Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Day In The Life: Process, Phone Calls and Sensibility

Kind of a broad title, isn't it? But I like anything that gives me a chance to post a picture of Willoughby. Sigh, one of the most yummy cads around. I know, I know, shoot me, but I was hoping Marianne would end up with him. :)

But I digress . . . as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when I blogged about the plan for the series, I thought you guys might enjoy a little peek into my writing day--aka "the process."

If there's one thing that writers can agree on is that what works for one person might not work for another. My writing process has changed over the years--mostly because of deadlines and publisher requirements (i.e. the synopsis)--but the past couple of years, I've developed a pretty steady rhythm.

It takes me about 6 months to write a book. That's not actually all writing time. I give myself a good month of "macerating" to think about and develop the story, research the characters/historical background, and then write a synopsis. It might sound like a lot of time, but it really isn't. Fleshing out characters, trying to find their romantic arc, figuring out the all important BM, and trying to sync it all with what's going on historically can be a challenge. But other than writing "the end" this is probably my favorite part of the process. It's the time when I'm most in love with my story--correction: POTENTIAL story. When you actually start writing, all those great things you planned don't always work out. :)

I'm not a "seat of the pants" writer or a plotter but more of a "tweener." (Allison Brennan, Candice Hern, and I did a fun workshop on his once). Basically, I like to have a flight plan in place for where I'm going, but I don't necessarily want to know all the details. I want to give myself "targets" but have plenty in freedom in how I'm going to get there.

So before I sit down to write I like to have a couple of documents in place: (1) a synopsis (usually about 10-15 pages, which I give my editor for approval before I start), (2) a rough "outline" for lack of a better term. But what it really is is ideas for scenes mixed with turning points that I've used to write the synopsis, and (3) a "timeline" for plotting out the bigger turning point and ARC points of the plot and character. It sounds much more complicated than it is. :) Recently, I've started using index cards to mark the big "beats" of the plot (screenwriting term). I really like it, so I'll probably continue to do that.

The actual writing time is about 4 1/2 to 5 months, depending on vacations, school holidays, etc. With whatever time I have left, I send it to my critique partner Jami Alden (romantic suspense), beg her to read it quickly, and sit on pins and needles until she gets back to me. Most of my revisions come from Jami. By time it goes to my editor it's typically in pretty good shape.

Here's where the day to day stuff comes in.

After I get the kids off to school, I usually sit down at the computer by about 8 am and start tackling email for about an hour. Then, pretty much every day unless one of us is on vacation, I wait for the phone to ring. It's time for the daily phone call. For a good half hour to an hour Jami and I talk about what we're working on. Sometimes it segues from a discussion about a current book we're reading, sometimes it's a panic call, but most of the time it's just the daily slog of here's what I'm thinking, what do you think? I can't tell you how much good stuff comes out of these calls.

I swear we could talk for hours about this stuff (and sometimes do). This is where sensibility comes in. I think one of the reasons we've been so successful as critique partners is that we have the same sensibility when it comes to romance. With few exceptions we like the same thing: Alpha heroes, emotional intensity, and big black moments. Sometimes we sound like teenagers discussing a book. You should have heard the recent discussion we had after I read Karen Robard's "Forbidden Love." God, I loved that book! :) But the important thing is that we really know what the other person is going for, and I trust her to let me know if I have or haven't gotten there.

You wouldn't believe how many times we're discussing things and realize we've overlapped in some characterization or motivation. It's crazy. Even to the point of coming up (independently) with very similar plot points that are definitely NOT typical in romance. When Viper's story comes out, I'll fill you in. :)

After the phone call, it's time to write. Typically, I strive to write about a scene a day (roughly 1,500 words). With an occasional break for working out, I revise until about noon, eat lunch, and then write on my alpha smart until about 5 (with a break for picking up the kids). Sometimes those 1500 words go quicker, but more often they take longer. The alpha smart is supposed to cut down on my revising as I go, but I still manage to do it. Can't help it. :) When I'm closer to deadline, I'm working until 6 or 7, and also, sadly, on weekends.

Any promotion I do--answering email, blogs, website updates--is typically done on the weekend. Because this seriously cuts into already limited family time, promo is pretty limited. When people ask why I'm not on facebook, twitter, etc. this is why.

After I finish a book, it's right on to the next one. Literally. Only when I'm between contracts do I get a month or so break.

So that's it. Boring, isn't it?

You guys will have to read Jami's new Romantic Suspense series when it comes out from Grand Central starting in July, I swear sometimes we share the same brain. :)