It Only Takes A Spark. . . Or Does It?

by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck 

Ideas come and go. I’ve learned over the years the initial spark is just that, a spark, not a roaring fire that will burn long enough to write an entire book.

Let me give an example. When I  first started writing what turned out to be Lost In NashVegas (now Nashville Dreams), I came up with a story of a country girl who owned a fishing shack in central Florida. There was something about her wanting to buy or maintain an old house she loved. I can’t remember all of the details, but that should give you a clue. No details.

My agent said, “Nope!”

After brainstorming with her for a few minutes, (I’m making this sound way easier than it was. ha!)  we came up with the idea of having the Heroine be a songwriter. Okay, I can do that. I know nothing about songwriting, but I can do this! I’m naive and eternally hopeful that way. Scratching the surface of songwriting research, I put together another synopsis and three chapters.

My agent said, “Nope.”

My heroine wasn’t sympathetic. I wove in several major plot points that were nothing but cliché but never really managed any of them. I had a stolen song, an unwed pregnancy, and something about a rollercoaster that Susie Warren assured me was unoriginal. But the story was a country song itself!

So, I opened with my character waiting to sing at the Bluebird Ca fé ( a setting I had all wrong) and feeling like she was on a roller coaster.

Disappointed, rather CRUSHED,  I wasn’t hitting my agent’s hot button after two tries, I forwarded it to Susie. She called. “The roller coaster is a cliche.”


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“And you need something like . . . the three things she’s thinking of or wants or something.”

“Oh, good idea.” (I dedicated the “three things” in the book to Suz.)

That and more songwriting research got me a proposal my agent loved. And so did Thomas Nelson.

I did more research. Visited Nashville and The Bluebird Café. Research always sparks more ideas and layers.

Don’t let your lack of knowledge intimidate you. Dig in. Research. Make those cold calls to ask a question. I find really good stuff on YouTube. Which didn’t exist when I started that first Nashville book.

Research also helps with your dialog, your plotting, your setting.

Writing about an industry of which I knew nothing —music—I had very surface dialog. Because I didn’t know what I was talking about. I kept researching and finally found a book about Tom Petty. It was written in interview style. I found the information I wanted and also a format to use in the next Nashville book. The interview style.

When writing about infertility in the Songbird Novels, I discovered an article by a woman who didn’t want to use surrogacy to achieve her dream of having a baby because she felt it was inviting another woman into her marriage. I’d never heard that before and it gave me a profound, deeper angle for my character.

In writing The Royal Wedding books, I read blogs, history books, watched videos, studied European royal families. Apparently, calls to Clarence House went unanswered. Ha! No personal prince interviews were forthcoming.

Once you get a spark, take it deeper and find those unique layers. Use those to create dynamic characters and layered plots.

Go write something brilliant!


Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel at