Today, NA author Chanel Cleeton joined me to talk about her process. Enjoy!
1. When did you start writing?
I started writing in 2008. I was on vacation in Dallas, TX and went into a bookstore and found a book on writing romance. I’ve always been a HUGE reader and romance fan so it seemed like the most natural place for me to start. For two years I played around with writing a historical romance which I enjoyed but ultimately wasn’t the right genre for me. While those two years were important for my development as a writer, I didn’t start seriously pursuing writing until 2010 when I joined the Romance Writers of America (RWA). The biggest change in 2010 was that I started writing like it was my job (ie daily) and not a hobby. I also began learning about the industry and the business side of things.
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?
I’m a huge pantser. Sometimes I will sit at the computer with only the first line of a book in my head. I’ll start from there and begin typing as the story unfolds. I usually write the first and last chapters first and then fill in the story. By the time I’ve written the first chapter, I always know how the book will end, even if getting there is an adventure.
Ironically I’m the biggest planner in my personal/professional life, but when it comes to writing I hate planning. I love letting my characters shape and guide the story. I also love revising and editing so I’m not afraid to pants the first draft because I love getting to go back in and play around with the story.
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
I’ve found that my writing process differs with each book. Sometimes I will start out with an idea. For one book it was literally the opening line. It was in my head and I just sat down and started typing. From that line, I wrote an entire chapter without pausing. The character’s voice was just so loud in my head that I had to get it on paper. Other books have required more work. It really just depends.
Overall, though, my process is pretty relaxed. I write my first draft straight through. I don’t edit or revise while I’m writing my first draft. I usually write the story in the order it occurs (except I always write the last chapters really early on). Once I have a first draft, I start going through and revising/editing subsequent drafts. I do usually have a cooling off period between writing the first draft and subsequent drafts so that I look at it with fresh eyes.
There’s no rule of thumb for how many drafts I do. I edit by reading the full manuscript each time. I try to read it like a reader would. If something doesn’t read well or I’m pulled out of the story, I change it. This could boil down to one word feeling off or an entire scene that isn’t working.
I tend to write short, so I usually add scenes or expand them through the drafting process. I edit by hand on a print copy as well as reading my manuscript on an e-reader and making notes in a notebook as I go. Some books may only require four drafts; others might require ten. I know the book is finished and ready to go when I’ve read through the entire manuscript and can’t find any changes to make.
4. Which authors have influenced your work?
SO many. Honestly the biggest influence on my writing has been a lifetime of reading. Even though many of my favorite authors write in different genres/categories than I do, I’ve learned so much from reading their books. Some favorites include: Judith McNaught, Sophie Kinsella, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Brenda Joyce, Francine Pascal, Carolynn Keene, Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Richelle Mead, J.R. Ward. The list could go on 🙂
5. What are you plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?
My New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON… will be released by Harlequin HQN on February 1, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year.
6. Any tips for new writers?
If you want to be published, make writing a priority. It’s tough. When I started writing seriously in 2010, I was in law school, working, doing an internship, and married. I had NO time. There were far too many days where I would shave one leg and forget to shave the other. And Chinese takeout became a staple 🙂 But I learned early on that writing every day, even if it was just a few hundred words a day, made all the difference.
Think about it this way, if you write 250 words a day for 9 months, you’ll end up with about 67,500 words. That’s a full YA. And honestly, that’s not counting the days where you’ll have much more time or hit a good writing streak. It’s just a good habit to get into. You should write on days that you feel stuck and write on days when the words flow easily.
For the two years before I started getting serious about my writing, I only wrote when the mood struck me. HUGE mistake. It took me two years to finish a 90,000 word historical romance. When I got serious about my writing, even though I had less time than during the two-year period where I wasn’t serious, I made SO much more progress. It took me eleven months from starting my YA to signing with an agent. And that was a book that I wrote while life was crazy. But I wrote daily and so I was able to finish it relatively quickly, even though some days I could only write 250 words.
7. Any tips for old writers?
I still feel like a newbie, so I’m definitely still learning 🙂