The Ritual of Writing

Recently someone on Facebook asked me about the rituals I participate in as I prepare to write a book. Now if you know me, you know I don’t really believe in “muse”, I don’t listen to music when I write (though I’ve certainly been inspired by music in coming up with ideas for a story), etc. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have rituals that have to do with my writing and my books.

First off, I have a pretty specific order of how I get ready for a new book. An idea can come to me in many forms. Sometimes it’s a scene, sometimes a larger “plot” and sometimes it’s a character and his or her motivation that start me down the path of a book. I always do character sheets first because to me character is plot. How a character reacts will depend on their goals, their history, their relationships and that will turn the tide of a book 100% of the time. So I get to know my characters first.

Once I know my characters, I’ll start writing down any scenes that have popped into my mind. Anything that must happen in the book to drive it to the end. When that’s done, I start to put those scenes in order, through what I call scene sketching. A typical scene sketch will say Scene 1: Felicity POV and then it will detail the scene. It’s really pre-writing in long hand. Sometimes the scene sketch is a bare bones of what will need to happen, sometimes it’s detailed with description and even dialogue.

When I get 20 or more of those scene sketches, I normally feel comfortable enough to start writing. I know the path well enough to start traveling on it and as I do, I get to know the characters more and that will help me turn and twist the story even more as I go.

The other question was how I come up with titles. This is not my favorite part of the process, I admit. When I wrote for HarperCollins, they often changed my titles or had their own in mind. Later, when I went to Samhain and eventually indie, that became more of my responsibility. It’s so difficult to encompass a 70,000 word novel in a three or four word title.

And when I do come up with one, I now have to be VERY careful about it’s usage before. Amazon can be really picky about dinging us for “copyright violation” if a book has the same title (Forbidden was held up for so long we almost missed our release date because Amazon didn’t get it wasn’t the same book as one of the others named Forbidden). It’s a bit stressful to say the least.

Sometimes, though, it’s a little easier. For the Seasons series, I knew I wanted a season “name” in each title. Then it just became keeping the cadence consistent. An Affair in Winter. A Spring Deception. One Summer of Surrender. Adored in Autumn. They have a similar movement to them so they feel like they go together to the reader. Or I hope they do.

One problem I tend to fall into is that I like the same word for titles. For a while I was stuck on the word Pleasure and that’s a GREAT word for an erotic romance, but I don’t want to repeat it too much.  Honestly, I hate titles. I do it under duress. But now, at least, I get to control it. Because I still contend that Her Husband’s Bed was a better title than Scandalous for my first release. 🙂 But that’s up to you to debate.