresh mani/pedi, an extra-long/extra-hot bath, a snack of protein so we don’t sit down for dinner feeling ravenous … The Prep Zone.

My time before beginning a new writing project is very much the same. I have a sort of laundry list of things I like to do to find the appropriate mood for the story I’ll write. It goes a little something like this:

I read. Something completely UNLIKE what I’ll be writing; a sort of palate-cleansing adventure. A Frank Peretti, a Brandilyn Collins, or a Colleen Coble. I like a little something to take my mind off the last project and away from the one to come.

I listen. To music – all sorts of music! – until I find that just-right soundtrack for the story I’ll soon start. When I wrote The Big 5-OH!, Michael Buble made the cut. And I enjoyed him so much that he carried over to the next novel, Always the Baker Never the Bride. By the time I started the second book in the series, Always the Wedding Planner Never the Bride, the classic rock of Bob Seger rose to the top. For Raw Edges (my upcoming Quilts of Love book releasing in the fall), I’d found inspiration in vintage Van Morrison. The music is as important to the writing as the words themselves for me.

I go people-watching. I can sit in a Starbucks or on a park bench or in my favorite wine bar for hours, just watching the folks who cross my path. Every now and then, a platinum blonde with an enviable sense of style walks by…and an Audrey Regan (from Always the Designer Never the Bride) is instantly born!

I scribble. I almost never leave home without a small leather notebook in my purse. When a funny line or situation pounces, I’ve learned to write it down before it escapes. If sudden plot inspiration falls out of the sky, I’m ready to catch it. Not with a net, of course; but with a sturdy gel pen and a page of my journal.

By the time my handsome date arrives – err, I mean by the time I type Word 1 – I usually feel fairly well prepared already. I’ve started getting to know my characters. I know what music they enjoy, what clothes they wear, what kind of person they’re attracted to, and whether they have a dog or not. Because of my prep time, I’m ready to put characters and situations that have already become very real in my mind to the page so that my readers will feel the same.

What about you? What’s the most important part of your preparation process? If you share something that I want to “borrow,” I’ll put you in the running to win a copy of the final book in my Another Emma Rae Creation series from Abingdon Press. Always the Baker Finally the Bride releases on April 1st.


  1. I am a very visual person. As I am thinking about my characters I start searching pictures on the internet. Once I find a picture of a person that intrigues me I interview them. I find out what their fears, likes and dislikes are. I put all of this in a spiral notebook. I assign several pages to each character and post pictures of their likes, music, favorite books, etc. It is often easier for me to flip through the pictures. I keep this notebook with me at all times so when I hear bits of conversation or see a situation that reminds me of my character I can write it down.

  2. Sandra, I like to "cast" my books like a movie too. That's a great way to create your visuals! Thanks for commenting. Be sure to leave your email address so I can let you know if you win!

  3. I'm working on the "Empty" part of the prep zone. My tendency is to rush into that first word. Too often I skip the listening. Listening to the characters, listening to my heart's desire for the book, and listening to the Lord. I'm in that listening stage right now for synopses for a couple new projects. Your post reminded me not to rush through this part! Thanks, Sandie.


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