I love my mother dearly. I do. She’s crazy. In a good way. She makes things fun, and life is never boring. One day around Christmas she was in my living room, and as it’s Christmas time, the TV was inevitably on Hallmark Christmas movies. (Of course!) The movie that was on was about a writer who goes to some snowy, secluded place to write his book. The current shot was of the writer sitting at an old wooden desk, steaming cup of coffee by his elbow, snow falling gently outside, laptop open, and his fingers clicking the keys. My mother pointed at the TV, and then leaned toward me, whispering conspiratorially.
Is this what it looks like when you write?
I didn’t answer my mom that day, and I still make fun of her for saying that. Why? Because this is what it really looks like when I write.
You may have noticed I write historical fiction. This includes A LOT of research. The book I wrapped in February took 5 years of research. Five. That’s a whole hand of fingers. It included several trips to New York City. Lots of library books and hours lost in online archives of maps. I cannot articulate enough how much research goes into a single book. I just sent this current manuscript to my editor, and you know what I did? Rushed to my research pile to read three more books on the Gilded Age before the manuscript comes back for the first round of editing. Just in case there’s something I can add to make the story richer!
Once the researching is well underway, I begin the outline. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, K.M. Weiland! If you don’t know who she is and you’re a pantser, go discover her dark magic!) Outlining sucks. I hate outlining. I was a pantser my whole life (meaning I made up the story as I went) until a magical day when I realized if I figured out all this crap before I started writing it would help make the story tighter and *gasp!* BETTER. So now I outline. It looks like this. It’s messy. It’s colorful. It hurts my brain.
Yes! Writers conduct interviews! We conduct a lot of interviews. For my latest manuscript, I got to interview mediums. It was so crazy and cool and unexpected! I talked to these amazing, powerful women who had all had strange and inviting relationships with Spirit. Often from a young age. They willingly shared their stories with me, so I could realistically capture the development of a medium in the two heroines of my novel. Yes, interviews are important.
After all of this, I actually write. This is what it really looks like. It’s not glamorous. There’s no gently falling snow. There’s no clean desk. The one thing they got right was the cup of coffee. Except not really. That cup of coffee is accompanied by a giant bag of gummy bears, Oreos, more coffee, water, more gummy bears, and anything else I could possibly use to get more through the damn book.
I spend anywhere from three months to five years(!) on researching, outlining, and interviewing. Actual writing? Sometimes it’s as little as two weeks to write a 60,000 word book. Yeah. I probably just burst your bubble there. But hey. That’s how it is when you’re a crazy writer.
And there you have it. That’s what it actually looks like when I write.