My writing process? Well, funny you asked. My good pal Nan Reinhardt tagged me as part of this Writing Process blog tour. The challenge? To answer three simple questions about my writing process. Easier said than done, maybe, but here goes nothing. (By the way, in case you were wondering, the above image is not actually me. It’s an idealized me. Younger, blonder, thinner. Still in despair over writing, though, so it’s not totally idealized.) Anyway, shall we begin?
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Although I love a steamy sex scene as much as the next person, my focus will always be on the story and, most of all, the characters. That’s something that’s getting a bit lost in romance these days, in my opinion. Sex scenes are the icing on the cake for me. If the icing is the cake, I tend to lose interest. I’ve been reading romance for years and I feel like I’ve read it all and then some. For me to get lost in a book, it has to have an interesting setting, vivid, well-researched world-building, characters I can relate to, and a realistic but engaging plot. Smart dialogue is a must, and a quirky sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. Whether I’ve achieved all of that in any of my books, well, that’s another story. It’s more of a work in progress, like everything else in writing, but that’s what I’m striving for.
Why do I write what I do?
I write romance because it’s my favorite thing to read. Nothing sweeps me away like a good love story, and I find human relationships, particularly romantic ones, endlessly fascinating. We all know the odds are stacked against keeping love alive for a lifetime. The divorce rate is high, and that doesn’t even include the married couples that stick it out in misery. Yet I don’t see marriage going away. People keep taking that leap of faith, even if it winds up being off of a cliff. A lifetime of love is still something most people aspire to, whether they achieve it or not. I find that remarkable.
How does my writing process work?
That’s assuming it does work. *cough* I used to be a pure pantser, sitting down at the computer knowing barely anything about my story or characters. That resulted in so many collapsing stories: books where there was no conflict, nothing to sustain a reader’s interest, no goals to be attained.
But trying to plot everything in advance felt artificial and mechanical. Historical romance great Eloisa James once said she doesn’t really know who her characters are until two-thirds of the way through the first draft, and I think that’s true for me as well. So it doesn’t work for me to plot everything out in advance before I know those characters. If I don’t know them, how will I know what they’ll do? I don’t, and whenever I tried plotting, the characters fought me every step of the way, letting me know they didn’t like these destinies I had arbitrarily assigned them.
Then I read Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, and it changed my writing life. The book taught me to think in terms of what characters need, why they need it, and what’s standing in the way of them getting it. When you think about it, that’s what every good story is about. Nowadays, whenever I’m finding a book or movie boring, I almost always realize that the characters don’t want anything, or they get it too easily.
So now when I start a story, I have at least filled out GMC charts for my hero and heroine. I also have a number of plot points in mind. I do a lot of making it up as I go along, which works for me. It’s a combination of structure and freedom that I like. Neither fish nor fowl, plotter or pantser. Call me a plotser, or maybe a plantser.
In terms of my writing day, it really varies. I’m a mom and a full-time freelance editor as well, so writing has to fit in where I can make it fit. On good days, I spend the first couple of hours after my son leaves for school writing, and then turn to my freelancing projects. Some days, freelancing completely takes over my work day and I have to squeeze in writing at night or weekends. I don’t think it’s critical to write every day. What’s critical is to keep working, keep making progress, and be honest with yourself about how hard you’re actually working. If you’re doing the best you can do, it’s good enough. I used to beat myself up because I felt I was falling behind writers who didn’t have kids and didn’t have to work day jobs. That attitude is a total waste of time. I eventually figured out that I would be better off spending that worrying time actually writing, and I haven’t looked back.
To keep this party going, I’m tagging another writer for next week’s Writing Process post: Jim Cangany. Take it away, Jim!