So something a little different for the AMA this week. I actually had enough questions in the AMA form about writing, the process, or my process or the business in general that I figured it would be pretty cool just to do a whole AMA dedicated to only that topic. I do hope you enjoy.
Also, this is the release week for Naz & Roz. This book officially closes out the Cross + Catherine saga. So, if you haven't grabbed your copy of Naz & Roz, and you're a fan of the Cross + Catherine saga, then what are you waiting for?
1. Hi Bethany! Would just like ask your process in plotting a book. I mean, do you plot it by chapter or do you just make a general outline on how the story should pan out? Thanks!
So I usually have the idea of how I want a story to pan out in my mind before I actually get into the nitty gritty of writing it down, plotting each chapter, and then doing the beats and scenes for those chapters. I usually know exactly how a story starts, the motivating factors, the end, and a rough idea of how they get to that HEA at the end.
But a rough understanding in my head doesn't actually tell me what to write, right? So, with that in mind, I start by taking a notebook (plotting and grocery lists are literally the only times I actually like to handwrite anything). I write out 25 chapter headers, a page for each chapter. Chapter One, Chapter Two ... etc. I do twenty-five of those, although typically by books fall in the range of 19-22 chapters, but I have had some that went higher so I do count out to 25 just in case I might need those extra couple of chapters to close something out.
So, since I tend to know the opening, the middle, and then end, I know what I am working for when I begin plotting. I tend to like chapters switching POVS now - I used to write a lot of POVs switching within chapters, but now I like to do one chapter of one person, one chapter of the other person. So the next thing I do is decide who is going to open the book, him or her. I then go through and add POV to each chapter of who is going to be telling which chapter. And that gives me an idea of who is going to be speaking at the most crucial points of the book.
I go back to my chapters where I know what's happening - beginning, middle, end, typically - and I work on putting 2-3 scenes (sometimes a fourth sneaks in there if there's something important I want to see happen while writing, or I get an idea) into those chapters of what I know is happening, and how I want it to happen. I break it down into scenes, and for each scene, I give myself two to three lines of what I see happening in that scene, or what I want to happen in that scene.
So it kind of looks like this:
Character Name POV
- Scene 1, opens up at the restaurant, goes in, does this, talking about this, info here on whatever is happening.
- Scene 2, inciting event that will lead into the meet-cute of the H/h, whatever else.
- Scene 3, (are you getting the idea?)
So, once I get about five chapters into doing this, I also have the middle section done, and usually the last couple of chapters done like this as well, so it's like a fill in the blanks. I know what's going to happen, so how do I get these characters there, kind of thing. And that's how my stories take shape by way of my plotting.
The other good things about my plotting process like this?
I never actually get stuck. Writers often get stuck because they don't know what to write. They have written everything they know about a book, but their rough outline of a single page of notes about the book and bones of the plot aren't giving them more to go on. They don't know how to bring character one to the next point in the plot to move it forward. and boom, writer's block hits them while they struggle to figure out to move their plot forward.
Listen, I don't have time for that. At all. I need to know what I am writing the next day. I need to look at my plot board, and know, okay, they're doing this in the next chapter, that is what I have to write tomorrow. I do not want to be figuring that out while I am writing. It makes for longer rewrites, a messier plot, and that's not for me.
This speeds up my process, so to speak. I never get stuck. I would rather take the 2-5 days it takes me to plot a book like this than write it as it comes to me, and find myself stuck in writer's block more often than I would care to handle.
2. Hi Bethany! I need some advice. So I am an inspiring author and I am in the process of writing a book, but besides an idea I do not know where to start. How do you plot, create scenes, personalities, plan, etc. What is your writing process? Where do you start and what do I need? Thank you for everything!
So, you can see in the above answer how I plot. That is my process for that, and hopefully it helps someone when it comes to their own work.
As for the rest of your question ...
So I'm not sure how I create scenes, like I just kind of see them form as I plot. If I know the bare bones of what happens, then it gives me an idea of what or how I need to do something to get the characters to the next step in the plot for the book. Which means, I create scenes around what needs to happen to get them there. I hope that makes sense.
As for character personalities, quirks ... things like that, well ... I have always said this and I maintain it, I do not create these characters in that I pick how how they act, what they like/dislike/how they speak. What I pick for them is their name sometimes, and parts of their stories. My characters often develop from relationships with other characters I have already created. They come into my works with personalities there, quirks and all. I have never actually created a character. They come to my mind as they are with a good portion of their story ready for me to mold into something for you all to read.
But I suppose if you truly needed help to create a character from scratch - I would start by picking a name. And then deciding their features. Do they smoke, drink? Do they wear jeans or suits? Are they cocky, or just a little arrogant? Good-looking, vain about it? Because things like that will determine how they talk, interact, behave in social situations, and even privately. And then you can work out from them - who their friends are, their parents. Is there a reason why maybe they're an asshole? Backstory right there.
And then, because I am talking romance, when you have one character fully developed like this, you can look at them and say, what do you need for your person? That one person they are going to love for the rest of their life, their soulmate - what should he/she be in contrast to this person? What will make them a better person? What will challenge them? What will they love about them the most?
That is how I would go about that if I was in a situation where I needed to carve out a character from scratch.
As for my writing process ...
Okay, so I protect my writing time like nobody's business, and my writing space. Literally the only person allowed in my office when I am in my office is my three-year-old who plays quietly behind my chair with his matchbox cars and occasionally brings me a snack he would like me to open for him.
Absolutely no one in my home is allowed in my office when I am inside writing. I protect this space - it is mine. Now, half of my wall for my office is a partition wall, so I can actually see right over it, and watch the rest of my house as I work. I can converse with whoever is doing whatever, but they do not come in my space.
I got in the habit of writing, that's how I write. It feels strange to me not to write every single day. If I do not sit down and write every day, in habit like I have created, then I am not at my best. You have to create a writing mindset and environment. Put ass in chair, and work. No excuses, you must write every day, or at least, you must treat writing like the full-time job you want it to be. If you don't treat writing like the job you want it to be, then it will always be the hobby you're going to have.
And if you can't write, then you need to work on something else relating to writing. Plot. Social media. Newsletter. This is a business because this is what pays the bills for me, and so I am always working. I have a schedule, I follow it. I have work hours every day where I get shit done. I don't get distracted by social media, if I go on to make a tweet or reply to a comment, I do that and turn it off, get back to work, and make the words go.
My process is honestly to sit my ass at my computer every single day and treat this like the job that it is. Like the job that pays my bills. That's my process, honestly.
3. Hi Bethany!! I am so happy to see that you are almost finished Book 1 of Renzo and Lucia! I can't wait to read! I want to write a Mafia book, but I do not want to half a** it. I am very serious about this and I always have been and I can only hope that I am any good. I want for my book to be accurate. Where should I do my research? I do not want to go the Wikipedia route because I am not sure it's accurate. I really appreciate all your help. Thank you! xoox S
So, there's actually quite a bit on Wikipedia that is accurate, I simply don't use it as the guiding force to my research. If I find something interesting on Wiki, I go looking for things to support it. Ie, there is information on bratva tattoos on Wikipedia, and a good portion of them are correct in what they mean, however ... if you get the book Russian Criminal Tattoos (I believe is the title) then you quickly learn far more about the tattoos, other meanings, how they have evolved over time, and a more modern perspective than Wikipedia offers.
So I use Wiki, but I back up the research I do in other places with more information.
I honestly believe that your research should depend on the organization you are writing about. So, if you are creating your own organization that isn't an already set organization (like Cosa Nostra, bratva, Yakuza, etc) then you kind of have free reign to just do as you like in the realm of fiction. You can model your rules and culture after organizations you know about, if you want. Or it can be totally unique to you.
If you are writing about a set organization like the ones I mentioned above, then that's where you start looking. Direct research on those organizations and what life inside one is like. Documentaries are always great especially if it's a documentary where the people speaking are actual people who have been in the life, and not just the FBI relaying their side of the facts. Which happens quite often in docs, and I hate that.
You can use Wikipedia, and often at the bottom of the WIKI page, you will find listen sources. Click on the those sources, see where it takes you because often you'll find better and more accurate information in those source links than you will on the Wiki page. Because after all, anyone can edit a Wiki page.
First-source documents are not editable, and come from fact-based areas. Google is your friend because it will bring you articles from everywhere, again, with source based information. So, yes, that's how I have done a lot of my research.
And I have also spoken with people who have done very specific, targeted research on one group of people/organization to find out very specific details that I wanted to know about as well. So hey, if you have a Cosa Nostra question I could probably be your girl. If you have a bratva question, that might be better suited to someone like London Miller.
4. Since one of the Guzzi twins will be in a MMF, do you think the writing process will be more challenging or difficult than it is with only two people? I wanted to ask because it will be three people in the relationship and two men are bi-sexual. I think this topic is important to discuss and many people don't take the time to do that. Due to that I don't read many authors MMF books because it's not always written the best way or to a point to catch your eye. Since you are writing it I know it will be wonderful either way 🙂. Thank you !
No, I didn't find it challenging or difficult to plot them (I haven't written them yet). I simply had to figure out how I wanted to tell the story with three voices getting page time when I usually only have two, but that was the only challenging part.
And here's why because it kind of leads into the second part of your question ...
Well, Corrado's book opens up at a point where he and Alessio have been together for ... years at that point. A couple of years, anyway. I did not have an interest in writing their relationship from the beginning to a couple of years later when their heroine comes into their lives - that's a chunk of space with nothing to fill it, and a waste of time. I do however, open up their book with the scene of how they meet.
I'm not sure what you mean by "discuss" the fact they are in a relationship together and are bi-sexual, but also get into a relationship with a woman together. Here's the thing - some people are straight, and some people are bi. Some people want monogamy, and some people enjoy polyamory. There isn't actually a discussion that needs to happen to explain why this is - no straight, cis, monogamous person ever gets a demand to explain why and how they are the way they are and why and how they chose the relationship they did, so people who are not straight, cis, and monogamous should also not be expected to have that discussion.
I recognize that this is a fictional tale, but .... here's how it is. Corrado and Alessio are bi, and they like to share women. They make that clear. And so when they find a woman who fits them both beyond just a sexual preference, they fall in love, and want to spend the rest of their life with her. Like straight people do who find their one person, and then settles down into a loving relationship with them. Without explanations and discussions about why and how.
And that was the process I went into when plotting this book for them. That they are two men who are in a relationship together, who share women, and meet a woman they want to spend the rest of their lives with. It's a love story - I did not feel the need to have a great discussion about why they made these choices. It is who they are. It is what they want. Yes, there are moments where at least one of them is concerned about the opinions of others around them ... but that's part of a person learning to love themselves.
The chapters are broken up as - Alessio and Corrado POV for one chapter, Ginevra for the next chapter. I gave the men equal time on the page as I did the woman, like I do with my regular M/F romances. I told the story the way I tell every story - I plotted it the same way I plotted every other book with the same process. The only difference was that I needed to add in an extra voice, and make sure he came alive on the page as much as the other two did.
My honest suggestion to any reader who feels like they need in depth discussions and reasoning behind the sexual identity and choices of certain characters but especially in a MMF romance is to simply not read those romances. And I'm not saying that to be rude or ignorant - I am saying it because if you feel like you have to demand a discussion and reason for them being the way they are, born bi-sexual with a preference for a polyamory relationship, then you're probably not going to get what you're looking for.
I'm bi. I've never felt the need to explain why I am the way I am.
My husband is straight. He's never felt the need to explain why he is the way he is.
We've never felt the need to discuss why we chose monogamy in our relationship because it's what we prefer. Other people shouldn't be expected to explain why they prefer something different when it simply is who they are.
I think there are a lot of MMF romances that are heavily focused on sex, and maybe that's why you feel like you aren't getting what you need from those books, but not all MMF romances are like that. Sex is a part of all my books - it is never the focus. The relationship, and the characters take focus.
So, I suppose you can take the jump and trust that I will do the book justice, like I try to do with all my books, or not. After all, like most of my series, the Guzzi Legacy are standalone books within a series. You won't actually hvae to read them all to understand or follow along or enjoy the series as a whole.
I'm not sure if this answered your question, but I'm sure it does give a good look at how I feel about certain topics in this regard.
5. How do characters come inside your head? Did Cross showed up one day, like some regular guy on the street, and decided to tell you his story? I kind of picture that relationship, between author and character, like an interview. Is it like that or something else?
So, kind of? I mean, I have some characters who come into my head and I feel like it's me prompting them into their story - like asking them questions sort of like an interview. And then there are characters like Cross or Anton who just showed up in my head one day and were like, let me tell you a story.
And those characters are the strongest - those are the characters that feel like they literally take over your entire mind and suddenly, nothing else is really important. They're there, they have something to say, and you are forced to listen to them and tell their story.
I can't speak for all authors, either, only myself. And my relationship with my characters is dependent on the character. For example, Evelyn in Inflict, I have no relationship with. I have never heard her voice - she has never spoken to me. Connor came into my mind and spoke for her, told their story. That's why she never got a POV in their book. I learned about her through him, and she never felt like mine to put on paper and give her my voice because it was never her voice.
And then I have characters who I feel like they take over my voice they are so strong. Like for a time, I am not actually me because I am harboring characters who are using me as a vessel to have their story told.
It's certainly strange, but that is how it is for me. And it all depends on the character.