So, here are my answers in the Writing Process Blog Tour.
What are you working on now?
In addition to getting these two novels out over the next three months, I also have several short stories coming out soon as well in anthologies and magazines. Two are SF short stories and one is a bridge story between Heart Strings and Two Voices, the final book in my Sweetwater Canyon series.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
My Sweetwater Canyon series is marketed as both romance and women's fiction. This is because I focus on the woman's journey to discovering who she is and how to be strong and assertive in spite of wounds in her past. However, the books also have a romance that is central to that discovery process.
Why do you write what you do?
All of my work, no matter the genre, tends to focus on how to determine where we fit in life. I think this is a question that we ask ourselves over and over again at different stages of our life. Depending on what has happened to an individual, the answer will likely change as he or she learns and grows. I know that the directions I set for myself at age sixteen are different than they were at 25 and at 40 and at 60. Certainly, there is a foundation of belief that has not changed for me, but the specifics and my approach has often changed.
For me, it is endlessly fascinating and exciting to hear and learn the myriad of answers to the questions of "Who am I?" "How do I fit in the universe?" and "What is the right path for me?" Answering these questions through different characters and circumstances and worlds provides me with an unending source of ideas. As I learn about my characters, the places they live, and the decisions they make, it also provides insight to me (and I hope to others) about how to look at the world from a different perspective than the one that first comes to mind. Changing perspective often yields new, creative, problem-solving.
How does your writing process work?
As you have probably guessed from my answer to the question above, my process is very much one of letting my unconscious brain drive the story. I believe that our unconscious brain is where seemingly disparate things are mixed together in one big soup and as they bump into each other, connections are made that are not at all obvious to our conscious brain. The trick is then forcing my conscious brain to interpret it and put it into words, emotions, characters, and action that make sense to me and to my readers.
My process usually begins with a question and a potential answer. Then I go in search of a character who needs to find the answer to my question in order to live a fulfilling life. For example, my question for the Sweetwater Canyon series was "How does a woman's sexual experience (good, bad, or not at all) impact her ability to create long-lasting relationships?" My series explores this through four different women, and a teenager. Each having a different kind of experience in her past. In my YA series, I asked the question, "What would happen if a teenage girl was able to turn into anyone she saw?" For some teenagers this might seem like heaven, but for my teenager she has no control over when and how it happens and, needless to say, it is not fun. One of my SF story questions was "What happens if anyone can live 800 years or more by simply getting an immunization?"
In all of these examples, I search for a character who needs to know the answer even more than I do. It takes me about 50-75 pages of writing to allow the character I choose to search and discover what is most important about that question and why it matters to him or her. That process fleshes out the character's backstory, the world, and what the end goal needs to be. I call this "writing into the mist." I enter a thick fog with my character and together we find our way at least to a patch where we can begin to see where we are and where we need to go. Others might call this "pantsing" which is writing by the seat of your pants, or writing without a plan.
Once I get through those first 50-75 pages, I then know where my story is going and have a fairly good idea of where it will end. At that point, I go back and rework the first 50+ pages to match that more clear vision. This usually involves throwing out at least half of it. :) I then sit down each day and write as much as I can toward the end. I write linearly because I am on as much of a road of discovery as my character(s). Most of the time this works well and I get to the end of the book with a solid story that surprises me many times along the way.
Every once in a while I get stuck or simply lose my way in the story. This usually means that my conscious mind was not doing its job very well in analyzing and translating the story to me. The connections that my subconscious is making are not being brought to my conscious brain. When that happens, I go back and outline what has happened so far in order for me to see the structure, the direction, the characters' needs and desires more clearly. That usually removes the jam and I can start writing forward again.
At the end of the first draft, I put it aside for at least two weeks and let it settle in my conscious. Then I go back and edit the entire thing. After that self-edit process, I send it off to beta readers and my editor simultaneously. While they have it, I start the process of getting information about it out (cover reveals, book blurbs, blog posts). When I get back all the feedback, I make changes as necessary and send it to proofreading. (Someone has to catch all the new errors I've introduced in the editing process). Finally, the book goes into the final publishing process to be released into the world.
Though I've now written more than a dozen books, I'm still amazed every time I finish a book. I'm amazed at how the mind works to pull details from seemingly disparate parts and make a story that lives and breathes and works together. In many ways it is magic to me. I breathe it in and savor that magical and creative process. It renews me and prepares me to write the next book. I am the luckiest woman in the world.
I'm supposed to pass this on to two more author. Unfortunately, after checking with a dozen people I knew (all with way too busy schedules) I only found one. But she is a GREAT one, so I think she deserves double credit. Her name is Paty Jager.
Next Week check out Paty Jager. Paty has published over 25 titles, ranging from historical romance to romantic suspense and historical paranormals. She is now moving into mysteries. I know her post will be interesting and likely quite different from mine. I'll be posting next week too to remind you to go to her blog. In the meantime, you might want to check out her Spirit Trilogy which is fantastic and at a great price.