The Writing Process Blog Hop of 2014

Thank you to my delightful Twitter friend Amy Jo Cousins for tagging me in The Writing Process Blog Hop of 2014. Although I am delighted to share, I’m terrified this line will end with me. (I suddenly feel like an unmarried Regency hero—titled, without wife, without hope of legitimate issue.) I’m supposed to tag several authors to answer the same four questions I will answer, and the writers before me have answered…

If you don’t know Miz Amy Jo/AJ Cousins, I suggest you acquaint yourself with her—on Twitter or on the page. Her latest release, Calling His Bluff, is a super (!) read. And in a few months we’ll be together between the same cover. That sounds entirely too scandalous. I assure you, it is not. We’ll be joining seven other authors in the first of two charity anthologies benefitting RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network); Summer Rain will be available June 2014. 

There are four questions in this blog hop. I’ll try to keep this brief. (Ahem, Amy; I beat ya.) 

I. What am I working on right now?

Right now? I’m working on this blog post. (Sass, I have it!)

I assume most writers—published and unpublished—are like me, juggling several projects at once. At the moment, my brightly-colored balls are: a freelance project; major revisions for a novel I wrote last year and hope to begin querying when the time is right; edits for my short story in the RAINN anthology; and major plotting/daydreaming for a somewhat hush-hush project.

II. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m just going to put it out there: I’m really afraid of this question. I was scared of it when I first joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) and started going to meetings in January 2013. It was even more terrifying when I went to RWA nationals in Atlanta last summer. And I suspect it will continue to be something I’m loath to answer from here on out.

While it is incredibly useful to determine where you fit within the enormous body of work that is romantic fiction, it is also incredibly intimidating. Especially for an unpublished author.

We all want to believe our work is fresh and different and fabulous. And it is because we are, all of us, different. But the question feels a little icky because it inevitably invites comparison.  

I bet young professional athletes who are compared to “the greats” feel the same. Imagine the pressure of living up to a comparison to Wayne Gretzky, or, even worse, having someone label you “the next Great One”…and then failing miserably. 

Plus, putting the fear of living up to the label aside, it sounds a bit conceited to say in a cocktail-party voice: my work marries the humor of Kristan Higgins with the heat of Victoria Dahl and the heart of Shannon Stacey. Even typing this hypothetical and knowing it will live forever on the Internet is enough to break me out in great splotches of pink. And, as much as I love pink, I don’t love the angry, mottled neck/chest hive look.

So on to…

III. Why do I write what I do?

I write romance because I love to read romance. It’s as simple as that.

I believe that—despite the hurdle-like obstacles we modern mortals leap and crash into with alarming frequency—love, humor, compassion, and passion are the greatest gifts we can receive and give to one another. And romance novels are constant champions of these ideals.

Life is messy, complicated, and often full of heartache. Romance offers hope and healing. It’s as complex as that. ;)

IV. How does my writing process work?

As an unpublished writer, I have a lot of freedom. Right now, deadlines are of my own devising. I answer to myself, not an agent, editor, and editorial board. I don’t have cover worksheets to fill out and marketing plans to execute while working on line edits and also drafting the next novel.

When I get the call, all of this will change. (And hooray for that glorious change when it happens!)

Will my process hold up? I suspect most of it will. I’m a rather organized sort (although you’d never be able to tell looking at my desk, my house, or God forbid, my car), so the process for hitting deadlines and completing tasks won’t change. I’m rather meticulous when it comes to deadlines. That darned people-pleaser syndrome.

I write everywhere; I’m not particular. (Although I do get cranky very easily.) I dictate notes to Siri at red lights and before I go to sleep—with varying results in comprehension. I scribble in my notebook du jour. I go to the public library and unplug from the world. I frequent a number of Starbucks and Barnes and Nobles. And I’ve been known to spend the morning writing in bed, propped up by pillows á la Edith Wharton.

I sometimes even manage to clean off my desk and write there.

And I usually have a beverage (or two or three) at hand. Water. A vanilla latte. A cuppa Earl Grey. Sometimes a medicinal cookie will accompany these hydration options. 

...from the annals of my Instagram

...from the annals of my Instagram

I have a series of totebags that hold my writing life—always packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Currently, I’m carrying around a heavy-duty Lands’ End canvas bag (pink accents, of course). Oh my goodness, I’m about to become that “what’s in your heroine’s bag right now” character exercise Susan Elizabeth Philips talked about a decade ago at my first RWA nationals in Dallas.

In my bag: 

My wallet; cell phone; sunglasses; keys. Random change and receipts in the outside pocket. And a mini pouch holding three lipsticks (Revlon lip butters—I’m obsessed), a Tata Harper lip balm, a mini container of One Love Organics Skin Savior Balm, and a mini Laura Mercier powder and brush. Tampons. EO lemon hand sanitizer.

My splurge-tastic Graphic Image agenda and personalized jotter set.

This month's RWR.  

Three notebooks—a project notebook for my freelance gig; a beloved Greenroom for Target notebook (I fear they’ll quit making it!) I jot down all kinds of mess in; oh, I lied, I have only two notebooks right now. I took the third out the other day. (I use it exclusively for DARA meeting notes.) Man, I love paper products!

My Twelve South iPad stand. Why it’s in here when my iPad isn’t, I don’t know.

And here is my secret shame: three pouches. (Pouches are my life.)

My gold glitter pouch holds: my external hard drive + cord; lint-free screen cleaner cloth thing; small emergency ear buds I hate but keep in my bag in case I don’t want to lug around the big ones; an assortment of flash drives collected at RWA last summer.

My small metallic patchwork Liberty of London fabric pouch holds: a dizzying assortment of pens, all felt-tipped; my DARA nametag; mini Moo cards; and a few “official” business cards I’ve never had the occasion to give anyone.

My large metallic patchwork Liberty of London fabric pouch holds: my Mac’s power brick; an Apple power adapter; an iPhone 5 cord; an iPad cord; and my Magic Mouse.

 My MacBook in my most favorite BookBook case.

And it all fits, folks. I’m something of a packing genius (see above).

Back to my writing process: I used to be a pantser—a writer who begins with the germ of an idea or character and sits down and starts typing/writing without any specific roadmap, so to speak. I’m now somewhere between pantser and plotter. I value some of the plotting lessons I’ve learned over the years, but I’m always cognizant things will change when I sit down to write to write the first draft. And second. Third. Fourth.  

I have a theatre background, and this may inform how I approach writing fiction. I’m very interested in character/types and dialogue. I’m a big daydreamer—I usually “see” a scene or chapter in cinematic flashes before attempting to capture it in words on the page.

Often, I’ll build entire scenes and chapters around dialogue first, and then go back and write the narrative bits. But that isn’t always the case. For some scenes, I know what I want to happen, and I spend time exploring and figuring out how my characters will behave. Acting is reacting to a set of given circumstances—and the same holds true in fiction.

That is possibly more than you wanted to know about my writing process. And so much for keeping it brief. (Although I think I beat Amy Jo Cousins’ word count. Whew.)

So, um, does anyone want to keep my line of the blog hop going? Or shall it die out with me and go to a distant cousin who will squander the family fortune? Email me if you’d like to be next!

UPDATE: The Julia Kelly has been tagged! My line won't die!! Anybody else want to help me build my legacy? 

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: Alexis Anne is added to my blog hop legacy. Go forth, child, and let us get a good, nosy peek into your process!