Last week I was tagged in a blog that’s going through the writing community. The goal is to explore and explain our processes as well as we can (without seeming crazy).
I was tagged by my amazing friend Talia Quinn, a Firebird and Lucky 13 Golden Heart sister, whose next contemporary romance Call Me Saffron comes out June 9th. I can’t wait for this book, the first in her Greenpoint Pleasures series, and I am putting aside some serious time to read it!
1) What am I working on?
I am currently revising my 2014 Golden Heart manuscript See Her No More. When a woman determined to protect the life she’s built for herself becomes the target of an arms dealer who believes she holds the key to a 12th Century secret, her only chance to stay alive rests within the arms of her ex-Green Beret husband who abandoned her eight years earlier.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
While the books all have Green Beret heroes, they are all out of the military. And not necessarily by choice. I write military romantic suspense with dishonored men, men desperate to clear their names and regain their honor, men who have nothing to lose. This makes my heroes darker than most, but also more determined to succeed.
My heroines, one the other hand, all have a quiet strength and fierce intelligence. Since the heroes are up against a villain who plays with histories greatest secrets–old conspiracy theories–they need the heroines to help them solve the mysteries. While the men bring their guns, strength, tactical and operational knowledge, the women bring the books and unique intelligence to see obscure clues–clues others miss in their everyday life.
I write about Colonel Torridan’s Black Ops Brotherhood. A group of elite soldiers devoted to each other, determined to seek the truth instead of justice, willing to risk their honor, their lives, and their souls to save themselves and the women they love.
To read more, please join me at at the 2012 Golden Heart Firebirds blog or click here to read more.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I write because I need to create a world where men and women who’ve been betrayed, lost, or left behind have a chance to prove to themselves that they are worthy of love and acceptance. I write romantic suspense with conspiracy subplots because sometimes those who are powerless or have been rejected unfairly are the only ones who can see the truth.
There is nothing lonelier or darker than being told you’re wrong, unworthy, or delusional yet knowing your fears are real. And sometimes the only way to make yourself heard is to persist against insurmountable odds. The themes I return to are of trust and betrayal, regaining control, fighting and sacrificing for those who are even more powerless than the hero/heroine are, seeking the truth instead of justice, facing–and sometimes embracing–the darkness inside oneself in order to defeat the enemy.
4) How does my writing process work?
I call it beautiful chaos. I start with a listing of all of the major characters and make sure I know EVERYTHING about them. Their past, their present, and how I want to them turn out far off in the future. Then I make a relationship grid. I usually have 3-4 POVs and at least one subplot so there is a large number of relationships (other than the romance) that needs to be mapped out. How do I want characters to interact? Who changes whom? Who works against whom?
Then I write an outline that takes me weeks to months to write. Everything goes into the outline, including all the backstory and every idea I’ve ever had about the story. This is a time to add, not cut.
Then comes the monstrous first draft. It’s enormous and ugly and so unwieldy that I want to give up before I get to the end. But because I have seriously complex conspiracy plots, I have to overwrite in the first pass. Again, no cutting yet.
Yet, despite the large external plot, the stories are completely character-driven, mostly driven by the romance (80 – 85%) This is where the relationship grid comes into play. As I work through the first draft, moving and cutting, the words are still ugly and awful. But once I get the transformational arcs done, and all the relationship stuff clear in my head, then I can start the revisions.
First I start with cutting out as much backstory and plot as I can.
Then I make sure the internal story drives the external plot.
Then I start what I call the layered revisions. At least three-four passes each for the hero and heroine and the romance, layering and shaping the scenes until I’m satisfied. Then I do at least one pass for each character in the book, regardless if they have a POV. Then I do a pass for things like weather, setting, clothes, etc.
Then comes my favorite part–the part I call the word-smithing. I love graceful words and phrases and this is my chance to make the book as beautiful as possible.
Then I put it aside for a few weeks before re-reading the entire thing from start to finish.
Then I make any other edits I need to, especially if I’ve thought of something in the interim.
After I’m happy with it, I send it to my CPs who Beta read for me. Once they’re happy, I send it to my agent. And then, depending on her input, I revise again or we submit. It sounds so simple and straight-forward when I write it out like this. I really wish it was. I am an agonizingly slow writer.
As a previous dress designer, I am also very visual and when I’m stuck on something, I go for a walk with my camera (usually with children and/or dogs tagging along) and I always find some sort of inspiration behind the lens. Then I have to rush home and write it all down.
And once that book is done, it’s time to start another.
Now, for next week, I’m tagging two wonderful writers and fellow Golden Heart sisters:
Lark Howard’s love of reading, writing and travel led her to a degree in English, a string of colorful jobs and a well-worn passport. After college, she escaped to the Virgin Islands for a few years to dive, sail and scribble observations on island life. Back in the states, she used her love of writing to market commercial architecture by day and create novel length fiction at night. She was a 2013 Golden Heart Finalist for her Paranormal Romance, SHADOWS IN THE DEEP, which is set in the Caribbean. When not traveling to far-away places, Lark lives in Texas with her brilliant designer husband and two of the cutest rescue pups in the world. Look for her writing process post next Monday, June 9, at http://larkwrites.wordpress.com/
Besides being a writer, Gail Hart is a mediator, recovering lawyer, former Air Force officer, scuba diver, Mustang convertible owner, and chocaholic. Her manuscript Confessions of the World’s Oldest Shotgun Bride was a finalist in the 2013 Golden Heart (R) contest. Look for her writing process post next Monday, June 9, on the Writers Gone Wild blog at http://writersgonewild.blogspot.com/.
All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray.
Now I’d love to know about your process? Is it ugly and scary? Smooth and easy? A mess? Or inspired?