Behind the Scenes: My Writing Process

My process has changed quite a bit over the years, and the changes have been for the better. I've always been fast, but my routine and method used to hold me back because I would never plot anything! I just dove right in and started, writing random scenes that popped into my head and trying to figure out how they fit together.

So ask yourself--

  • How many words do I want to get down?
  • What is my time frame? 

I'll start by taking an overall look at the story, including genre. Let's say I'm writing a sweet romance for my Catelyn Meadows pen name.

These books are between 45k and 50k words. That means, if I can write 5,000 words a day, I can have a draft done in about two weeks.

The first thing I do is plot out the story. I use this book religiously for plotting my romances. It's PERFECTO.

While I'm plotting, story ideas also start to dribble in, not so much in drips but in torrents. So I make sure EVERY STORY I WRITE has its own notebook BEFORE I start to plot it.

I used to use just one notebook for everything but that was a huge muddle. This way, I can keep track of every single story I'm working on--which is especially helpful if I'm working on more than one at a time (which I usually am!).

As I'm plotting, I jot down the conversations and character names and ideas that inevitably come so I don't lose that precious info. I can refer to it later and cross it out of my notebook after I've already inserted it into the story itself.

Time for the first draft

I mark my start date on my calendar. I mark my end date on my calendar. And then rain or shine, I write write write. (Short of Sundays. I take Sundays off.)

If my goal is to get 5k words a day, by golly I get 5k. I loved what Rachel Hollis, the author of Girl, Wash Your Face, said in her book. She talked about how she'd decided to work out even after going out with some friends. When her friend asked her why she was exercising so late at night, the author said she was just keeping a promise she'd made to herself.

I second that.

A goal is a promise you make to yourself. Keep those promises!

Two weeks are over. The first draft is down. It's usually at this point that I'm editing an older story, either just having gotten it back from my beta reader or my editor. Or I'm going through a book that's been recently formatted.

Time to edit

I'm a hands' on editor. That means I really struggle adding what I need to on the manuscript in its computer format. I need to write the changes manually. For some reason, my brain just works better that way. I think through my hands, so things that are missing, like setting and emotion, can be added in.

So yes. I print it out. The whole thing. I make the font smaller and adjust the margins to Narrow, just so I'm not using quite as much paper. I also make sure I've added a comment or two so that it prints with that whole space on the righthand side for me to fill if I need to. And then that puppy goes with me everywhere.

This process usually takes me anywhere from two to three weeks, depending on what else is going on in my life.

Time for a beta read

I used to have a crew of critique partners that would exchange manuscripts with me and we'd read one another's work and offer our advice. These ladies helped me immensely. I learned SO MUCH from them and wouldn't be where I am without them.

But our lives changed. We changed genres. Life happened. We all moved on in our writing careers and circumstances were just different. And now I'm so busy I don't have time to swap books with friends the way I used to.

I've also gotten to the point that I don't need as many betas as I used to. Not trying to sound boastful; it's just the truth. I've been doing this for a LONG time. When I wrote Tournament of Power, I sent it to exactly zero readers before zipping it off to my editor, and I'm doggone proud of that book. It gets raving reviews and is one of my favorite stories I've written so far.

My romances do need an eye though, and so I'll send those to my beta reader. I pay her for her time, and she gives me a full evaluation of the manuscript, from plot and pacing to setting to characters and their arcs. She's amazing.

With fantasy, for past books, I have a phenomenal content editor. She goes through and tells me everything that's wrong with the story and what I can do to make it stronger. She's incredible.

Time for editing

Once I've gotten my manuscript the best that I can, it's off to my editor! She sends detailed feedback line by line sometimes about what needs to be fixed. I make those changes (for fantasy, that can take upward of a month because I sometimes need to rewrite whole sections of the book).

Those changes are made, and I send the book to a copy editor and then a proofread editor. I want to make sure this bad chicken is as shiny and squeaky clean as it can be, ready to be devoured by voracious readers!

Time for formatting

Changes are made. The book is edited. I then send it to my formatter. It usually takes her a week, and you guys, she's amazing. Her sister often designs my covers, and so they can create a cohesive look for my book's interior.

Qamber Designs + Media does a smash-bang job of this. I love their work on all of my books. (I should add, before this entire process starts, I often already have the book's cover ready to go! Not always, but I like to. It's visually stimulating and motivating for me.)

Even after the book is formatted, I sometimes still find mistakes, and Nada is such a good sport about fixing them for me.

Before I know it, the book is ready to get out to my reviewers!

WHEW. That's just a brief run down of what goes into writing a book for me. It's vigorous, but sort of addictive because I can't seem to get enough of it.

Thanks for sticking around! January is just about over, and I can't wait to dive into my How To Writing Tip on Thursday!

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