I'm excited to be included in the Blog Tour for Thrice Burned, Angela Misri's second instalment of her Portia Adams mysteries! I asked Angela to give us a little insight into her writing process and she graciously offered up the following:
Writing this guest blog post for the lovely Natalie Sampson (who asked me to write about my process), I am sitting in a pub in London on a family vacation. I wish this were part of my ‘normal’ writing process, but reality, as she well knows, is a cruel Canadian winter with no end in sight.
Given my profession as a digital strategist it might seem odd, but my writing process begins with a pen and paper. Specifically, my favourite bound moleskin notebooks and a black ink fountain pen. For my detective fiction I don’t tend to write a plot ladder or anything, I just start with an idea for a crime I want to explore and launch into the first scene. I know in my head how much time to spend on build-up and I usually have to stop along the way to do some research, but often I will just leave notes to myself to look things up later - especially if I’m on a roll in the writing. I will fill notebook after notebook this way, starting each new writing day by reading the page before and then just launching straight in again.
I try to blog throughout this process especially if I have questions I need to answer because as a reader, that’s the kind of stuff I like to learn about my favourite authors. So for example, when I was trying to write the coded message in Thrice Burned, I blogged about it, deciding in the process that the note should be in Italian rather than my original idea of Latin. This is a vital part of my process because I have an awesome following on my blog of really smart engaged folks who contribute ideas, encouragement and even criticism that make my stories better.
I’ll pop out and in again with research, head to the library or the internet depending on my needs and basically just hammer through the first draft of the story.
This first draft is invariably too short - closer to 20k than the 40k or so it will become before it heads to an editor - but it serves as that skeleton upon which I build a fuller story.
My next step is transcription - which I do from notebook to laptop computer, editing as I go. This is my first real opportunity to add to the story, to answer my own hand-written notes to expand on a scene or fully describe the setting or expand on the dialogue in a conversation. At this point the story usually doubles in word count and scenes get moved around to make the plot move at the speed it needs to.
By now I’m ready for beta readers, and I will send the story to my sister, a few of my friends at the CBC and a couple of author friends I trust. While I wait for their feedback, I take specific sections to my short-list of experts - the fashion descriptions for example I send to my friend Bev Wolov of the Smithsonian. This feedback starts trickling in and I begin my first real edit of the details of the mystery.
This step is the longest for me. If you imagine that my first draft takes about a month to write, and the transcription a week or so, this gathering and incorporation of feedback takes another two months. But finally (FINALLY) it is ready for an editor to take a look at.
I seem to be honing this process - Jewel went through 16 versions between first draft and printed book, while Thrice went through only 11. No Matter How Improbable is past the feedback stage, and is only in version 3!
Maybe this long Canadian winter is almost over ; )
Thanks Angela! Keep writing!