Behind the Scenes & What's Next
Alright peeps, it's been a rapid couple of weeks since Looking for Trouble came out. All the work that goes into promoting a new release was quickly followed by family travels and about a billion other things, and now it's time to officially ease from one project to another.
Every time I finish a book, I wrap up with a few traditions, one of them being I clean my office top to bottom to clear the vibe from one book to make space for the next. I pack up all my papers and notebooks, clean off my computer desktop, make a new playlist if I'm in a music-y mood (not often, tbh, I usually write in total silence) and sometimes I even move the furniture around and redecorate.
As I was cleaning up this time, I have to admit I was a little sad. It's hard to let go of books and characters and a world you spend so much time in, and this was an especially tough one. I know this book took a lot of people by surprise-- not just because it was a surprise release after a long break, but because it veered off the path for me in about every way possible. Historical instead of contemporary. Low angst instead of high angst. Sloooooow burn instead of sex on page one, lol. There were a lot of reasons for that, and they mostly all boiled down to I needed an escape from real life. I've posted a few places that I wrote this book as a comfort read for myself, and that couldn't be more true. I was in a really low place for a long time and struggling to write anything. Struggling to get out of bed to be perfectly honest. I needed to get lost somewhere as far away from the current world as possible, even if it was a ridiculous career move, lol. I really don't think I would have found my way back to writing at all without this book.
Some of the very first romances I ever read were historicals. Not gonna lie, a lot of the appeal was that sometimes they had spanking in them! A good guardian/ward or mail-order-bride book was right up my alley back in the day, even if I was wishing they were MM instead of MF. In some form or another, Looking for Trouble has been simmering in the back of my mind for 20+ years, even though deep down I always knew I'd never write a historical because I wasn't good enough or smart enough, didn't know enough about history, didn't like to write the flowy, descriptive ways most historicals seemed to need, or more recently, knew it would never be on brand enough for me. Well, you don't always choose the books, sometimes the books choose you. And sometimes the books fucking save you by being exactly what you need when you need it.
I couldn't be happier that I finally wrote this book, couldn't be prouder of myself, couldn't love Will & Jesse more, and couldn't be more thrilled with the response from people who decided to give it a try. I might never write another historical (But who know? Maybe I will!) but this was a big thing for me to conquer, so moving on from it has me a little misty.
But. Move on we shall, lol. While I was cleaning up my whirlwind of an office, I was really overwhelmed by the amount of work I'd put into this book, and everything it took to take it from start to finish. So, I snapped some photos before I packed/threw stuff away. If you're not interested in seeing how the sausage gets made, you should turn away now, lol. But if you're like me and love spying on people's creative processes, here's a bit on the making of Looking for Trouble.
So, first of all, like all projects, it started with a baby idea and a notebook. I'm a 100% pantser, so I never know what's going to hit or when. I buy mountains of 4" x 5.5" notebooks at my local dollar store and have them in every bag, in every room, always within reach. For me, when an idea hits, it hits full force with fully grown characters in a full scene, and it's my job to just grab a pen and keep up. The first scene that showed up in Looking for Trouble was (nothing spoilery) the scene when Jesse sees a chicken for the first time. If you've read LfT, you know that's probably about a quarter of the way through the book. Did I have any idea what was going to happen before or after that scene? Not really. I could sense the personalities of the characters, and had a vague sense of backstory, but really all I can do is trust the process. I find out who the characters are by writing the book, and since I don't write anywhere close to in order, let me tell you, it's a lot of fucking work piecing it all together, lol! It shouldn't work, but somehow it does. Once the idea shows up, I grab the closest notebook and scribble the scene down like so. Sometimes it's two pages, sometimes, it's fifty. This was about ten:
Fun fact. I'm writing on the back of this notebook page which I don't normally do because when this scene bodyslammed me, I was in the middle of writing another scene for another book. On the other side of that page is a scene from the Old School Discipline sequel! ;)
I do a lot of writing by hand. A LOT. My brain just engages in completely separate ways when I'm writing on paper vs writing in the computer. I usually build momentum with a few notebooks full of words before I transfer them to the laptop. Is that a pain in the ass, you might ask? Well, yes. Yes it is. But it's part of the process, and as much as I'd love to write directly into the computer, it just doesn't work that way. Once I get a running start, I can type the bones, but even then, if I hit a wall, I switch back to old school pen and paper to shake things loose. So, here are the four notebooks full of cowboy kink that got things rolling. I do like using themed notebooks if ever possible. See the cacti, lol?
Because Western. (Even though there's not a cactus anywhere in this book.)
Once I have a few notebooks full of notes and scenes to get me started, I start to type them up. Sometimes I make changes while I transcribe things from notebook to computer, usually fleshing things out and adding stuff. I don't have any pictures of this part, but just imagine me doing a lot of swearing about how much easier it would be if I could just write in the computer to start with, lol.
Like I said, I write out of order, so I write by scene, not chapter by chapter. Scenes sort of branch off each other, building forward and back while I figure out how the characters got to where the are, why they're angry in one scene, or how they ended up in a bar, or on a train, or naked, lol. You know, when I try to describe it, I have even less of an idea of how I ever make this work, it sounds impossible.
If I hit a section I don't have the energy to write or one I want to save for later, I just type GO TO THE STORE or SPANKING and circle back around later. A lot of circling happens, lol. I'm really about 20% writing, 80% editing. Which brings us back to the pictures. Once I've done as much as I can possibly do on the computer, and it's all in an order that mostly makes since, it's time to flesh things out, fill in gaps, and write scenes that need big emotional oomph. And you know how we do that right? Yup. BY HAND. So, here's the first draft of Looking for Trouble. Almost 300 pages of a loosely tied together book that I tightened up by hand, making notes in every inch of available white space. Yes, people, I wish I was kidding, but this is how it's done, lol.
Those scenes I couldn't get out on the computer? Yeah, they go on the back.
What happens after all that? Well, it all gets put back into the computer, of course! And it's about as fun as it looks, lol. All those squiggles and arrows, and not particularly neat handwriting? Yeah, come about page 167, I'm probably crying and swearing I'll never write another book this way again. But I will. Because it's what works. And writing by hand on top of the bones I built out in the computer is where the real magic happens. All these scribbles are where the why gets explained. It's where I get to dig deep inside the characters and they start to explain what's happening in the story in a way that makes things start to fall into place. Their reasoning behind dumb decisions and their fears that make them say things I don't understand when I'm typing, this part is where it all comes out. There's just something about the brain/pen connection or top of the brain/computer connection that makes the characters catch fire. And, as much as I hate to admit it, typing it back into the computer is where I flesh it out even more and smooth out some of the transitional bumps.
Once that's done, it finally resembles a book. And then what? Well, if you're not a masochist, you're probably going to want to look away at this point. Because what do you do after you just edited 300 pages by hand and then typed them up?
You do it again, of course.
So, I'm sure you can tell that's pass one is on the left and pass two is on the right. It doesn't look like it in the picture, but the stack on the right is about 50 pages longer, after I added all the edits from pass one. Now, clearly, pass two is a lighter edit. This edit is about polishing, clarifying, continuity, word choices, proofreading, (although hardcore proofing is an entirely separate third pass on the computer and then off to my editor-- this is still a creative pass for the most part) digging even deeper into character development and drawing out emotion as much as I can. So, while page one of the second pass is light on the edits, ultimately, it ended up looking like this:
Not nearly as bad as pass one, but it still took me the better part of a week to get the notes into the computer. (Don't even ask how long pass one took, lol.)
How many pens did I bleed dry in the editing of this book? Several. Luckily, I'm a pen
junkie, so I always have plenty around. See that dark blue one in the middle? It's my favorite. I also have a nasty habit of writing and editing in bed at night and falling asleep without putting the cap back on. So...
So, yeah. That's pretty much the gist of it, and give or take and editing pass or six, it's how a book magically gets written. (The more angst, the more editing, as a general rule.) From there it's technical editing and I finally get to read it all the way through for enjoyment and wonder who the hell wrote it, because once it's finally done, I barely remember a stitch of actually doing it, lol. Before I start the next project, the whole process basically falls right out of my head and I have to start all over again like I have no idea how it's done, complete with trying to convince myself it would be way faster if i just skipped the pen and paper portion of the show. Never gonna happen, but that's part of the process too, I guess, lol.
Oh! I almost forgot one of the best parts. Adding a symbolic reward sticker to my
laptop for a job well done. Recognize this guy? ;)
So, now that Looking for Trouble is done and out into the world (*sniff*) it's time to move on to the next project. As much as I wish I could be the person who says This is what we're doing now, GO! I'm not. Where I'm at mentally and emotionally dictates what I'm able to work on. As ridiculous as it might sound, I have to be in a place where I can connect emotionally with the characters. And sometimes, as I found out last year, I can be in a place where I connect too much, and a book can just hit way too close to home and be too raw to work on.
So, right now is the part where I poke around at my pile of WIPs (I currently have about a dozen books sitting somewhere between 40k and 125k) and pick one to work on. And then start working on it and decide it's the wrong thing and jump to something else. Again and again, until something grabs me by the throat and won't let go. Sometimes a couple things fight it out pretty hard, and I end up working on a few things at once until one finally wins. That's what's happening at the moment.
I have two books already at the printed out stage, and I've been playing around with both. And it's possible there's a little baby project sitting there in the notebooks.
Which one will win? Your guess is as good as mine, lol. I'll let you know around the time I hit publish. ;) And after that? Well...
Hope you enjoyed this little behind the scenes peek into the madness! I'll try to remember to do it again for the next book! :)
Oh yeah, one more thing, before I disappear into the writing cave for a good long while. I don't usually do interviews (cuz anxiety) but I recently did one for Tenderly Wicked, a blog that interviews a variety of BDSM authors. There are some interesting interviews over there, and if you want to hear me talk EVEN MORE about books and writing and kink, you can check it out here.
Okay, that's it! Seriously! For real! :)