Posted by on 29th July 2022

a stack of books of different sizesA Behind the Scenes Look at My Ten Step Romance Writing Process

Whenever I do interviews, or reader events, someone inevitably asks about my writing process. I think most of us writers believe this is boring, but everyone else is clearly fascinated. And honestly, I’ve spent years trying out different methods and refining my romance writing process. So, today I thought I would share how I go about writing one of adventure romance novels from start to finish.

Step One: Come up with a brilliant idea

Or at the very least an idea that seems to have some legs for an outdoor adventure romance. This generally involves having a pretty good idea of how the book will start including the meet-cute, what my characters are like, what major struggles they will have to overcome in the story, and the ending. Usually this pops into my head fairly fully formed.

Step Two: Get the basics down on paper

At this stage, I write about a half page synopsis of the story. Not something that’s very detailed at all, more of a way to keep from forgetting my brilliant idea. Chances are good some part of this will change by the time the book is finished, but that’s OK. This is just a general guideline to get me started and keep me on track. Ideally, it will also serve as the basis for my back cover description.

Step Three: Do deep-dive character studies

I write very character driven stories, so I fill out detailed spreadsheets with more than 60 questions for each of my main characters . I also do shorter versions for my secondary characters, and very brief versions for my tertiary characters.

For me, this is when the story really starts to come to life because it’s when my characters start coming to. Once I know who these characters are, where they came from, what they want most and what they’re afraid of, all I have to do is set them loose in situations I know will push their buttons.

Step Four: Write the rough draft

Once I have all my background information on the story and the characters I start writing. I don’t do an outline. I just keep my major turning points from my synopsis, and my characters’ journeys, in mind. Then I let the scribbling begin. When it’s done, I set it aside for at least two weeks Usually longer) so my eyes will be fresh(er) when I revisit it.

Step Five: Review the rough draft

For me this happens in two stages. First, I print out my rough draft and read the entire thing where I can’t be tempted to start editing specific lines or words. I just make handwritten notes in the margins.

Once that’s done, I create a spreadsheet and go chapter by chapter noting In brief what happens, what changes, and how many pages each character’s point of view lasts in a scene. This lets me easily identify sections that are weak or don’t keep the plot moving forward.

Step Six: Edit, edit, and edit some more

Typically, I will do about three rounds of edits. The first is what’s called a developmental edit. This means looking at the big picture to make sure the plot and character arcs work; writing and/or deleting entire scenes; and filling in holes in the details and characterization. This is also where I typically do any additional research. Though since I set my books in the outdoors doing adventure sports I do myself, I typically don’t have to do a ton.

For the second round, I read the whole book through again and then work on a more granular level to make sure my characters sound different from each other. And, also, to ensure you can always tell who’s speaking in scenes with a lot of dialogue. I keep filling in any remaining holes during this as well.

Step Seven: Get feedback

By this point, I’m usually feeling pretty happy with the book as a whole. There may still be typos and grammatical issues, but before I spend time fixing those, I want to make sure the story really works. So, I have a handful of beta readers who will read my book and provide Invaluable feedback.

Step Eight: Do final edits based on feedback

At this point, hopefully, my beta readers haven’t come across too many issues. But, whatever they find that I agree with gets fixed at this stage. This is when I also go through the entire book word by word. I smooth out rough sentences, reorganize paragraphs, and hopefully find most of the typos and grammatical errors.

Step Nine: Other people do more edits

You might think a book would be ready to sell at this point. And for some people maybe that’s true. However, this is the stage where I have outside editors read through the book searching for evermore typos, grammatical errors, and confusing bits. Typically, at least two other people, if not three, will go through the book at this stage.

This is also when I’ll be finalizing the back cover description, working with a designer on the cover, and taking other steps necessary to getting it ready for sale.

Step Ten: Format and publish

Woohoo! This is the best part. Every book takes me about six months to write and another three to six months to edit, so by the time I hit this stage I am ready. This is also when I start submitting my manuscript for early reviews, which is nerve wracking but also super fun.

So, there it is… My romance writing process in a nutshell. Which I’m quite sure is completely different from anyone else’s. No two writers tell the same story or write a story in the same way. Which is part of the fun.

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