I have always thought it was odd when people have asked me about my writing process. I guess in my head the answer is along the lines of, “Well, I sit down in a comfy spot with my laptop, minimize distractions, and then type whatever comes into my head, which is (I always hope) a story. Then I edit it a lot.”
That’s been the deep dark secret of my writing process for years–at least as far as I’d ever analyzed it.
But then as I started the next installment (Book 4) of the Legally in Love series, I realized I had jumped the gun and wasn’t doing something right so I couldn’t get the story to work. Yet.
This made me think, hey. There actually IS a method here–at least for this particular series.
So, here’s what I realized it is.
1) Title of the Series
Knowing the title of the series has been the anchor for all the themes of the books. Yeah, the first two are about two competing lawyers who happen to have chemistry, and the third is more about two students skirting the law for personal gain (and love!), but the LAW is the theme that ties them together. That’s in place for the fourth book, as well.
2) Title of the Book
Not everyone can start with a title. It’s not really a tried and true method. With one of my books I started with a setting (BIG IN JAPAN). With another I started with a character (A LITTLE SISTERLY ADVICE). In another book, I knew the plot because I was doing an Austen adaptation (CHOCOLATE AND CONVERSATION.) With another, I had a really cool concept (for a book I’m not ready to release yet, but someday!) But with all the books in this legal series, the titles have been the catalyst for the plot. They’re all legal phrases, and that’s the same for Book 4, 5, and 6. (And 7, if I get that far.)
3) Cover Photo
With all these books, I’ve found it impossible to even start the storytelling until I found just the right cover. I couldn’t even get names or character types until I saw the faces of the characters. This was what tripped me up with writing Book 4–I didn’t have a cover photo picked. Well, I did, but it wasn’t working. So now that I spent nearly the whole writing day on Wednesday trolling for the right cover models, I’m feeling ready to proceed! Yay!
4) Characters’ Backgrounds
Knowing who the people ARE is more important than knowing what is going to happen to them. Because it doesn’t matter what happens to them so much as exploring how they’ll react to any given circumstance. I kind of have the setup for Book 4, but until I know who the characters are, I won’t have any idea for the plot. Consider: the story of a nuclear meltdown would play out much differently for Anne of Green Gables than for Oscar the Grouch.
5) The Setting
Figuring out where the story can take place has been a huge hurdle. Once I had the cover photo in place, I could tell where the book could happen. Sometimes in a story, the setting is almost as much a character in the book as the characters themselves. The setting can shape the action greatly, including some of the conflict involved in the story. You can’t have a hurricane be one of the challenges if you set the story in Arizona. But you can have a dust storm. So…yeah. I’m excited to have my cover photo, as it gave me a sense of where my story could happen, and now I’ve nearly nailed it down and am doing research on the location so I can get all the culture and history and sense of place correct. (I *so* hope to do it justice. It’s a beautiful place!)
6) The Plot
Yes! Now that I have all the other elements in place, I can figure out what is going to happen to these people in this place when they’re placed in these circumstances. It’s much easier to imagine alllll the things that can go wrong with their love–before their ultimate happy ending. That is NOT a plot spoiler. I only write happy endings; it’s my life view that we are all going to end happily, if we just latch onto goodness and put the most important things first in our lives. And I try to have my characters do that, even if they make mistakes along the way.
7) Writing, Editing, Publishing
Yeah, that’s all a ton of work. And some of it is pretty tough! But the end product is almost always something I can feel happy about. There’s a sense of accomplishment in creating something, even if it’s just the literary equivalent of a spun sugar dessert.
So, there you have it. Secrets revealed! I hope now to be able to find time in among the crazy demands of life to get Book 4 cranked out–soon!