I actually get a lot of messages about my writing process. I was surprised the first time but now I’m kind of used to it.
I think there’s an inherent curiosity regarding the writing process. Mine is not particularly illuminating (or even unique) but I promised to lay it out for those interested.
So, here we go:
1. I never work on one thing at a time. The reason I can publish things so fast is that I overlap. There are purists out there who believe it’s sacrilege to work on two things at once. That’s not me. Right now, for example, I have eleven things in various stages of completion. We’re talking shorts, omnibuses and novels here. Breaking that down, the omnibuses are completely ready to load up. Three novels are ready to load up (one for preorder, one for Tuesday, one for June). Two are with editors and the rest are ready to go to editors. All except for one … which is the book I’m writing now. I can only WRITE one book at a time. I don’t jump around from book-to-book while writing but I can overlap the various stages of editing (which actually take longer than the writing for me) and formatting.
2. I use an outline when I write. Each series has its own notebook and I outline the next book in the series as soon as I finish the previous book because it streamlines the process. For example, last week I finished the main writing on the next Avery Shaw book (to head off the inevitable questions, it’s for September release and has many rounds of edits to go through so it will not be out early. There is a schedule pinned to the top of the Facebook page that lists releases) and I immediately outlined the next one. That way, when I go back in five months and start writing it, I will already have the outline done and be able to hop right in.
3. When it comes to story ideas, they usually pop up when I’m doing other things … like laundry, dishes, walking or even driving to the store. I jot down the ideas in a notebook and when it comes time to outline I decide which outline I’m leaning toward and go. By that time I’ve had the story percolating in my head for a few days and it only takes me an hour or two to outline. I’m what’s considered a “beat” outliner. That means I write down the most important aspects to cover in that chapter and then let the chapter get to where it wants on its own. It works for me but I know other people who are horrified by my process. I’m also not afraid to break from an outline if I have a better idea as I’m writing.
4. Once I’m done with the main writing I walk away for a week or two and work on the main writing on something else. By the time I come back I have just a bit of distance which helps for editing purposes. I then edit the manuscript and get it off to the first editor as soon as possible. I have a line editor and two proofreaders I utilize (and, yes, typos still get through). Once I get it back I have to go through it one more time, format and then upload. Because the process is so long and overlapping, that’s why I can’t always do preorders even though people want them. Preorders are great when they work but I refuse to put anything up for preorder that’s not 100 percent complete (there have been horror stories about Amazon sending out the wrong file) so I can only do what I can do. I put what I can up for preorder and the rest doesn’t get preorders.
5. As for ideas, I have so many ideas that I can’t keep up with them. I know other authors who say they struggle for ideas but I have the opposite problem. I will never be able to write all of the ideas I have. In fact, sometimes I get taken over by an idea. That’s kind of happening now with a series that I had an idea for and it was kind of stalking me so I started working on it to get it out of the way. I like it because it has a lot of crossover capability with characters from other series. Despite that, though, if I don’t put some work into it I will become distracted while trying to write something else and it will actually slow me down over the long haul. I have a tendency to get obsessed with stuff.
So, that’s basically it. My process is relatively easy but it’s long and I have a lot to cover between stages.
I’m attached to my characters. All of them.
I’m even attached to the ones that readers write to me about and say “I love every single one of your characters but … .” Guess what? I love the “but,” too. I don’t ever really want to end a series but it’s inevitable and I would rather pick the right time than let something linger longer than it should.
As an author, you walk a fine of trying to make readers happy but doing the story justice. I can’t tell you how many times people have written to me and said that my series should be no more than three books. Each and every series. If it goes longer than three books I’m a hack who is just out for money.
On the flip side, a lot of people write to me that they never want a series to end. They want it to go until the end of time and if I ever stop writing the series they’re going to hate me forever. That’s great in theory, but it’s not so easy (or pragmatic) in practice.
The longer a series goes you risk tipping into “diminishing returns.” What is that? At a certain point you stop sucking in new readers for a series and you start losing them. That happens to everyone.
Now, I’m not someone who pays much attention to diminishing returns. I am lucky enough to be able to write full time and I never end a series before I decide it’s done. I always have an idea of what I want the end of a series to look like, a set story so to speak, but some of the stuff between can be more vague. I try not to focus on the money angle over everything else. That’s why I keep my books at $3.99 and in KU.
Other authors or publishers give a series one or two books and then yank it without an ending if it doesn’t perform. I don’t do that. I always finish everything. I’m a bit of a completionist.
Take Hardy Brothers Security, which I wrote under my pen name. That series didn’t sell well and I still wrote twenty-four books. I was attached to the characters and had a specific story I wanted to tell.
I don’t know anyone else who would’ve written that many books in an underperforming series. That’s simply how I’m built.
Now, when it comes to series like Wicked Witches of the Midwest and Mystic Caravan, I’m honestly not sure how long they’ll run. I know I have quite a few stories still to tell. I “kind of” know how they will end but I have a lot of room to play in between.
My grim reapers, however, will go nine books. That means they end next year. I already know how they’re going to end. In fact, I know what the final line in the book is going to be. That doesn’t mean I won’t revisit the series at some point. That’s not something I just say either. Covenant College folks can attest to that. I had a set five books for that series and then had a fun idea and added six more books in two follow-up trilogies. That could easily happen to Aisling Grimlock. However, right now it will be nine books (although the grim reapers are most likely going to pop up in my Charlie Rhodes series and another series I’ve been working on outlines for) and then there will be a break before anything else is decided. It’s always nice to step back for a little bit, because when I have ideas for new series (or a continuation of an old) it’s usually when I take a step back.
As for Avery Shaw, I keep going back and forth. I believe she’ll go fifteen books but she’s honestly my favorite to write (yes, I know other people hate her, you message me all of the time). She’s essentially me, though, so when you write that you hate her it’s kind of like you’re hating me. Luckily for you, just like Avery Shaw, that only makes me stronger. Anyway, if Avery Shaw goes longer than fifteen books – and that’s honestly up in the air – it will turn into a series where there is only one new entry a year. Like I said, I keep waffling on that one.
Why is this important? Why do you care? Unlike other authors, I have more ideas than I can write. I honestly have outlines done in another twenty series or so because I have so many ideas. Whenever I have an opening and can start a new series I’m excited … until a great war wages inside of me to pick a series to focus on. I just had another idea this past weekend I’m dying to write but I don’t have time.
The thing is, I never want to stop a series because I love the characters. However, I do want to get to know new characters and series going forward, too. It’s honestly a double-edged sword (I have two future series where swords would make regular appearances, by the way). I do give it a great deal of thought, though.
So, what do you think? How long do you think is too long for a series?
The "whiny" witch?
So, a lot of people are worked up about Bay.
I didn’t foresee an issue, but apparently I was wrong.
Here’s the thing, Murder Most Witchy was a “transition” book. What do I mean about that? I mean it was setting things up for what is to come next.
I don’t always like the television season analogy, but I think that’s the easiest one to go with. When you break it down, the first three books were the first season. It was your introduction to Bay and the other Winchesters but you were in learning mode more than growing mode.
The next block of books were as much about Landon adjusting to a magical world as Bay adjusting to having him in her life. She grew up thinking no one would want to put up with the magic and ghosts – let alone Aunt Tillie – but slowly learned maybe that wasn’t true. She was still insecure, though, because she believed one thing her entire life and wasn’t sure she could ever break from that belief.
I spent a lot of time building the witch relationships how I wanted them, and now it’s time for another shift. Bay and Landon have to take the next step – moving in together – before they can take more steps after that. To make that happen, I needed Bay’s worst-case scenario to come to fruition. I needed Landon to go undercover and things to go badly.
It wasn’t just about Bay being “whiny,” which she fully admitted herself. It was Bay coming to grips with the fact that even when things change, that doesn’t mean she’s going to lose everything. There was a lesson in there that she needed to learn.
Going forward, I want to set up four different households. The Overlook is one, the guesthouse is another, Marcus’ stable and funky house project is the third and the Dandridge is the fourth. Now the witches, who are extremely codependent, need to learn to live in new environments. Even though Bay isn’t moving, it will be a new environment because the old pieces are being replaced with the new.
All that being said, November’s mystery and December’s fantasy (and even some of the book following that) will involve Bay, Landon and Thistle (and Marcus by extension) living together. Landon and Thistle being on top of each other is too much fun to ignore. After that, though, there’s new avenues to stroll down and they’re bound to be exciting.
How will Bay, Clove and Thistle deal with not being under the same roof? Sure, Clove is already out but with Thistle and Bay left behind it wasn’t that different. When Thistle leaves, though, we really are in a brave new witch world. That witch world will be different for Landon, too. He will go from spending half his time there to all of his time there, and it will still be an adjustment.
For those upset with Bay’s reaction, I’m sorry. Bay needed for the absolute worst to happen to prove that it wasn’t the end of the world. Did she act in a mature fashion? No. I never even considered that. I wouldn’t have been happy in her position and I didn’t ever think that was the way to go when writing it.
Moving forward, though, the witches will be braving new things and new scenarios. Will they always be mature when they respond? Absolutely not. That’s not the way they (or I, for that matter) roll.
They learned from Aunt Tillie, after all.
When I was a kid, I was torn between whether or not I was going to grow up and be the Incredible Hulk or Wonder Woman. I flirted with being a Jedi Knight for awhile, but I wasn't up for the intense travel associated with the gig. In my teens, I settled on being a writer -- although I had no idea the effort that would entail.