My Writing Process
Yesterday the lovely and talented Karina Cooper asked me to be part of a blog series on writing process. So here goes...my writing process. Pay attention. I'll only blog this once.
1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON NOW?
Right now I'm editing THE KING. I turned in the first final draft (writers will know what I mean by 'first final') in January. That's the draft you send your editor after you've fixed it as much as you and your beta readers can. Now it's July and I have my first final draft back with my editor's notes. She's asked for more suspense which inspired me to do a mass overhaul on the book. When I give the book back to her, it'll be at least 20% different. That six month break between turning in a book and getting it back from my editor is vital to my writing process. That long stretch of time when the book is off my mind lets me re-read it with new fresh eyes. I can see the flaws I couldn't see before. Plus I've started writing the next book in the series and have enough of it finished that I can tie the two books together with a few choice lines of dialogue or other little hints of what's to come.
2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE GENRE?
I don't know. I don't read much erotica or erotic romance. I think the only glaring difference is that my books are more like urban fantasy than erotic romance. I have the same cast of characters who show up in every book, an alpha heroine with almost magic powers, and the books are plot-heavy relying on outside events more than building relationships. Not every single book has a happy-ever-after. Sometimes I make you wait a few books for a resolution.
3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
It was an accident. The original version of THE SIREN wasn't erotica. It was erotic women's fiction with a literary fiction bend. There wasn't much sex in the book although the sex that was in the book was fairly explicit. My agent said I could do two things with the book--add more plot or add more sex. I did both. The result was a book that would fit best in the erotica category. Since book one in the series was erotica, I had to continue make the rest of the books in the series erotic. I never planned on being an erotica writer although I love it and have no regrets.
Future books from me will likely take me back to women's fiction, commercial fiction, and other genres I want to explore--fantasy and Southern Gothic. The BDSM is the Original Sinners is only there because Mistress Nora's day job was a dominatrix. If she'd been a doctor or a lawyer instead of a dominatrix, kink wouldn't be so central to the series. Kink isn't the point of the Original Sinners anyway. I just use kink to explore human nature and ask the eternal questions of why we suffer and why we seek pain and why pain and suffering is often better for us than pleasure and happiness.
4. MY WRITING PROCESS
I don't write everyday. Don't listen to people who say you should write every single day. Sometimes you take a week off to read. Sometimes you take a week off to go to Miami and sit on a beach and dream new ideas. That's all fine. But when I'm writing a book, I write like a motherfucker.
9-10am WAKE UP AND EAT BREAKFAST
10-12am TWEET AND ANSWER EMAILS
2-6pm WRITE - Since moving to Portland I write at a park near our house that has a quiet meditation space. No WiFi there so I can get a ton of writing done. I've written 6000 words in a three hour span before. There's something magical about having absolutely no access to the internet and I can finish a 110,000 word draft in six weeks. Then I give it to four to six beta readers and make changes based on their notes. I'll send the final first draft to my editor. Six months later she gets it back to me with her suggestions. I make most of her suggestions plus do my own changes, which are usually extensive. The difference between the first final draft of THE SAINT and the final printed draft of THE SAINT is about 40%. Nico wasn't in the first final, neither were the ashes or the frame story. The first final was 136,000 words long. The print version is 118,000 words long. I do massive revisions on every book, and if I don't I feel like I've missed something.
Writing is so much more than typing. The story isn't perfectly formed in your head. You're not taking dictation from on high (although sometimes it can feel like that and those are the rare beautiful days when writing is a better high than any drug out there). You have to dig it out like you're digging out dinosaur bones. You lay the bones out, and then and only then do you know what sort of dinosaur you have. Then you get the wire and the glue and you can put the skeleton together to make something awesome. For every 10,000 words I write, maybe 5000 get published. I delete a lot. I rewrite constantly. I am never married to anything in a draft until it's in print. I deleted my favorite chapter from THE KING two days ago because it doesn't fit into the new plot. C'est la guerre, as Kingsley would say. The new version will be better than the old. The old saying "The good is the enemy of the best" applies to your drafts. You might have a good scene, yes. But if you're willing to rethink, delete, and rewrite, you could have a better scene.
Years ago I asked my favorite professor at my alma mater Centre College if he thought another student was going to make it as a writer. My professor (Dr. Mark Lucas) said yes, he thought so because that student threw a lot away. That's the sign of a real writer, he said, not being too attached to your own words.
That student and I are now both international bestselling writers with major publishers. The best thing a writer who wants to make it big can do is be merciless with his or her own writing. Never settle for the good. Write for the best. Fight for the best.
Thanks, Karina! This was fun!