Today I was tagged by my good friend Codi Gary to talk about my writing process. If you haven't checked her out, do so! She writes contemporary romance set in small town America and the stories are fantastic and the characters are adorable. Having read her faithfully since her first release and getting to know her as a friend, I can only say that her books are worth the read! She has two upcoming releases, I Want Crazy (Book 2 of her Loco, Texas series) and Bad Girls Don't Marry Marines (Book 3 of her Rock Canyon, Idaho series).
1. What am I working on now?
A few of things, actually. Last week I submitted my revised version of The Governess Club: Sara (Book 3 of The Governess Club series), so I am waiting on the copy edits. I am also waiting on the initial edits for The Governess Club: Louisa (Book 4). I know, that sounds like a lot of waiting, but I am not just sitting around doing nothing, I promise! I have started the first draft of Book 1 for a new series that I have proposed to my editor. I haven't heard back yet whether she wants to run with it, but that doesn't mean I can't start it.
Brief background on The Governess Club series. Set in the 1820s, four friends have banded together to pool their resources in order to open their own private school and achieve independence. Sara's story picks up a few months after Bonnie's story, which is Book 2. Louisa's story continues immediately after Sara's. These stories are full of children's antics, turmoil and lots of sexy love, of course. Sara and Louisa's stories release on September 2 and October 7, 2014, respectively.
I can't say much about the proposed series just yet, but I will give you a brief glimpse. Set again in the 1820s, it follows six friends who are struggling to recover from a massive murder cover up and the scandals involved. I will give more information when I hear back from my editor. Fingers crossed!
2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?
I find one of the most difficult things for an author to do is to think of a new concept within an established genre. I like to think authors like Tom Clancy also faced this - how many different ways can a spy novel be written, right? What I like to do is to take a popular trope (or theme) and add a twist on it, if I can. For instance, in The Governess Club: Claire, I have the governess fall in love with a lord. Now, this is an established, popular idea, one that I have read in several different books and haven't tired of yet. But my twist? The lord is hiding in plain view as the tutor and she has no idea.
With my proposed series, it's not often you encounter a group of people accused of a crime as heroes of their own romance novels. Once you find out their motivations, their worthiness becomes clear, more traditional, but it is still a unique lead in.
I also like my characters to be flawed. I hate perfection in stories because to me, it's not realistic. I hate it when things aren't realistic. Conversations are misunderstood, ulterior motives exist, past experiences taint the present, sex isn't always great; nothing is served up nicely on a silver platter. I like my characters to have to work at not only their relationships, but at themselves. None find perfection, but they do find love.
3. Why do I write what I do?
This is an easy one for me to answer: because I love it. I do enjoy contemporary romance and other types of literature, but historical romance is always my go-to read. It's the few hours of escape I am looking for. Contemporary is all well and good, but if I can relate to not having a cell signal to call CAA for a tow, or that the power has gone out, or sitting in a pub watching the hockey game, it's not enough of an escape. Writing in the Regency era provides that escape. It's at the cusp of the Age of Industrialism, so new thoughts are already occurring. The Napoleanic Wars have just ended, so we have a country filled with relief that they have survived the war and filled with grief for those who did not. We have wounded soldiers, both physically and mentally, who struggle to fit back into a society that doesn't understand their lingering scars; spies who will never be recognized for their involvement and likely can't bring themselves to speak of what they saw - and did; a Prince Regent who is bankrupting the nation because of his victorious joy. And all this is accompanied by horse drawn carriages and gentlemen kitted out superbly.
But why write when there are so many successful Historical Romance authors? Because I had just finished reading a novel - I can't even remember which one it was - and I started thinking about all the things I would like to see in a romance novel, but never do. Then I started imagining what a book that incorporated those things in various combinations would look like. It just spiraled from there and I realized that if I ever wanted to see a book like that, I would have to write it.
4. How does my writing process work?
Being Canadian, I am going to use a fitting simile here: my writing process is like making a snowball at the first real snowfall of the year, where the snow is still soft and sticky and things like leaves and sticks make their way into it.
I start with my plan. I survey the landscape. Where is the best snow? Where is the best place for me to hide in order to stealthily throw this snowball at someone? This is when I get my ideas.
When I first crouch down to gather the snow, I anticipate what it is going to be like. The perfect size to fit in my hand, the perfect circular shape to fly through the air; I even feel how cold my hand will get. This is my synopsis stage, writing down the sequence of events, character descriptions and motivations, etc.
That first grasp of snow in my hand, making the core of the ball, that is my first few sentences, paragraphs, even an entire chapter. It's where I start. It really gives me a feel of how the story will feel, how easily it may come.
But I don't write in a linear fashion. Often I do, but not always. And I am always editing. I always re-read what I wrote previously and edit it, improve upon it. This is me gathering more snow around the core, not only adding to the ball, but packing it in and making it stronger. With this, by the time I write "The End," it may seem like it's my first draft, but it's actually more like my third or fourth with all the changes and revisions I made on my own.
But the problem with making a snowball at this time of year is that things other than snow are in there: sticks, leaves, dirt, even the occasional rock - a huge amateur mistake. These things need to be picked out. This is when I sit down with my beta reader. We both get a copy of the manuscript printed and take about a week to read it, making notes all the time. We ask questions like: Is this necessary? Is this phrased well? Is this realistic? Is this consistent with the story? Is this believable? Does this make sense? We even do things like cut out adverbs. We usually aim to cut out about 10,000 words - that is generally how much unnecessary stuff in my draft. Sometimes it's easier to achieve this, others not.
My snowball is now at the point of being ready throw. But all of a sudden, I am not alone in my strategic hiding spot. It's not my beta reader with me though, it's my editor. Before I get a chance to throw it, she takes the snowball out of my hand and double checks for things like rocks and sticks and leaves. She helps me make a better snowball, a better manuscript. It's not always an easy process -it never is when something as personal as your creative output is being examined - but it is a necessary process and always results in a better product.
And after all this? I get to throw it. Who is my target? You, my readers. ;0)
So that's my writing process. I am now going to tag Shelly Bell. Head over to her Facebook page and find out how things work in her writing world.