The unparalleled, Joseph Courtemanche invited me to do a blog hop this week. I first met Joseph at the 2014 Writing for the Soul Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado where he was a finalist in the Operation First Novel Contest for his novel Assault on Saint Agnes. Joseph is one of the most gracious people I know and it was an honor to be able to get to know him. Joseph’s all about being real, and I appreciate that so much.
The subject of this blog hop is writing process. I’ve enjoyed reading the posts before me. I’m sure there are as many different writing processes as there are authors. Here’s mine:
About me as a writer?
My favorite time to write is late at night. There’s just something magical about the hours after 10pm. A large part of my first novel was written between the hours of midnight and 2am. During the school year I write from 8-3 and then I take a break until the evening. When everything is settled back down again, I’m back at the keyboard.
Black tea is my writing fuel. I drink it the English way, of course, but with raw honey instead of sugar and half and half instead of milk. Some of my favorite tea brands are Twinings, Harney & Sons, and Taylors of Harrogate. I’m also pretty addicted to Himilania Dark Chocolate Goji Berries. On occasion, I like to eat walnuts while I write. I think it’s my way of pretending I’m being healthy.
What am I currently working on?
These next three months I’ll be busy doing blog posts and interviews in preparation for the book release. I’ll also be planning a book release party in Colorado Springs. In August, I’m teaching a class for Pikes Peak Writers on query letters. In September, I’ll be at the ACFW Conference in St Louis, Missouri. In October, I’m headed to Monterey, California for a client retreat with my literary agency, Books & Such Literary Management. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to start my third book soon.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
A friend of mine describes The Covered Deep as Anne of Green Gables meets Indiana Jones meets Around the World in Eighty Days. I love that Bianca has the freshness of small town Appalachia and a head full of dreams. There are a lot of interesting superstitions that are her daily normal. I especially love that Paul, the British Museum’s historian, has unquenchable wanderlust and speaks eight languages. It helps that he’s also crazy swoon worthy. The backdrop of Victorian London and the Holy Land make for some pretty spectacular scenes. Add some intrigue, lots of romance, and plenty of secrets, and I think it’s the best Victorian romance around. But you knew I would say that. 😉
Why do I write what I do?
Ever since I was a child I was attracted to the Victorian time period. My favorite movies are Victorian and I go crazy over BBC period dramas. I’m also a shameless Anglophile so I love writing about all things British. I pretty much breathe history so getting to spend my days writing about it is the best thing ever. Also, nothing intrigues me like romance–the hows and whys. I love, love, love, getting to know my characters and then journeying with them through matters of the heart. I’m big on the gray areas and I like to push myself to see how everything fits. I write to find my characters deepest truth, the story’s deepest truth, and then I add a spiritual element to all that and it makes it especially interesting.
How does my writing process work?
I’m sort of a mystic when it comes to the process. My books normally begin with an object. The Covered Deep was an old photograph and Within the Veil was a locket that I saw in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. When I see these objects it’s like time stops–a lightning moment. For me, it’s very much God saying, “Pay attention to this.” I start thinking about it and that could take a good amount of time. Characters begin to take shape. I research names and their meaning. I research the history of the locations like crazy. I know the character’s birthdays etc., even if I never use that information. I write all the possibilities as well as the character’s backstory in one journal.
That said, I’m not really a plotter. When I finally do sit down to write chapter one, the characters pretty much tell me a lot more than I’ve written down. Often they’ll say one word or phrase that will be a key to their personality or the entire story.
My scenes come in flashes, kind of like a visual impression in my mind. I might know that there’s a window, so I start describing the window. Then I know it’s raining. Then I think about the smells, the sounds, and the temperature in the room. I know a character is reading a letter. As I go deeper in, more comes. I also listen to music that expresses the emotion of the scene. I usually have playlists for scenes, characters, and for the themes of my books. Since I love rain and it relaxes me, I often listen to rainymood.com while I write. When I wrote the window scene in The Covered Deep, I pretty much kept the first two minutes of the below song on repeat.
As far as drafts, I wrote eleven for The Covered Deep. But, there were a lot of years of learning in there. With my second book, I wrote three drafts before I gave it to my agent.
The first draft is normally just me getting to know the characters and the general story. I push myself to get a daily word count. 2000 words per day is ideal but I don’t always hit that mark. Sometimes a bit of historical research I need for the story to move forward and click will take me forever to find.
The second draft fills in details, like making a tapestry. With this phase, I push myself to finish a chapter. Sometimes this takes days (or weeks) but each thread makes it deeper and richer. My personal rule is that I don’t go on until I think the chapter I just finished is my favorite. It’s normally my second draft that my critique group sees. When I go all the way through the book, I let it rest for a little bit and then I attack the third draft. That finishes the story, the character arcs, etc.
Well, that’s a little about my writing process. Thanks for stopping by. If you’re a writer, what’s your process? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Next week (7-28) John Otte will be chiming in on the writing life. To see what his writing process is like and to find out about his books, click here.
John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he’s a Lutheran minister, husband, and father of two. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes unusual stories of geeky grace. He lives in South St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and two boys.